Following our online simulation’s celebration of BMW at Sebring last weekend, the Bavarian powerhouse is the subject of our SRW ORW Marques series this week.
Despite being one of the best-known automobile makers in the world, the foundation of Bayerische Motoren Werke actually stems from the 1916 merger of three aerospace companies. After concentrating on aircraft engines, rail transport, and motorcycles in its early years, BMW released its first internally-designed and produced car, the BMW 3/20, in 1932.
The marque’s involvement in motorsport followed almost immediately with both its motorcycles and cars, including the celebrated BMW 328, enjoying success in races all over the globe. However it wasn’t until the achievements of its New Class models—which included the legendary BMW 2002—and one of their direct descendants, the 3.0CS, that BMW began to gain its world-beating reputation.
To build on this status, in 1972 the manufacturer created a subsidiary called BMW M. The newly-formed division immediately went about producing a dynasty of automotive talent. A heavily-modified variant of its original creation, the M1, memorably co-starred–alongside a number of household names from Formula One–in the one-make Procar Championship in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
A decade later, the E30 M3 would dominate touring car racing, with a 1987 World Touring Car Championship title just one of a plethora of victories that still leads many motorsport fans to class the racer as the most successful road race car in history.
Further adding to the company’s competitive luster, the V12 LMR, co-developed with Williams F1, secured BMW Motorsport its first 24 Hours of Le Mans title in 1999.
BMW also has a long and successful history in Formula One, both as an engine supplier to teams including ATS, Arrows, Benetton, Brabham, and Ligier and as a constructor. The high point of the company’s involvement came in 1983 when Nelson Piquet won the World Drivers’ Championship in a Brabham BT52 powered by a BMW M12/13 turbocharged engine. However it also achieved relative success both as a supplier to Williams between 2000 and 2005 and as a constructor (after buying out the Sauber team) before withdrawing from the sport in 2009.
BMW regained its stranglehold on the touring car scene in the 21st century with the E46 320i and E90 320si carrying Andy Priaulx to a hat-trick of WTCC victories between 2005 and 2007. Despite withdrawing factory support, a number of privateer teams continue to compete in the series, using the 320TC.
In the US, meanwhile, the marque is continuing to build on its motorsport reputation, with the M3 GT2 carrying off a total of five American Le Mans Series championships and the Z4 GTD taking both the Driver and Team titles in the inaugural United SportsCar Championship.
To view its BMW offerings, head to Simraceway Online Racing World’s cars page, click the MANUFACTURER dropdown and select its logo.