There were only two BMW M1s built from the ground up to meet Group 5 regulations, and both were manufactured by Sauber. One of them perished in a fiery incident during a race while the other has thankfully withstood the test of time. It took part in last weekend’s 2023 Goodwood Festival of Speed where attendees had the rare opportunity to see (and especially hear) the lightweight mid-engined race car in action.
Speaking of weight, Sauber’s M1R was an impressive 150 kilograms (331 pounds) lighter compared to the M1 Procar models modified to meet Group 5 regulations. The car has an interesting history as it was bought back by Sauber during the 1980s after being raced by a Scandinavian driver who had acquired the car after a mediocre 1981 season. Fast forward to 2013, Peter Sauber decided to part ways with the sole-surviving M1R and sold it to Adrian Gattiker for an undisclosed sum.
The new owner fully restored the race car, including the electrical system which was done by the same person who originally worked on the M1R when it was built. According to Petrolicious, it took over two years to finish the restoration project. The inline-six was detuned from its original 500+ hp output to maximize the reliability of both the engine and the gearbox. After all, this is a one-of-a-kind car of immense value, especially after the current owner poured a small fortune into reviving the M1R.
Although the M1 lived a complicated life, it remains one of the most important cars ever launched by BMW. It was the first bespoke M car as well as the first of only two mid-engined models. It wasn’t until the early 2010s that the i8 revived the mid-engine formula for the plug-in hybrid sports car. For the M division’s 50th anniversary in 2022, BMW preferred to launch the XM electrified SUV instead of another supercar. Why? Sarah Lessmann, Product Manager at BMW M GmbH, explained it all came down to what customers want, which is SUVs:
“The BMW M1 was a perfect fit for its era while the BMW XM is tailor-made for today’s customers. In former times, sports cars were extremely appealing to a broad range of customers and highly relevant for car manufacturers. However, customers around the world today are looking for SAVs/SUVs that deliver practicality and high performance in one luxurious package. These vehicles have the potential to significantly drive growth for car manufacturers moving forward.”