Radical racer marks M’s 50th anniversary and will take on Acura, Cadillac and Porsche in top-flight US series.
BMW will take on Acura, Cadillac and Porsche in the US-based IMSA series next year, with its first top-flight prototype race car since the V12 LMR that took victory at Le Mans in 1999.
Designed according to the new Le Mans Daytona Hybrid (LMDh) regulations, the BMW M Hybrid V8 is one of a number of all-new electrified endurance racers from mainstream manufacturers due to hit the track in the coming years.
Acura, BMW, Cadillac and Porsche will each enter the IMSA Sportscar Championship’s new GTP category in 2023, joined by Alpine and Lamborghini the following year.
Audi was due to join sibling brand Porsche in the series from next year but has put its plans on ice.
The GTP category will also include entrants built to the Le Mans Hypercar (LMH) rules, so the Toyota GR010 Hybrid and new Peugeot 9X8 should take to the grid alongside the LMDh cars at the 24 Hours of Daytona in January for the first race of the 2023 season.
BMW hasn’t yet said whether it will also field the M Hybrid V8 in the Europe-based World Endurance Championship (WEC), which would mean taking part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The US is BMW M’s most important global market, so IMSA is likely to be the main focus for 2023 at least.
However, ex-M boss Markus Flasch did hint at plans to revisit La Sarthe last year when he said: “There is a spirit of optimism here. BMW has a successful history in prototype racing – the Le Mans victory in 1999 was unforgettable. Reviving this story in a modern prototype with M Power will thrill fans of BMW M Motorsport.”
All LMDh cars use a spec hybrid system comprising a 37kW electric motor integrated into an Xtrac gearbox and powered by batteries from Williams Advanced Engineering. A turbocharged V8 engine of undisclosed capacity will take BMW’s racer up to the maximum 500kW combined output permitted by the regulations.
Of the four nominated chassis suppliers, BMW – like Cadillac – has opted to go with Italian manufacturer Dallara, while Porsche will use Multimatic-supplied underpinnings and Acura has partnered with France’s Oreca.
Manufacturers have free reign over the design of their cars, however, and BMW has opted for a look which nods heavily to both its current road cars and celebrates the 50th anniversary of its performance division.
“The prototype is clearly recognisable as a BMW M car”, said the firm, highlighting the oversized kidney grilles on the front end – which channel air to the mid-mounted V8 – as well as the ‘hook’-style wing mirrors, distinctive rear light designs and even a side graphic which mimics the firm’s trademark Hofmeister kink.
The racer’s camouflage – to be swapped for a sponsored livery in time for its competitive debut – contains references to some of the M division’s most successful race cars of the last half-century, including the 1976 BMW 3.0 CSL, 1981 BMW M1, 1986 BMW GTP and the more recent BMW M8 GTE.
Michael Scully, global automotive director of BMW Group Designworks, said: “My team’s job was to make the BMW M Hybrid V8 look like a BMW, and embrace every opportunity to make it also perform like one on the race track.
“The design is rooted in BMW’s DNA of purposeful, efficient performance, and the exterior’s bold, determined character invokes BMW’s frontiersmanship of turbo power; now united with an optimized hybrid electric powertrain.”
The racer arrives as BMW prepares to launch the first-ever hybridised M car, the 552kW XM SUV, later this year. Only the division’s second bespoke product after the M1 supercar, the XM pairs a mighty 4.4-litre twin-turbocharged petrol V8 with a gearbox-integrated EV motor for the highest power output of any BMW road car to date.