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Racing touring car from M GmbH: M athletes under one roof

Andreas Beil, BMW Group Archive
M GmbH racing touring car
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B MW and touring car racing - they belong together like the start of summer vacation and a gasoline price hike. Almost 40 years ago, the 3.0 CSL held the white and blue flag high on the world's racetracks. At the end of the seventies, the 320 in the broad-bellied Group 5 version made their often very spectacular appearances. Between 1987 and 1992, the BMW drivers were heavily involved in the DTM with their M3s.

After two decades of the DTM sabbatical, in which the Munich motorsport enthusiasts dealt with the sports prototypes (Le Mans victory 1999), Formula 1 and the business with customer racing cars based on the Dreier Now the DTM M3 is once again the flagship.

In four decades, the BMW touring car drivers collected thousands upon thousands of race victories, and at the end of the year the corresponding championship titles were often sprinkled. However, most of all the curious stories have been remembered during the four decades of touring car racing under the aegis of BMW Motorsport GmbH.

Generation comparison of BMW drivers

On a mild summer evening, four BMW racing heroes met under the tent roof of the Munich Olympic Stadium. It didn't take long before Harald Grohs, 68, Marc Surer, 60, Marc Hessel, 47, and Martin Tomczyk, 30, had a warm chat and the anecdotes started: “Do you remember?”

Grohs was one of the first men who chased the 3.0 CSL Coupé around the courses in the German Racing Championship. At that time, the work mainly focused on the European championship. The national level was reserved for privateers.

'I drove my first race in the 3.0 CSL in 1975 on the Nordschleife of the Nürburgring,' recalls Grohs. “I woke up at five in the morning and had to pee all the time, I was so nervous. There were lots of big names at the start, Clemens Schickentanz, Reinhardt Stenzel and so on. And then I came, Harald, a taxi driver from Essen. '

' It started well. I won the start and it was in Hatzenbach that I looked in the mirror for the first time. I thought it couldn't be true, you haven't got anyone behind you. I braked myself out of sheer shock. ”The opening race of the German racing championship was nevertheless a sure prey for the fun-loving Ruhrpottler.

BMW 3.0 CSL demanded a lot from its driver

By today's standards, the BMW 3.0 CSL works in terms of safetypretty nonchalant. There is no trace of side impact protection, and the roll cage with its thin tubes does not inspire confidence. There is an ashtray in the door panel, but the bucket seat doesn't even have a headrest.

'Nothing bothered me,' says Grohs today. “We didn't know anything else.” Even an involuntary crash test had no consequences: “I rolled over three times in a car like this. It was an advantage that I am so small. So I got out unharmed. ”

Driving fast in the 3.0 CSL, which initially had 370 hp, was a strenuous affair. “It was really exhausting, especially on tracks like the Norisring or Diepholz,” says Grohs. “There was no power assistance for the brakes or for the steering. In connection with the wide tires, this meant that I had to change my driving style: The trick was that you never brake into the corner. Otherwise you wouldn't have turned the steering wheel. ”

A comparison of the fastest laps in the Norisring race, the only track on the national calendar that has remained unchanged for four decades, shows how the technology has developed . In 1974 Hans-Joachim Stuck set the fastest time in the 3.0 CSL on the 2.3 kilometer long Nuremberg street circuit with 56.6 seconds. 38 years later, works driver Augusto Farfus was the fastest there. With the 500 hp M3 he needed 49.255 seconds. The Brazilian was more than seven seconds faster than Stuck back then.

Surer signed up as BMW Junior

The BMW Junior Team wrote a particularly spirited chapter in racing history in 1977. Race director Jochen Neerpasch had signed three very fast guys: Manfred Winkelhock, Eddie Cheever and Marc Surer. The trio made a name for themselves not only because of their fast times, but also because of the high material consumption.

Cheever had a bad training accident in Zolder when his foot got stuck between the accelerator and brake pedals. The 320 broke through the guardrails; behind a hill he came to a stop. Surer left the American's mishap cold: “When I saw Eddie's pale face, I thought: All right, you're rid of him.”

A dramatic highlight in German motorsport history was the 1977 Norisring race. In the leading roles : Ford driver Hans Heyer and the three wild BMW juniors. “Heyer stopped Winkelhock with fairly leftist methods,” recalls Surer. “At some point Manfred gave me a sign: You give it a try. Then I turned the Heyer over. As a result, however, I had a puncture and had to pit. When I came back one lap behind, I was back with Winkelhock and Heyer. I wanted to push him away to let Winkelhock pass by, but Heyer held up hard. ”

After a huge crash there was great excitement at the pits.'I was the bad guy,' grins Surer. “It put a two-month license revocation and we had to go to the board. However, contrary to expectations, Hans-Erdmann Schönbeck was very nice to us. He just said: “BMW drivers are fundamentally fair drivers. But I really enjoy watching you. “

At the next race in Diepholz all of the BMW Juniors had to sit out anyway. 'Instead, Hans Stuck, David Hobbs and Ronnie Peterson started on our 320', says Surer. “And what happened to the gentleman team? In the pouring rain there was at least two scraps. “

From a technical point of view, the 320 in the Group 5 version was a big step forward compared to the somewhat clumsy 3.0 Coupé. 'At 790 kilograms, the 320 was lightweight,' says Surer. “Nevertheless, it seemed a bit difficult to me at first, I came from Formula 3. They drove 450-kilo cars. I found it amazing how sluggish the 320 was. But then I revised my mind. Never again have I driven a touring car that was so light and manageable. '

BMW M3 fleet disqualified on debut

The motorsport career of the BMW M3 began with a tangible scandal. In 1987 six M3 landed in the top six places at the start of the World Touring Car Championship in Monza. A few hours later, they were all disqualified - for contradicting reasons. At first, the FIA ​​complained about too thin sheet metal on the roof and doors, later the material of the trunk lid was criticized. Memorable quote from the then race director Wolfgang-Peter Flohr: “The FIA ​​definition of sheet metal is sheet metal. There is no mention of sheet metal thickness anywhere. “

After this bumpy start, however, the M3 got going like the fire brigade. In 1987, two juniors were set for the title in the DTM: Eric van de Poele and Marc Hessel. The German lost the seemingly certain triumph in the championship in literally the very last second to the Belgian. At the final race in Salzburg, Hessel dropped from fourth to ninth on the last lap, firmly believing that only such a BMW driver would win the title and not rival Manuel Reuter (Ford). A fallacy. If Hessel had finished normally, he would have won the title.

'That was a big misunderstanding at the time,' says Hessel. “After the race I sat crying in the motorhome, and then Flohr and van de Poele came in. Suddenly Flohr said: Eric, give me the trophy. He pushed it over to me: There, it's yours. “The inconsolable Hessel packed the trophy, but didn't know what to do with it. 'The trophy is in the cellar somewhere today,' he says.

The new BMW DTM M3 is a thoroughbred prototype

The M3 drivers achieved 40 victories in the DTM between 1987 and 1992. Driving was hard work: 'The steering geometry became more and more extreme, and this increased the steering forces enormously,' recall the pilots. In the lateYears ago, the racing M3 drove with ABS - a novelty in racing at the time.

Martin Tomczyk and his five factory driver colleagues had to do without such assistance systems. ABS, traction control, ESP - everything is prohibited in the DTM. Nevertheless, compared to the stubborn old ones, the new M3 can be directed almost playfully. Steering servo and rocker switch ensure comfort. The carbon fiber brake requires energetic steps.

Unlike its predecessors, the new M3 is a thoroughbred prototype. 'It has nothing to do with a production car', says Tomczyk. “Everything feels ten times more direct than in a street car. Whatever you do, you get feedback from the car immediately. However, if you make a mistake, no ESP will save you like in a production car. Then it goes straight to the gravel bed. '

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