As BMW is preparing to enter the 2009 American LeMans Series with it’s race-prepped E92, I thought it fitting to go back and look at another part of BMW’s racing history. It’s a part that is little known by most BMW enthusiasts and included one of it’s lesser known, worst selling models: The BMW Procar series with racing prepped BMW M1’s.
Without getting into the specifics of the BMW M1 and all of it’s interesting production history( BMW contracted Lamborghini to build the car before Lambo went belly-up and filed bankruptcy, then the car was delayed introduction before Baur was contracted to finish construction) in 1977 and 1978 BMW found themselves between a rock and a hard place with trying to meet Group 4 and 5’s homologation requirements to allow the M1 racers to compete. Due to the issues the with Lamborghini and changing requirements for Groups 4 and 5, BMW’s M1 had no series in which to compete. Jochen Neerpasch, the founder and then head of M Division, with help of Max Mosley, got smart and decided to build a home for his M1 project if they couldn’t adapt to the Group 4/5 requirements – thus the Procar Series was born for the 1979 season.
The Procar Series was a one-make series for the M1 that preceded each of the Formula One races and included Formula One drivers coupled with drivers from a wide array of other racing series. BMW had also set up a specific deal with Formula One drivers allowing the top 5 fastest drivers to compete in the Procar series each Saturday before a Sunday Formula One race.
The series was a moderate success, attracting the attention of classic drivers such as Niki Lauda, who won the inaugural race, accomplished BMW driver Hans Stuck, and then the list of other drivers that more or less summed up some of the best of the 1970’s Formula One drivers with the likes of Emo Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Nelson Piquet and Mario Andretti, just to name a few.
The Procar series sadly only lasted for two seasons and drew to a close at the end of the 1980 Formula One season . However, it helped BMW root itself further into motorsport as BMW was beginning to build a name for itself in Formula One during the Turbo Era with it’s turbocharged engine for the constructor Brabham. The M1 went on to enjoy some success over the years in various other series by BMW and then by privateer entries as well before rolling into motorsport history, forgotten by most.
Well, I haven’t forgotten the M1 and hope that you all enjoy these M1’s jetting around Monaco in 1979 and then undergoing testing at the Nurburgring!