Debuting at the 12 Hours of Sebring, BMW Motorsport and Schnitzer Motorsportentered a two car team. The cars were immediately fast, taking the pole position in qualifying. During the race, both cars ran towards the front for the first six hours. Unfortunately, V12 LMR chassis #001 suffered a large accident, damaging the car to the point that it would never race again. However, the second V12 LMR was successful in taking the overall win.
From Sebring, the team went back to Europe in order to prepare for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In early May, at the initial test session for Le Mans, three V12 LMRs appeared. In the tradition of the famous BMW Art Cars, one of the two undamaged cars featured a paint job created by artist Jenny Holzer.
Unlike at Sebring, the V12 LMRs would be facing closed cockpit prototypes which were theoretically faster over a single lap yet not as fuel efficient. Even with this apparent setback, a V12 LMR was able to take the 4th fastest lap time over the practice session, behind two Toyota GT-Ones and a Panoz prototype.
For the race itself, only two cars appeared with the Art Car being dropped from the line-up. In qualifying the two LMRs again showed their speed, taking 3rd and 6th places, again beaten only by the Toyota GT-Ones. During the race the V12 LMRs ran strong, outlasting a large number of closed cockpit competitors who suffered woes, including Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota, and Audi. In the second half of the race, BMW’s main competitors were a pair of open-cockpit Audi R8Rs and the lone remaining Toyota GT-One. Unfortunately, in the closing hours of the race the #17 BMW V12 LMR driven by JJ Lehto crashed heavily in the Porsche Curves section of the track, as a result of a stuck throttle. This left the #15 BMW LMR in the lead, less than a lap ahead of the 2nd place Toyota. The Toyota was catching the BMW in the final hour until it suffered a tire blowout at high speed, allowing the Schnitzer BMW team to solidify their lead. The driving team of Joachim Winkelhock, Pierluigi Martini, and Yannick Dalmas were successful in bringing the V12 LMR home for the victory, a single lap ahead of the GT-One.
The BMW V12 LMR is estimated to put out about 580 hp, which in the 1999 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans allowed the German prototype to hit 342 km/h (214 mph) on the Mulsanne Straight.
Following the success of BMW at Le Mans, the team decided to return to North America to finish the American Le Mans Series season. Making their return at Sears Point, the pair of BMWs won again. Over the final four races of the season, the BMWs would take two more victories, losing twice to the American Panoz prototypes. Even with four victories on the season, due to BMW’s decision to return to Europe following Sebring and thus miss two ALMS races, BMW failed to take the team’s championship, losing to Panoz by a mere two points.
Today’s Super Bild is car number 42 that was driven by Müller and Lehto.
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