BMW, as their iconic badge suggests, began as an engine manufacturer for the world of aviation; mainly building engines for helicopters. While BMW boasts an incredible lineage in touring car racing, due to their superior engineering abilities and vast understanding of road racing, they have always been less popular in the rally world.
What most people don’t realize is that BMW has been winning rally events since 1939. When Abiegeg Fane won the RAC Rally in his BMW 328 that year, it was a huge moment for BMW. Fane continued driving a BMW for several years in the RAC; however, he never won gold again.
And naturally, that is when BMW decided to enter in more rally events.
BMW decided to compete in the French round of the World Rally Championships; the ever-popular Rallye de France. It wasn’t until 1987, the year they developed the M3 version of the E30, that they finally won this epic event. The M3 used the basic shell of the E30, but nearly everything else was different. BMW made it more aerodynamic, more powerful and with better handling.
By the time BMW had finished tuning the S14 engine, it was able to produce 235 hp at the wheels, which was quite a lot for the 1980s. The M3 also brought victories in many touring car events. Early on, they found Peugeot and Renault to be their main competitors but this established the European trio of awesome rally car manufacturers.
At this time, these three manufacturers were each others’ main competitors, handing first back and forth through the passing years. These were the three that competed in the majority of rally races around the world; whereas most other car manufacturers stayed close to home.
After several years, BMW developed the E36 M3. This proved to be one of the greatest cars ever created! The new straight-six, 282hp engine propelled BMW into the Alcan 5000 Winter Rally, where it was decidedly the most reliable car at the event.
If you’ve never heard of the Alcan 5000, you should definitely start following it!
Durability, reliability, and handling are all put to the ultimate test in a race around the Arctic. More than 50 cars embark on a quest that takes them up to 6,300 miles through harsh environments. The cars must complete ice slaloms, ground tour-style road runs, and ice road runs. These objectives are done in in intervals over about a two week time period. Though many other cars competed, BMW was the only one to finish the 2002 Alcan 5000 without any major mechanical issues.
The popularity and respect this car received provoked BMW to create special editions such as the LTW, or lightweight, and M3 GT-R! The LTW edition was shed of about 200lbs. of body fat, and at 282hp, that’s a big difference. Not only does that increase the MPG of the car, but it makes it faster due to the better power-to-weight ratio. This body fat cut shed half a second off the 0-60mph time, and increased the top speed by 10mph.
The GT-R edition was exactly the same as the car they used in touring cup events, only made legal.
BMW felt that true motorists would appreciate the ability to buy a race car they could drive around town.
This is a trend that is followed even today, by many more manufacturers than you’d think. Some prime examples of this trend are:
1. Volkswagen Scirocco R
2. Audi RS4
3. Honda Civic Type R
4. Mitsubishi Evolution X
5. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1
After the huge success of the previous model, the E36 M3, BMW decided to create a new one in the year 2000; the E46 M3. The 3.2L I6, naturally aspired motor, cranked out 338hp! As Subaru and Mitsubishi began dominating the rally world, BMW became more focused on touring car events and less focused on rally events. Though they still compete, they are vastly overshadowed by their Japanese competitors.
However, that fact is only true to rally events.
BMW is still doing amazingly well in road racing events across the world, even after all this time!
The latest BMW M3 is the F80 M3, released in 2014 everywhere but the United States. Hopefully, BMW will continue to compete, and find more success in the world of rally. Strangely, BMW made this new model M3 to be a sedan only, steering away from the M3s history of being a coupe. That’s not a reason to not get one though! BMW tuned this model to push out 425hp, which will rocket you to a top speed of 174mph! If you still aren’t convinced that this new sedan is a true, full-fledged sports car, its 0-60mph time and standing mile time are comparable to the Chevy Corvette Z06! The difference is that, in the F80 M3, you have four-doors and a trunk.
BMW will more than likely hand this new M3 over to a few companies in the drift scene, so that they can convert this torque-monster into a sideways-sliding, rubber-roasting drift king. The near perfect weight distribution that BMW was able to achieve, coupled with the fact that the car is RWD, makes this car the perfect candidate for an awesome drift machine. But when it comes to rally, who knows?