Endurance racing is about to get properly exciting. After years of single team dominance due to limited competition, this year nineteen entrants across nine manufacturers will compete for the outright win.
One of several new or returning manufacturers, BMW will rejoin the top tier of endurance racing nearly a quarter of a century since they competed with this, the wild V12 LMR.
Using the same the engine as the Le Mans winning McLaren F1 GTR, the BMW V12 LM was developed with then-Formula 1 World Champions Williams, and deployed the new open-cockpit prototype rules against the old-school sports car designs in use by other teams. And it was… rubbish.
Slow, unreliable, and retiring after just a few dozen laps, the 1998 car was a disaster. So BMW and Williams started again, and returned in 1999 with this, the radically re-designed V12 LMR.
The all-new bodywork transformed the car, with it qualifying on pole and winning the first race it entered, at the 12 Hours of Sebring.
The big prize however was Le Mans, and despite fierce competition from Audi, Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and others, it was a BMW V12 LMR that took (perhaps thanks to a little bit of luck) the overall win. Quite a turnaround from the embarrassment of the year before.
The team entered again in 2000, but a decade-long period of total Audi dominance had begun, and thus BMW withdrew the V12 LMR before the season was up.
BMW turned their attention instead to Formula 1, where the team continued their successful partnership with Williams. Thus without the V12 LMR, a BMW engine may never again have powered a race-winning Formula 1 car.
Suggested to us by a reader, PROTOTYP. of Flickr remembers BMW’s Le Mans glory with his fantastic V12 LMR model, riding atop 3D-printed replica wheels and with stunning period-correct vinyl decals.
Superbly presented, there’s more of the model to see at PROTOTYP.’s ‘BMW LMR LMP Le Mans 1999’ album, and you can click the link above to jump back to Le Mans 1999. BMW will sure be remembering it too, as they return to Le Mans later this year, some 25 years on…