With the 2023 Le Mans and IMSA series well under way and with participation from many manufacturers, it seems like a new glory time is coming. Time for us to take a closer look at some of the participants in more detail.
From 2023, the BMW M Hybrid V8 will compete for overall victories in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and from 2024, the first BMW M Motorsport prototype since the legendary BMW V12 LMR will race in the FIA World Endurance Championship and return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans – exactly 25 years after the last BMW victory at the most famous endurance race in the world.
Continuing the BMW M Motorsport success story on the racetrack is only one driving force behind the BMW M Hybrid V8. The development of the first high-performance hybrid powertrain by BMW M makes the BMW M Hybrid V8 the flagship project for the transformation of BMW M cars towards electric mobility. It showcases the aim of the developers to not only preserve the unmistakable performance characteristics of BMW M models, but at the same time enrich them with new facets of driving pleasure. Driving a BMW M car, be it on the road or on the racetrack, will always remain an emotive experience, also with hybrid or fully electric powertrains.
The Management Board’s decision in favour of the LMDh project kicked off a very short and intensive development phase. BMW M Motorsport chose Dallara as chassis partner and decided which combustion engine to use as the base model for the hybrid powertrain. The roll-out of the BMW M Hybrid V8 took place on 25th July 2022 on the Dallara test track at Varano de’ Melegari followed by an intensive test programme, first in Europe and from September 2022 in North America, where BMW M Team RLL will race with two cars in 2023. During a launch event at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles on 22nd September 2022, the works livery and the drivers for the 2023 IMSA season were presented to the public.
Design and race livery of the BMW M Hybrid V8.
Like the camouflage livery which the BMW M Hybrid V8 utilises while testing, the design for the racing season also comes from BMW Group Designworks under the programme leadership of Michael Scully. The works livery represents a significant departure from the heritage-based ‘Icons of IMSA’ camouflage with a future-facing coat of arms comprised of modern, bold, fractal blocks of the iconic M colours and the M logo. “These elements have been deconstructed to form what at first might appear to be an abstract triangular pattern across the BMW M Hybrid V8, but when viewed from the side, the M logo clicks right into place. – M reconstructed, if you will,” Scully explained.
The design also features ‘Mbedded’ references to the BMW logo, and utilises both blue and purple elements to pronounce the natural colours of electricity. Additionally the works livery carries BMW M Motorsport’s now-signature matte black extension ahead of the cockpit beneath the driver’s side of the windscreen, thereby extending BMW’s interior design hallmark of driver orientation to the exterior of the car for enhanced driver focus. In fact on the race-ready cars this non-reflective matt element will be the only black foil on the car, as all other black areas shown at the launch will remain in their native carbon fibre finish. “This measure allows us to reduce weight by 25 to 30 percent compared to a conventional livery for race cars. Less is more,” said Scully.
The debut of the BMW M Hybrid V8’s works livery also gives the first chance to see the car’s surfaces in non-camouflaged guise and to identify aspects of the design, which may have been previously obscured. The layout of the laser-lit kidneys coincides with the open, flow-through architecture of a modern prototype race car, and the air which passes beneath and through them is fundamental to the aerodynamic performance of the car; both in terms of cooling, but also for efficiency of downforce. The front of the car invokes the faceted hood, nested BMW logo, and inverted ‘Y’ configuration between the kidneys of the BMW M Vision Next, and is a great example of BMW’s showcars informing not only the production cars, but also the race cars. These elements, flanked by signature twin headlights on each side, make the front of the car unmistakably a BMW.
The kidneys’ lighting uses an exciting new technology. Innovative Swiss company L.E.S.S. SA has developed a new approach as an alternative to LED lighting where light is generated by a nano-active optical fibre trigged by a laser. This provides ultra-bright and ultra-uniform light within a very small form factor such that it considerably saves weight and energy when embedded onto a car. This technology was also presented as a future vision for the first time in the BMW M Vision Next in 2019. “
Transitioning around the side of the car, other BMW icons become apparent: the forward-leaning shark nose, the boomerang-shaped guide vane just behind the front wheel arch that summons the BMW M4’s air breather feature, the M mirrors and a modern interpretation of the Hofmeister kink. The sidepod carries a defined diagonal feature line which punctuates the radiused surface above it and at the same time also helps define the requisite front diffuser airflow exit. “A great example of the interdependence between BMW design DNA and dedicated efficiency which makes racing projects like this so engaging,” said Scully.