BMW Motorsport Heritage: 1999-2000 V12 LMR

Welcome to our new series of blog posts titled BMW Motorsport Heritage!  In each installment, we will give an overview of an important moment in BMW's Motorsport history.  Our first topic is one of BMW's most successful sports cars, the BMW V12 LMR.

 

The 1999 V12 LMR was developed and built as a successor to BMW's failed Le Mans Prototype entries in the 1998 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the most prestigious races in the world.  BMW's entries in the 1998 race both failed to finish because of a combination of mechanical problems and inefficient aerodynamic design.  Not wanting to repeat their disappointment, BMW decided to completely overhaul the V12 LMs they were running and developed the V12 LMR.

BMW worked along with Williams F1 and Schnitzer Motorsport to design the new car, keeping only the carbon fiber and aluminum chassis from the V12 LM.  For the engine, BMW paired a new version of their S70, which was famously used in the McLaren F1.  This engine helped McLaren win the 1995 24 Hours of Le Mans, and BMW knew they could use it for their own efforts.  They developed a modified version with help from their partners at Williams F1.  Titled the S70/3, this engine output 590 horsepower, over 500lb-ft of torque and was able to reach a speed of 214 mph during the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans

 

One of the main factors leading to BMW's early retirement from the 1998 race was the V12 LM's poorly designed cooling system.  The ducts for the cooling system were placed underneath the car, unfortunately causing the car to pull in hot air from the overheated tracks they were driving on.  In the new V12 LMR, the ducts were moved to the top of the car, lowering the air temperatures running through the cooling system.  There were also overall enhancements made to the aerodynamics of the vehicle.

BMW and Williams built a total of four of the V12 LMRs.  Two of them made their debut at the 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.  Car #002 won the overall victory at the race, sending a signal to the rest of the racing world that BMW was back and ready to compete again.  Unfortunately, car #001 was involved in a severe accident, did not finish the race and never raced again.

After the success at Sebring, BMW began preparations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the remaining three V12 LMRs.  One of these cars became BMWs 15th Art Car with a design by Jenny Holzer.  This car did run during qualifications at Le Mans, but BMW did not enter it in the race, choosing to present it to the press during a special lap before the race.

 

The 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans turned out to be an incredible race--one of the most memorable in motoring history.  BMW competed well with the other Prototype vehicles in the race.  Despite their success, the #17 Car was involved in an accident towards the end of the race.  This left the #15 Car, driven by Joachim Winkelhock, Pierluigi Martini and Yannick Dalmas in a battle for the victory with Toyota's GT-One Prototype.  BMWs efforts were ultimately successful, as the #15 Car took the victory beating out the Toyota by one lap.

After BMWs shining moment at the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans, they decided to enter the V12 LMRs in the American Le Mans series.  The pair of race cars went on to a successful two year run in the American Le Mans circuit.

 

The Le Mans cars only saw two strong years of contention, as BMW's partnership with Williams F1 led them to focus their efforts on their Formula One team.  BMW's time competing in Formula One will be documented in another installment in this series.  The V12 LMR is BMWs only ever victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans--hopefully it will not be their last!

 

Please enjoy this beautiful video BMW recently produced of one of the remaining V12 LMRs.  We can talk about it all day, but the video gives the machine its' true shining moment.


Image Credits:
bmwartcarcollection.com
ultimatecarpage.com
snaplap.net