By   August 5, 2015

BMW M1 IMSA Group 4

BMW M1 IMSA Group 4

Next week is Monterey Car Week. One of highlights of the many automotive events that will take place on the California coast is the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The event will feature many important historic race cars from various marquees.

Among these competition machines BMW will bring three memorable cars. The first entry is the No. 2 BMW M1 IMSA Group 4 car that was campaigned by BMW of North America at the 24 Hours of Daytona as well as Mosport during the 1981 season. It was driven by the likes of David Hobbs, Mark Surer, and Dieter Quester.

The M1 was a results of changing racing regulations in the mid-70’s. With the changes BMW Motorsport saw an opportunity to gain an advantage on their rival, Porsche.

They made a purpose-built race car (which we learned earlier this week is on Adam Carolla’s wish list) as well as a street version. The car was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and powered by a Paul Rosche-designed 3.5-liter, twin-cam 6-cylinder “M88” engine. For better weight distribution the engine was placed in the middle (where God intended it). The M1 made its world debut at the 1978 Paris Auto Show and was a huge hit with the press and the public. However, development and production delays with outside contractors caused its appearance to coincide with the demise of the racing formula for which it was created. The quick thinking solution was the fast and furious ProCar Series which preceded European Formula 1 races.

A few of the M1 ProCars were imported to the US, modified for endurance racing and successfully raced in the popular IMSA GTO Series. BMW of North America only entered its M1 IMSA Group 4 in the longer races of the 1981 season as company’s racing program shifted focus to the new M1/C prototype for the shorter races.

This M1 IMSA Group 4 car was the spare car for the BMW of North America team and appears to have seen limited racing action. The No. 2 M1 IMSA Group 4 will be driven by Time Inc resident auto tester, Jason Harper. Mr. Harper will also run in Group 4A with Willisch with two races on Saturday, August 15th.


The No. 25 BMW 3.0 CSL Group 4 celebrates the 40th anniversary of winning the 1975 12 Hours of Sebring race. The 3.0 CSL that will take the track in Monterey is one of five BMW Motorsport chassis built and campaigned in North America in the 1975 and 1976 IMSA Camel GT Series in Group 4 and 5 specifications. This particular car competed under the racing numbers 24 and 25.

The CSL was very successful getting victories at Sebring, Riverside, Daytona, Talladega and at Laguna Seca in 1975. The BMW 3.0 CSL No. 25 will be driven by BMW of North America President and CEO, Ludwig Willisch. Willisch will run in Group 4A:1973-1981 FIA, IMSA with races on Saturday, August 15th.


Last but not least, we have the BMW M5 IMSA Bridgestone Supercar champion from 1994 and 1995. The IMSA Bridgestone Supercar Championship featured the great cars of the mid-90’s in a sprint racing format. This BMW M5 managed to beat cars from Porsche, Nissan, Lotus, Corvette, Ferrari and Mazda.

The engine is very close to the production power plant, but it was tuned for competition by Zytec Engineering while they worked with BMW Motorsport. The engine was the last generation of the motor found previously found in the 1975 3.0 CSL and M1 ProCar. The M5 was also very different from the cars it was competing against as it had two additional doors.

David Donohue, son of racing legend Mark Donohue, won his first professional racing championship behind the wheel of this M5 in 1994. This car is also a very rare piece of machinery as it was never sidelined by a mechanical failure. It took victory or a second place in all but one of eight races and Donohue won the IMSA Bridgestone Supercar Championship. BMW won the manufacturers crown in the series. David will be re-united with his car for this year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion. He will run in Group XX with two races on Saturday, August 15th.