BMW’s M Division once had to make a road-going supercar – we know, the strife – in order to fulfil its desire to go racing in Group 4 and Group 5. And thus, the world saw the BMW M1.
It had to build 400 for homologation – which thankfully included race-cars – and the then BMW Motorsport boss Jochen Neerspasch decided a one-make racing championship would a) help further development of the road cars, and b) make an awfully delightful spectacle.
For the benefit of those who like CARS, he was correct on both counts. So, the Procar BMW M1 Championship was born, designed to run as a support race for European rounds of the Formula 1 season. It kicked off in 1979, and the five fastest drivers from Friday’s F1 practice would automatically qualify for a race in the M1. The remaining 15 spots were offered up to the young guns eager to challenge the established F1 stars.
And the M1 Procar championship drew some stars. Niki Lauda won the inaugural 1979 season, while Nelson Piquet won in 1980. Sadly, it only lasted two years because by that point, BMW had built all the M1s it needed.
Chief among the changes over the road-going M1 benefitted that glorious M Division straight six engine. The 3.5-litre lump was boosted to just under 500bhp, up from the road-car’s 275bhp. Hell, that engine, in turbocharged form, was capable of nearly 950bhp.
Thus, we come to the present day. Recently, a group called Petrolhead Days managed to organise an oldtimer track day, inviting the BMW M1 Club down to Zolder for a little party time. A few took their road-going M1s on track, the rest in their M1 Procars.
We have the pictures, and you will want to look at them because the M1 Procar remains a glorious thing and of course, marks the starting point for BMW’s M Division. See, HISTORY IN ACTION.
Photography: Dennis Noten