Page 1 of 2 Next >> BMW scored a surprise victory in the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans as an engine supplier to McLaren. In the following two seasons the German manufacturer's 'Motorsport' department increased their interest in sports car racing. During the 1997 season BMW even ran a works team with the latest 'Longtail' version of the McLaren. Although several victories were scored in the FIA GT Championship, the writing was on the wall for the production based road car. The likes of Porsche, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz were lining up their purpose-built GT racers and open prototypes were also making a grand return especially in the long distance events. BMW opted to continue their sports car racing involvement with a bespoke prototype in 1998. The goal was another outright win at Le Mans but time was limited as the German company had already signed a deal with Williams to enter F1 in 2000.
Instead of going at it themselves, BMW enlisted the help of their new partners Williams to help design the new racing car. The British racing team's design department, headed by Patrick Head, developed a straightforward carbon fiber sports racer around the Le Mans winning BMW V12 engine. Front and rear suspension were by double wishbones and push-rods that actuated the longitudinally mounted coil spring and damper units. Mounted amidships was the latest incarnation of the S70 V12 that had originally been designed as a road car engine. It displaced just under 6-liter and with restrictors fitted produced around 580 bhp. Power was transferred to the rear wheels through a X-Trac supplied six speed sequential gearbox. The rolling chassis was covered in a rather bland carbon fiber body. The most striking feature was the kidney-style grille reminiscent of BMW's road cars.
Dubbed the 'V12 LM,' the new BMW 'Le Mans Prototype' was entrusted to Schnitzer Motorsport for that year's 24 Hours of Le Mans. The two-car team made its first appearance at the Le Mans Prequalifying in May of 1998. They clocked the 11th and 20th fastest times, so work was still needed for Le Mans a month later. In qualifying the V12 LM proved more competitive, clinching a 6th and 12th grid position. The race was nothing short of a disaster as both cars were forced to retire just over four hours into the race. The rear wheel bearings had failed on both cars. The V12 LM was not raced again that season as BMW and Williams were hard at work developing a more competitive replacement. At the start of 1999 the two cars were fitted with slightly restyled bodies and sold to privateers. The V12 LMs were campaigned with limited success in the following years. Page 1 of 2 Next >>