Meet Your Heroes: The BMW M1 Procar
If there’s one automotive that’s actually struck a chord with me over my years as a Speedhunter, it’s the BMW M1 Procar.
My first sighting of an M1 Procar is somewhat bit fuzzy in my thoughts to inform you the reality, however I distinctly keep in mind the primary time I ever heard one. It’s not a reminiscence I’ll quickly neglect.
It was 2010, and I used to be on my first press journey to the Nürburgring 24 Hour with KW Suspensions. KW had organized a small group of US auto journalists to attend the race, which I by some means grew to become part of. I’ve realized that in these cases, it’s higher to remain quiet, maintain your head down and simply hope no one realises that you just in all probability shouldn’t be there…
It was a typical press journey with excursions, shows, introductions and significantly good meals. Whereas a number of the assembled media have been comfortable to soak up as a lot hospitality as potential, I used to be itching to get trackside and shoot something on the Nordschleife. I wasn’t alone. One other photographer who had travelled from California was fairly eager as effectively. We had solely beforehand spoken earlier than by way of the Dieselstation boards, however it didn’t take lengthy for Mr. Klingelhoefer and I to hatch a plan.
Whereas we had been allowed a while to shoot trackside on the primary couple of corners of the GP circuit, you don’t come to the Nürburgring 24 Hour to shoot inside the security and confines of the GP-Strecke. Particularly when you already know what awaits you simply over the hill.
So, when the very type KW public relations particular person was wanting the opposite means (sorry), Sean and I jumped right into a media shuttle and principally begged the driving force to take us wherever on the Northern Loop. I don’t suppose I even had roaming enabled on my telephone in 2010, so as soon as we left the paddock, we have been basically MIA. Once more, sorry KW.
We lucked it with our driver, who went out of his means and drove us by way of the camps, alongside muddy pathways and introduced us as near the observe as humanly potential. A lot so, that this was the sight proper in entrance of us after we stepped out of the van. What a strategy to be launched to the Nordschleife for the primary time.
We instantly began strolling up the hill from Steilstrecke to the world famend Caracciola-Karussell. What you won’t concentrate on is how distant the Karussell is. It’s not actually close to something of notice.
It was whereas strolling up this hill that I heard an M1 Procar at full noise for the primary time. Regardless of there being a full grid of N24 Traditional vehicles on observe, all of which have been making their very own sensible noises, there was this distinct sound louder than the rest coming in direction of us.
On reflection, and based mostly on how lengthy it took for the automotive to look each lap, I reckon we may hear it leaving the village of Adenau on its strategy to the Karussell.
Whereas not significantly quick when in comparison with the GT3 vehicles working in the principle N24 race, there was nothing competing that weekend which got here near sound this M1 Procar made. Actually, in need of V8-era Components One vehicles, I don’t suppose there have been any vehicles I’ve photographed since which match the M1 Procar for its aural qualities. I’ve by no means heard a video or audio clip that may do them justice.
For the subsequent few years protecting the occasion, I all the time made a degree of making certain I used to be trackside for the N24 Traditional apply and race classes to absorb no matter Procars might need been competing.
However it’s not simply the quantity of the vehicles; it’s the standard of the sound. There’s simply one thing concerning the distinct tone of this naturally aspirated straight-six screaming to 9,000rpm that I simply can’t put into phrases.
10 Years Later…
It could take fairly just a few years earlier than I might have the pleasure to see these vehicles in motion when 5 of them turned as much as the 77th Goodwood Members’ Assembly in 2019.
It was at this occasion the place the wheels have been lastly put in movement to rearrange an in-depth shoot of one of many vehicles pictured above, which occurs to reside round half-hour from the place I name residence.
Sadly, scheduling and Covid put a huge delay onto this shoot, however earlier this yr it truly occurred. I lastly bought to fulfill one among my heroes.
Simply to interrupt the fourth wall right here somewhat bit, regardless of how usually I’ve been round this explicit automotive, it’s fairly one thing to be left utterly alone with. It’s a particular second which I’ll endlessly treasure.
This isn’t simply any M1 Procar both, if there may even be such a factor. It belongs to the Martin Birrane Assortment at Mondello Park, and is the automotive which Mr. Birrane gained the Group B class in 1982 on the Le Mans 24 Hours alongside Edgar Dören and Jean-Paul Libert. They accomplished 307 laps and managed to separate first and second place within the C2 class within the general standings, whereas ending forward of quite a few C1 class vehicles.
When Mr. Birrane re-acquired the automotive some years later, he selected to have it repainted in its unique BMW Motorsport colors versus the Le Mans-winning #151 MSW livery.
The origins of the M1 Procar Championship have been effectively documented. Conceived by Jochen Neerpasch, BMW’s then head of motorsport, and Max Moseley over just a few gin and tonics, the one-make championship grew to become a assist race on the Saturday afternoon of eight F1 weekends in 1979, pitching the highest 5 F1 qualifiers towards a number of the greatest names in sports activities and touring automotive racing.
It was a easy concept which proved to be enormously profitable. I suppose the lure of huge prize cash didn’t do the championship any hurt in attracting names like Lauda, Caught, Regazzoni, Piquet, Winkelhock, Bürger, Fittipaldi, Mass, Reutemann and plenty of extra.
That the highest 5 F1 qualifiers would occupy the primary 5 grid spots with the remainder of the M1 Procar grid respiration down their necks from the off solely added to the spectacle.
Whereas we all know of the legend of the M1 Procar now, and its effectively deserved icon standing, it wasn’t truly meant to be this manner. It was initially conceived to compete as Group 5 race automotive, however a sophisticated improvement and manufacturing course of meant that by the point it was completed, the Group 5 homologation guidelines had advanced and the M1 was ineligible. So, it went racing within the Procar collection as a Group 4 automotive as a substitute.
Finally, and maybe a few years too late, a number of Group 4 vehicles have been transformed to Group 5 specification, whereas Sauber constructed two of the one ground-up Group 5 M1s, which you’ll be able to examine intimately on Petrolicious.
They weren’t significantly profitable in Group 5, though they did take pleasure in restricted success, which is maybe why the Group 4 specification Procar is the extra famend of the 2.
There are lots of fascinating issues concerning the M1 and its Procar by-product. There have been a number of factors throughout the automotive’s improvement the place had issues gone just a bit bit in another way, it’d by no means have existed, or may have been a very completely different automotive to the one we have now come to know.
As BMW’s first mid-engined automotive, the aforementioned Jochen Neerpasch commissioned Lamborghini to design and assemble the chassis, which was dealt with by their very own Gianpaolo Dallara. Whereas Dallara created what’s broadly thought to be an incredible chassis, Lamborghini’s then monetary troubles meant that they wouldn’t be capable of produce wherever close to the 400 vehicles required for homologation, which compelled BMW to tug the plug on their involvement.
As a substitute, the identical chassis design was produced by then new Italian firm known as Marchesi, based mostly not removed from Sant’Agata, which evidently consisted of ex-Lamborghini employees who have been conversant in the M1 undertaking.
It was Giorgetto Giugiaro, thought-about by many as one of many best automotive designers of all time, who was liable for the physique work which was bonded to the chassis by his firm, Italdesign. By the point the vehicles ultimately arrived again at BMW Motorsport, they nonetheless required important work because the earlier phases of producer didn’t meet BMW’s personal strict requirements.
Therefore the delays, and the way we ended up with the Procar. An by chance sensible end result, reality be advised.
Regardless of the automotive’s sophisticated historical past, each the ensuing highway automotive and race automotive have been a excessive level in BMW’s historical past. Hans-Joachim Caught lately advised Automobilsport that driving the M1 Procar was extremely simple. “The automotive wasn’t tough in any respect. It was an excellent dealing with, very neutrally balanced mid-engine racer with handbook transmission, no ABS or something prefer it, simply the fundamentals. It was a implausible automotive to get in and have nice enjoyable.”
Coming again to the day of the shoot, I discovered this an enchanting automotive to discover and pore over. Even with my restricted grasp of race automotive engineering, it’s fairly simple to take a look at issues and work out how they work or why they have been achieved a sure means.
With the exceptions of a contemporary seat, harness and hearth suppression system, the automotive is just about as interval right as may be, so that you get a correct appreciation for what it might have been prefer to race one in 1979. There’s so little of something, wherever within the automotive. It’s all so remarkably (and brilliantly) easy. There’s not the abundance and complexity of wiring, management items, sensors, screens and switches as you may discover in a up to date automotive.
There’s additionally not as a lot consideration paid to security both, so there’s that to contemplate.
Behind the gold meshed 16×11-inch entrance BBS wheels is an ATE brake system with ventilated discs entrance and rear. The braking system options twin grasp cylinders with an adjustable brake bias valve.
Beneath the rear, you may see an oil cooler for the differential and 5-speed gearbox. The rear wheels are 16×12.5-inches and Mondello select to run the automotive on a semi-slick Avon tyre for all-weather use.
The suspension is double-wishbone, entrance and rear, with Magnesium uprights, Bilstein coilovers and absolutely adjustable entrance and rear anti-roll bars.
Because the vehicles have been all as an identical as may very well be, any efficiency benefits have been usually exploited with nook weighting, geometry adjustments and wing settings.
Its social gathering piece, nevertheless, is what sits behind the driving force. The dry-sumped, 3.5-litre, naturally aspirated inline-six. Or, the M88/1 in BMW parlance.
Though the unique plan for the M1 was to obtain BMW’s first V10 Components 1 engine (which in the end didn’t occur till 2000), they then pivoted to a brand new inline-six based mostly on the BMW M49 engine from the three.0 CSi race automotive. Because the M1 was deliberate to be a highway and race automotive, BMW’s precedence was to complete the 400 manufacturing vehicles for homologation first. Because the M49 wasn’t appropriate for mass manufacturing, it needed to be tailored with reference to ease of manufacturing and emissions requirements. A brand new DOHC cylinder head was the first change to realize this.
Paul Rosche, whom had already had success designing BMW’s F2 engines within the Nineteen Seventies and who would go onto create their turbocharged F1 engines, the E30 BMW M3’s S14 and the McLaren F1 S70 V12, was liable for the engine. He described the M88/1 (Procar) and M88 (highway automotive) engines as being “shut brothers”.
Each have been dry-sumped, each featured ITBs and each ran a Kugelfischer mechanical gas injection setup. The latter of those was a problem as they needed to make use of this gas injection setup on the race automotive, so it needed to be homologated on the highway automotive, which had strict emissions necessities. They clearly made it work, however not with out nice problem.
The ensuing 470hp at 9,000rpm is likely to be a number of the most spectacular figures ever created, though once more, these quantity weren’t created with out points. One drawback they confronted because the 1979 season approached was the torsional vibrations attributable to the lengthy crankshaft at excessive revs would pressure the crank’s vibration damper to come back unfastened. The short-term repair was to double the quantity of bolts securing the damper to the crank from six to 12, whereas long-term a lighter flywheel and different lighter items of rotating mass contained in the engine solved the problem.
An anecdote I realized whereas researching this function was that on the very first Procar race in Zolder, the drivers have been instructed to not exceed 9,000rpm. In fact, one driver couldn’t assist himself, edged previous 9,000 and was instantly overtaken by his personal crank damper earlier than retiring from the race. Racecar drivers, eh?
The M1 Procar, and different vehicles of its ilk, are simply so particular. They’re from an period which is able to possible by no means be repeated; a candy spot in motorsport and automotive historical past the place issues have been simply the precise steadiness of previous and new. That trendy vehicles are a lot sooner is irrelevant.
That is one of some vehicles which I’ll all the time be capable of admire from the surface as simply to be in its presence is a present in and of itself.
Whereas this automotive is technically a museum piece, it’s fantastic to see and listen to it in motion so recurrently. Simply correctly.
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