The first generation of BMW M3 was designed to be produced as a mass-production automobile on an assembly line. It was destined to compete in near-production touring car motor sport, or more precisely as a Group A racing car, defined as a “production car”, of which at least 5000 units have to be built within the space of twelve consecutive months in accordance with Annex J of the international automobile sport regulations.
When the Many of car produced many them immediately disappeared again into garages and workshops to be given a new outfit. After all, the M3 had been designed as a racing car, and now was the time to prove that it really could “race”. A World Touring Car Championship was held for the first time in 1987. And that was exactly what the M3 had been built for. But not quite in the guise in which it was seen on the streets. Instead of 200 hp, the 2.3 litre engine delivered up to 300 hp at 8,200 rpm in the racing version. This put it on a par with the BMW M635CSi. BMW didn’t line up on the starting grid with its own team but supported a number of famous racing outfits like Schnitzer, Linder, Zackspeed and Bigazzi. Drivers like Markus Oestreich, Christian Danner, Roberto Ravaglia and Wilfried Vogt took the wheel, and Anette Meeuvissen and Mercedes Stermitz formed a ladies’ team.
Roberto Ravaglia in a BMW M3: first and last World Touring Car Champion
The first race for the 1987 World Touring Car Championship started in Monza on 22 March 1987 – and ended with a sensation. All the M3 cars were excluded from the placings. The vehicles were checked under chaotic conditions and disqualified because of sheet-metal thicknesses that were allegedly contrary to the regulations. BMW appealed but the sports tribunal decided that the appeal had been lodged too late. There was no longer any talk of infringements of the rules. All the brouhaha naturally didn’t have any effect on the result of the championship. At the end of the season, Roberto Ravaglia was standing on the podium as the first World Touring Car Champion. But that was only the pinnacle of the success list. Wilfried Vogt took the title of European Champion. Altfried Heger came in second – both driving a BMW M3. Eric van de Poele won the prestigious German Touring Car Championship. Moreover, the most sporty 3 Series car was also winning competitions off the race track. An M3 crossed the finishing line in first place in the Corsica Rally and secured a victory for BMW after a gap of 14 years in a race for the World Rally Championship.
24 Hour Race: M3 double victory on the Nürburgring
In the meantime, the BMW M3 was really getting going on the race track. The two-door car didn’t just win the German Touring Car Championship It also took the national titles in France, England and Italy. In the following year, the BMW racing car was equally difficult to beat. The M3 packing 300 bhp beat its touring-car competitors in Germany, Belgium, Holland, France, Italy, Finland, Spain, Sweden and Yugoslavia hands down. Belgian Marc Duez battled through the Monte Carlo Rally with an M3 and took eighth place as best driver in a car without four-wheel drive. Altfried Heger and Roberto Ravaglia crowned the success story with a sensational twin victory at the 24 Hour Race on the Nürburgring.
The M3 had a commanding presence on the international touring car racing scene for five years. It became the most successful touring car of all times by winning the champion’s title several times in the European Touring Car Championship and twice in the German Touring Car Championship. There were also numerous further victories and championship wins at international level.