BMW Manufacturer Profile & Rally History

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BMW Home Country: Germany Germany

BMW started off as an engine maker mainly for aircrafts. This explains a lot about BMW's name and logo in a simple way. BMW means Bayerische Motoren Werke = "Bavarian Engine Factories", their logo is taken after aircraft propellers in motion, filled with Bayern's national colours blue and white - actually that is a welcome coincidence, as to the original idea the white should symbolise moving propeller blades and the blue the sky. One outstanding fact about BMW in modern times is that this is one of only two car manufacturers world wide in which the founder family still has influential powers. What for Peugeot is the Peugeot Family, for BMW is the Quandt Family. Curiously Sven Quandt is one of the clan, even though to us he is known as a rally enthusiast with projects even including Mitsubishi.

Back to history, it somehow seems tempting to compare BMW’s rally heroics to those of Alfa Romeo. Both makes had their rally programs always overshadowed by their love to touring car racing, both makes came into rallying at roughly the same time and with cars of similar character and abilities. Although the Alfa Romeo Giulia GTA was a coupé compared to the BMW 02-series that was more a sporty saloon car. Both these projects were as well inspired by touring car programs.

But in order, the BMW 1800tisa (comparable to the 5-series in modern times) was a hugely successful touring car and it looked far from dull on rally stages as well. The big 2800CS coupé was also tried in rallying, but both these cars were semi works efforts at best. It has to be noted though, that none other than Rauno Aaltonen had an extensive ERC program in 1972 using the 2800CS M-AH 1072 & M-AH 1079. When the 02-series (comparable to the 3-series of modern times - here BMW is lying about their own history, telling us in adverts in 2014 that the 2-series inherits the big history of the 02, but in its days the 02 was straight replaced by the also very famous E21 3-series, so why is BMW hating their own history, fans and customers, treating us as if we were dumb?) came, it was smaller and lighter than the 1800 and that it had smaller engines at first didn’t seem to matter for rallying. We soon found many 1502 and 1602 models with engines of a size according to the model name. But then came the 2002tii, which not only was smaller than the 1800tisa, but as implemented by the model names had a bigger, more powerful engine. It was that time that even BMW Motorsport found interest in rallying as the car’s successes could no longer be ignored. The most famous drivers of works supported BMW 2002 were Tony Fall, Achim Warmbold and occasionally even Björn Waldegaard. The biggest success was when Achim Warmbold won the WRC event Austrian Alpine in 1973. Actually as famous was the BMW victory in Portugal 1972, although this was before the WRC was created.

Interestingly the BMW 2002 was as well the first road car that explored Turbo engines, but unfortunately the 2002turbo came at a time (late 1973) when the big oil crisis broke out in Europe and we can’t find records of this car ever being rallied, leaving the first turbo laurels to Saab. Big shame with that oil crisis, BMW actually already had the drivers signed for a big 1974 WRC turbo attack!

Again similar to Alfa Romeo, from here BMW became a loved, mainly French inspired privateer effort in rallying. When the 3-series came out and the 320 became a hugely successful touring car, Timo Mäkinen was found in a French importer 320 in the Rallye Monte Carlo and Ingvar Carlsson used a 320 and later the bigger engined 323i in the Swedish Rally. It was actually the German tuner Hartge to prepare a big 635CSi (E24) MZG-EA 67 & MZG-EW 99 for Jean-Claude Andruet in French rallies while one of the most spectacular rally cars ever was created by French lunatic Hughes de Chaunac, when he turned the M1 into a rally car. The next big story about BMW in rallying came when Prodrive got involved with a BMW touring car program with the M3 – a very different top version to the 3-series. Prodrive tried to rally it and soon showed the incredible quality of this car: designed mainly with Irish, French and Belgian tarmac rallies in mind, the BMW M3 turned a winner on the first WRC event it ever competed in, the Tour de Corse 1987! For the next 3-4 years the M3 was a well loved car for exactly these Irish (Bertie Fisher, Austin McHale), French (Bernard Beguin, Francois Chatriot) and Belgian (Patrick Snijers, Marc Duez) championships, winning many titles. But in WRC terms without turbo and 4x4 it soon struggled to keep up with the ever more evolving Lancia Delta.

Note on Mini entries from 2011: BMW owned MG Rover for a while. For 1: this was a very unhappy marriage and, although short lived, they did not release MG Rover into independency again without taking Mini and Land Rover away from them. So BMW is partly to blame for MG Rover bankruptcy. For 2: The Mini branded cars that BMW sells today, especially the Countryman that is base to the Mini WRC, are huge, weigh 1.7tons, cost beyond 30,000 Euros, they are not even remotely, not even in a single aspect within the spirits of the original Mini, they are even very much to the opposite. Sorry, I refuse to offend the many Austin/MG Rover fans and fans of the original Mini, and it is even rude of BMW to claim the many Austin/BMC victories to their name, when their car is so different! If BMW thinks Austin is that great, and the 1960s victories were Austin successes, nothing to do with BMW, why did they drive them into bankruptcy? Therefore it is very important to avoid confusion with the original Mini and therefore again it is impossible to list the BMW Minis as brand name Mini alone. Mini was never a brand name when they won Monte Carlos of the 60s and indeed the FIA homologation documents today name the manufacturer as BMW, too. Apart from some retro design clues the BMW Minis simply have nothing to do with the original Austin Rover Minis and therefore need to be clearly identified as a BMW thing.
Prodrive was actually the driving force behind this project, but, ironically, already shortly after launch there was a raw between BMW and Prodrive over the finance of the project. BMW withdrew all support and BMW Minis are, despite early promise, near always seen in the hands of private teams. Therefore there is also not much point going into colour schemes and registrations of BMW Minis.

COLOURS & TYRES:

BMW is a car manufacturer with a really strong identification, without continuously changing their minds as so many other, mainly Japanese brands seem to do. BMW's house colours always were a combination of blue, purple & red stripes on white ground. However there was one exception and that was right on their most official program, the works 2002, as Aaltonen's 2800CS, were white cars with a light blue top. With future projects being all privateer efforts, sponsorship came into the frame. Hartge, who ran the M3, Carlsson's 320 & 323i, as well as the 635CSi used their own house colours being two shades of blue on white. Hughes de Chaunac’s M1 was sponsored by Rothmans as well as French oil company Motul and featured a white and red colour scheme (unusually for Rothmans no blue). This was very similar indeed to Prodrive’s M3 from 1988 onwards with Bastos and Motul sponsorship, however when they won the Tour de Corse in 1987 they were in full Rothmans colours. One exception is Marc Duez, probably the busiest M3 driver in the WRC, who brought in Fina sponsorship. Two of the most exciting colours: In Belgian championship events Marc Duez also had phone manufacturer Alcatel sponsoring a white-grey-orange M3 and Ari Vatanen couldn’t hesitate to compete on the 1000 Lakes Rally 1988 in the powerful RWD M3 and this car featured writing “the milkman” – a real fun entry!

In terms of tyres BMWs seemed to be on Pirelli throughout, with the 2002, the M1 and the M3. Only exception was 1987, the year they won the Tour de Corse they were on Michelin.

REGISTRATIONS:

Indeed in the 1970s BMW was a full works operation. And as most people know, BMW is based in Bayern's capital München, which is one of the biggest cities of Germany. Such works BMW display reg plates with M as the area code, mostly followed by 2 letters and a 4-digit number. Then the big BMW operation with the BMW M3 was in the hands of Prodrive. Interestingly when Prodrive cooperated with Porsche, these cars were registered in Reading. Just like Porsche, BMW's UK importer is based in Reading. However for some reason the Prodrive BMW were usually registered in Ireland! Again the game with the 3-letter-block, 2nd & 3rd of which identify the area. Strangely these M3s were only found with area codes DZ Antrim or XI Belfast, even though both these places have far more codes. To add to head scratching, in the end 4 M3s of equal works status appeared of which 2 were registered in Northampton, 1 in Nottingham and 1 in Birmingham! When Hughes de Chaunac played with the M1 in rallying, 2 such beasts were built, he found support by BMW France and such the cars were registered in Versailles with the reg plates ending 78. This is not to be mistaken with the 54 registered car Hartge had. German MOT rules are so strict, that it is difficult to have rally cars internationally competitive. In fact most works Toyota don't have a German MOT approval stamp, are insured in the UK and may run into problems with the German police running their German plates in Germany. For Hartge, the French city Nancy "54" is just across the border and so he had some of his cars registered there. Hartge is based in Merzig, Saarland, a small German town just 5km from the French border. So as long as the German MOT did not object, Hartge cars are identified with the Merzig MZG area code before the dash. Just for a little side info, Hartge nowadays turned their attention to Mercedes tuning and changed name. Although Rolf Hartge still owns the business, non other than former Swedish rally star Ingvar Carlsson is involved in the business and gave the firm its new name.

BMW Rally Cars

Model Class
BMW BMW 02-series  Group 2
BMW BMW 3-series (E21)  Group 2
BMW BMW 3-series (E30)  Group N
BMW BMW M1 (E26)  Group 4
BMW BMW M3 (E30)  Group A
BMW BMW Mini Countryman  Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T

Rally Honour Roll

Year Class Place Manufacturer Events
2015 IRC Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T 8th. BMW (18pts) 10

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

2014 IRC Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T 6th. BMW (43pts) 12

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

2013 IRC Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T 6th. BMW (70pts) 12

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

2013 WRC Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T 8th. BMW (20pts) 13

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

2012 IRC Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T 66th. BMW (0pts) 13

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2012 WRC Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T 7th. BMW (26pts) 13

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar

2011 WRC Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T 10th. BMW (7pts) 13

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1991 WRC Group A 8th. BMW (6pts) 14

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1990 WRC Group A 9th. BMW (14pts) 13

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1989 WRC Group A 7th. BMW (37pts) 13

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1988 WRC Group A 7th. BMW (25pts) 13

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1987 WRC Group A 8th. BMW (20pts) 13

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1985 WRC Group B 15th. BMW (9pts) 12

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1974 WRC Open 12th. BMW (4pts) 8

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1973 WRC Open 8th. BMW (28pts) 13

Season Summary | Season Points | Events Calendar