February 22nd and 23rd mark the official start of winter testing for the 2010 season of the American Le Mans Series. The ALMS is the U.S. equivalent of the Le Mans endurance races that originated in Europe. With rules pulled directly from the Automobile Club de L’Ouest, organizer of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the ALMS provides most entrants a direct invitation to the 24 Hours of Le Mans held in France during June each year. Traditionally, the ALMS season is always kicked off at historic endurance race the 12 Hours of Sebring. Coincidentally, Sebring is also the location of the winter testing each year.
2009 marked BMW’s first year back to the American endurance series by way of the M3 GT2. The M3 GT (the 2010 name replaces last year’s “M3 GT2″ moniker denoting both model and racing class), debuting as early as 2008, is equipped to do battle with a modified, high-revving 4.0L DOHC V8 based directly on the road-going S65 4.0L V8 but producing 485HP over the 414HP of the stock road car. Additionally, the GT2-spec M3 is only burdened with about 2,750 lbs to carry around the track versus the 3,700 lbs of the road-going coupe
At the onset of the 2009 season, the M3 GT2, managed by RLR and headed by motorsport icon Bobby Rahal, entered and qualified 7th for the 12 Hours of Sebring. On race day, resulted were unexpectedly disappointing with neither of the M3’s finishing – one suffering from electrical problems at the drop of the flag and the second bowed out a few hours later also suffering from mechanical problems. However, no race cars aren’t without their teething issues.
This season, BMW is back to win it with the M3 GT still competing in the GT2 class despite the slight name rearrangement. To celebrate the resurgence, BMW have equipped the M3 with a new livery as seen in these teaser photos. In looking at the pictures, the interesting “worded” livery has one continuous theme: Joy. With much of the design scheme reflecting what could be further proof that BMW is moving towards the addition of the singular “Joy” to describe their products and as a means of complimenting the existing ubiquitous “Ultimate Driving Machine” tag line. One thing must be said, the new livery looks like it will be very interesting over the subdued M tri-color pattern of last year. In looking at these pictures, BMW contracted drivers Dirk Werner and Tommy Milner look very serious about this M3 as they discuss protocol with Chief Mechanic Greg Cates.
For those unsure of BMW’s intense focus on the 12 Hours of Sebring – the Bavarians have quite a storied history at the Florida track. As early as 1975, a 3.5 CSL driven by Brian Redman and Allan Moffat came first overall at Sebring with another overall victory in 1999 with the powerful prototype LMR V12 piloted by “Mr. Le Mans” Tom Kristensen. So, for the E92 M3 GT, it has quite a name it must make for itself this year to compete with its predecessors.
We will be on-hand Tuesday as the 2010 M3 GT takes to the track for the first time to begin shakedowns on all of the car’s systems.