While many people are interested in BMWs as high-end automobiles or collectors’ items, still more are excited to use BMW automobiles and motorcycles in the exciting world of motorsports. As BMW has a hand in developing and building Formula One engines, as well as creating engines for use in other racing involving sportscars, it is not surprising that BMW motorsports both exist and are also popular.
Even before WWII, BMW motorcycles were racing and winning in events such as the 1939 Isle of the Man Tourist Trophy, one of the premiere motorcycle races in the world at that time. While BMW sportscars still put up impressive finishes, motorcycles were the most successful, until BMW developed the BMW New Class in the early 1960s, which allowed them to really start making waves in the sportscar racing world. In 1983, BMW was responsible for the car that won the Formula One World Championship.
More success was found with BMW in many races throughout the eighties and nineties, such as the French Supertouring Championship, the Italian Superturismo, and even the British Touring Car Championship, which were races all during the early 1990s, in a period of racing called Super Touring. In the early nineties, Super Touring was the de facto championship for touring cars, but eventually had to discontinue itself in the late nineties as a result of the rising prices and costs and a diminishing number of teams. The regulations for the Super Touring races included strict rules for aspects of the cars being raced, such as a maximum engine capacity of six cylinders and the length of the car, which could be no smaller than 13.8 feet. Cars also needed a minimum of four doors. BMW’s limited release of a special road car helped bring success to many BMW racers.
In 1987, history was made at the World Touring Car Championship, when, by a single point, Roberto Ravaglia won the championship, racing a BMW. Many BMW teams have continued to win or have great success at the World Touring Car Championship between the years of 2005 and 2010, such as BMW Team UK/RBM, BMW Team Germany, and BMW Team Italy/Spain. At the end of 2010, after another reduction of BMW’s presence at the World Touring Car Championship, BMW completely withdrew from the series. Currently, the only teams representing BMW at the World Touring Car Championship are independent teams, still proud to race in some of the finest sportscars on the market.
BMW clearly has had a large presence in motorsports throughout the history of the sport itself. Whether its regaining the world record for longest drift (51.3 miles) in 2013, or their success within and outside of Formula One and other touring series, BMW consistently places top-notch results in a variety of events. Motorsports have been a large component of BMW’s popularity and success, and with events like Johan Shwartz’s world record breaking drift in the BMW F10 M5, it would appear that BMW has no plans to take their foot off of the gas.