M is for MOTORSPORT
Audi has the Quattro, Mercedes the 190 Evoluzione, BMW the M3 E30: three 1980s models that marked the beginning of a fine tradition of sporty mid-size cars, equally at home on the track and on the road.
In BMW's case, however, the first M3 is considered to be not just the mother of all M3s, but of all Ms in general. For even though it arrived a year after the first M5, it almost surpassed it in popularity, so much so that many believe that the dynasty of road cars created by BMW's Motorsport department was born with it.
Launched in September 1986 as the E30, the first BMW M3 was initially designed for racing. It was such a commercial and sporting success that BMW Motorsport had to increase production rates and produced numerous versions. Even today, the BMW M3 E30 remains the undisputed emblem of the Bavarian brand's sporting image.
The 1980’s saw BMW establish its models as "The Ultimate Driving Machines". Alongside its commercial success, BMW wanted to strengthen the image of its flagship model and establish its name in the FIA Group A championship. The 3 Series provided a suitable basis for developing a competition model, but it lacked the engine to do so. So naturally, the brand's Motorsport department was given the task of designing and building the 5,000 examples of the car needed for Group A homologation, all of which had to be built in 12 months. As early as 1985, talk began of a future super-sporty 3-series, provisionally named the M325i, capable of taking on the brand-new Mercedes 190E 2.3-16 and the Ford Sierra RS Cosworth. The BMW M3 project began at the request of Eberhard von Kuenheim, head of Management at the time, who entrusted the technical director of BMW M GmbH, Paul Rosche, with the development of a high-performance engine. Thus, was born the BMW M3, a car designed entirely for motor sport, even if its road version had to preserve the comfort worthy of a good BMW tourer.
The BMW M3 E30 put an end to much speculation when it made its debut at the 1985 Frankfurt Motor Show. Series production began in March 1986. The exterior appearance of the M3 E30 does not deceive the discerning eye. The aggressive look of the BMW M3 has undoubtedly influenced the fledgling world of tuning for years, but it reflects the spirit of sportiness that drives the creation of the Motorsport department. Nothing is superfluous, and every modification is justified by the needs of racing.
When it comes to the M3, the best is inside. It began life in 1986 with the Type 23 4E A engine. This was a 2302 cm3 4-cylinder engine developing 195 bhp at 6750 rpm. This same block is closely derived from the one used in Formula 1 racing. It is in fact the 4-cylinder M10 block topped by the 4 valves per cylinder head of the M88 in-line 6-cylinder, which appeared in the famous M1 with 2 cylinders removed for the occasion. Lighter long connecting rods were used to limit lateral forces. This reduced vibrations and enabled the use of short-skirted pistons. The decision to use a 4-cylinder engine rather than the traditional Motorsport in-line 6 was originally taken for two reasons. The first was the obvious weight saving and better weight distribution, and the second was to be able to produce a lot of power at high revs thanks to a shorter and therefore stiffer crankshaft. The BMW M3's crankshaft is designed to exceed 10,000 rpm. With a maximum speed of 7,300 rpm, the production M3 engine could therefore offer the same reliability as any other engine in the range.
The M3 E30 gave BMW a record 1436 victories in supertouring races, including one World, one European and two German championships from 1987 to 1992. Born to race, the M3 immediately made its mark in competition, with power reaching 300 bhp at 8,500 rpm and remarkable reliability. From its first appearance at the 24 Hours of Spa in 1987, the M3 entered by the manufacturer made a name for itself. At its wheel, Roberto Ravaglia won the World Touring Car Championship. BMW France then decided to enter a rally car the same year. Prepared by Prodrive, the M3 entered by the Béguin-Lenne team won the Critérium de Touraine, then went on to win the Corsica Rally, outclassing the all-wheel drive cars to claim a single World Championship victory.
The BMW M3 Prodrive is based on a Group A vehicle, which was originally developed by BMW Motorsport for circuit racing, from which a civilian version was derived, which contained all the parameters, that had to be shared between the racing and road models according to the rules of that time.
As the name suggests, this derivative was manufactured by the English company Prodrive for rally racing. The motives for going this route were quite clear. The year was 1986, and countless troubles related to the "cosmic" class of Group B vehicles in the rally clearly showed, that the following year, these overengineered monsters would be banned. At that time, Prodrive owned 6 MG Metro 6R4 vehicles - they invested considerable funds in something, that was basically unusable from the next season. David Richards, head of Prodrive, began looking for a project for the next few years, and since Group A, a more civilian rally cars than the Group B, had lived in rallies and circuits for some time, and they were supposed to be the future of rally, he turned his attention to them. Since they had only three-quarters of a year for a start of the project, negotiating, building and testing the race car, Prodrive naturally hunted in the waters of already homologated vehicles, even if not actively competing in a rally.
One of the first candidates for a project car was BMW because of their promising project with the M3. However, it had one understandable disadvantage - it only had a rear-wheel drive. At first, the agreements were not the easiest - the plan to push for the homologation of the M3 variant with an all-wheel drive was quickly swept off the table. Moreover, BMW was not very attracted to the idea of dirty and beaten cars with their emblem on the hood. However, the discussions turned out to be quite successful in the end. BMW chose the same strategy as for the circuit races - it provided Prodrive with technical information and support, but the team had to take care of the operation itself. Since, without all-wheel drive, the car could have never been particularly successful on gravel, the strategy of building a car successful in local championships with a predominance of tarmac surfaces and with the support of local BMW dealerships was chosen. This also suited the titular sponsors of Prodrive - the cigarette colossus Rothmans.
Of course, the circuit variant could not be put immediately at the start of the special stage of rally, as it may require a slower, but in all respects more versatile, car. The changes thus concerned the engine, which lost its peak power, by changing the camshafts and mapping, but gained more flexibility in the lower speed range. The initial variants reached an output of 275 hp, but, in the last specifications, it climbed up to 295 hp (the circuit variant in the top specification had 320 hp). The Prodrive engine was originally overhauled by BMW itself and decided to make its own modifications and repairs at a later stage of the project. Changes also took place in the transmission - originally, a five-speed Getrag 265 with a shorter final gear was used, but it was later replaced by a six-speed transmission of their own design.The car body also had to be modified. To everyone's surprise, the standard M3 was already very rigid, which was further enhanced by the roll cage. Bodies for BMW racing cars were then supplied by the French company Matter, which produced bodies for the M3 circuit versions. However, again, the frame met the circuit specifications and did not fully consider the use of a second seat in the car. The tank in the car was also scaled down, as rally races allow more frequent refueling.
Major changes had to take place on the car's chassis. Bilstein circuit shock absorbers did not allow proper lifts, so the manufacturer, in cooperation with Prodrive, developed a new rally variant. The changes also affected the brakes - the massive front brakes were scaled down, while the rear brakes were enlarged. The reason is simple - a more balanced distribution of the braking effect between the axles is very beneficial with frequent changes in the adhesion of surfaces, which, logically, is not taken into account on the circuits. Another change concerned the central wheel nuts - they are very practical on the circuits, as they allow very fast wheel replacement in the pits. However, this replacement takes place with pneumatic guns, which deal with great forces and torques. The problem with this solution occurs at the moment of a standard wheel change with a wrench. The required torque for the disassembly is not easy to achieve and, due to the frequency of defects, and the associated possible wheel changes directly at the special stage, this would be a significant complication. The special tool would add weight to the car, which, of course, everyone resists.
The first circuit special reached Banbury in December 1986, with the first rally race with French driver Bernard Béguin scheduled for March 1987 - the deadline was suicidal.
The first race of the car was the March Rallye des Garrigues in France with the aforementioned Bernard Béguin behind the wheel. Although the premiere failed completely, as the car retired due to a fault in the electrical installation, the second start ended in third place and the third with a victory in the French championship. Meanwhile, the M3 duo, prepared by Prodrive, completed the start at the Circuit of Ireland. There, there was a problem with both cars with fuel pumps, which, according to initial notes, stopped distributing fuel in sharp left-hand turns. Before the important highlight of the season, the Tour de Corse, the team had a challenge to eliminate this flaw in the design. The team left for the Tour de Corse without these technical difficulties. This race was extremely important for the project, because in addition to part of the French championship, it was also a World Championship race. There was a lot of competition at the start, but due to the fact, that the track had a tarmac surface with the traditional characteristic "corner to corner", M3 could think of the highest places. In the starting list, Prodrive had two drivers - in addition to the local Béguin, they recruited the Belgian Marc Duez. From the very beginning, Béguin took the lead in the race, but the situation was complicated by the rain, which played into the note of the factory all-wheel drive Lancia Delta Integrale. However, with the track drying up, Béguin started to get on top again, and even the faster, but flawed, Jean Ragnotti with the factory front-wheel drive Renault 11 Turbo could not change that. The first start in the World Championship meant the first victory for M3, which meant great advertising for the whole project.
Thanks to promising results, Béguin took second place overall in the 1987 in French championship. Duez was not so successful in Belgium and finished 8th.
The 1988 season also brought absolute titles. Patrick Snijers, who went to Manx for the victory during the season, won the Belgian title. Béguin repeated the overall second place in France behind Auriol with his direct competitor - Ford Sierra RS Cosworth - and François Chatriot, formerly starting with the Renault 11 Turbo, was also very successful in the same championship, winning fourth overall place. In Italy, Andrea Zanussi was also very successful with the M3.
The year 1989 was a championship for Chatriot in France and Duez in Belgium, yet it was clear in the start lists that the bag was torn with all-wheel drive cars and once their initial flaws were removed, there would be little chance of competing with the rear-wheel drive alone. This was confirmed the following year, when Chatriot repeated his triumph in France, but the Belgian drivers, known from the M3 cockpit, were already piloting all-wheel drive cars and the very fast Grégoire de Mevius was only in fifth place total.
The year 1990 itself also marked the end of the M3 as their primary rally project for Prodrive. Great results came from working with a Japanese carmaker specializing in all-wheel drive cars, which wanted to make its products visible in the World Cup. This gave birth to perhaps the most famous era of this company from Oxfordshire. The carmaker was Subaru.
A total of 11 competition M3s were built, of which 3 in gravel specifications, but these cars were also used on tarmac.
Our BMW M3 Rallye Prodrive chassis P88-015, went to BMW France for François CHATRIOT and Michel PERRIN for the 1988 season.
Their first outing was in the French Championship on the Behra Alpine Rally, where they finished second. They then competed in the Tour de Corse, where they finished 4th overall... The pair went on to take 1st place twice in the 1988 Rallye des Garrigues - Languedoc-Roussillon and the 1988 Rallye Alsace-Vosges. Then it was Marc DUEZ and Pierre THIMONIER who took the start of the 1988 Ypres 24 Hours Rally where they finished on the 3rd step of the podium... CHATRIOT / PERRIN were again at the start of the 1988 Critérium des Cévennes which resulted in a retirement due to a transmission problem and a second place on the 1988 Rallye du Var. François CHATRIOT finished 4th overall in the French championship that season, the winners being Didier AURIOL in a Ford and Bernard BEGUIN in an M3...
It should be noted that Francois CHATRIOT and Michel PERRIN were French champions in 1989 and 1990 at the wheel of another Group A M3... which just shows how well-born the car was.
In 1989, the car changed its livery to "FINA" and took part in the Tour de Corse with the Marc Duez & Alain Lopes, who finished 6th overall.
In 1991 P88-015 was bought by Sabir GANY from La Reunion, after a few rallies on the island, he decided to take the step to the French mainland, having enlisted the services of "CARLOS" (famous BMW specialist). Sabir and CARLOS arrived in the Nord Pas de Calais region in 1992/1993, and quickly became the stars of the Nordic public... After an accident in 1994, everything possible was done to bring the car back to French rallying. Sabir and Carlos, with the help of Eric Douart, then a local BMW dealer, did everything they could to restore the car to its former glory. A new body from MATTER (official supplier of BMW body for Prodrive at the time) was fitted to the car's revised mechanicals, and a complete overhaul was carried out. The body was prepared and painted in the Nord (Ets Espace Grand Nord, Eric Douart's Subaru dealership), then brought to a workshop: START (a structure preparing competition vehicles, owned by 3 men, Sabir GANY, CARLOS and Jean-Michel. ...), and it was with a new deco that it started on the special stages of the Béthune rally in 1994. Sabir regularly took the car out on regional, national and international rallies until 1995. He then sold the car to Paul Molon, who sold it to Stephane Pallissier at the end of 1998. Both drivers continued to take the car out on regional and national rallies on a regular basis. It was almost 20 years ago that the current owner bought the car, and in turn entered it mainly in rallies in the North of France. Stored and restored to its 1988 configuration, the car was sporadically used in the Tour de Corse, in 2012 as the forerunner with François CHATRIOT again at the wheel during the Las Vegas Hoppeland national rally, or as a demonstration car during the 2016 Eifel rally.With more than 100 rally starts since 1988, including the famous French Championship and the Tour de Corse, and driven at times by some of the biggest names in the sport, this is a unique opportunity to acquire a piece of rallying history, ready to drive with its valid, up-to-date HTP, and produced in only 11 examples.