Porsche and Ferrari watch out. BMW is returning to the American Le Mans Series in 2009 with the M3. And it’s going to be quick. Tweaked by BMW Motorsport, the 4.0-litre V8 will produce 485bhp and 368lb ft. By comparison, the road-going M3 makes do with 414bhp and 295lb ft.The rest of the spec is pretty impressive too. Braking is by 380mm discs up front, 322mm at the rear. Weight-wise the M3 has lost 505kg, so it tips the scales at a mere 1150kg. Not bad considering the whopping, endurance-spec 110-litre fuel tank, and most of the body is carbonfibre-reinforced plastic.
Rahal Letterman Racing will run two cars in the 2009 ALMS, while this year is for testing. The team previously ran a Porsche 911 RSR in the 2007 season. At the unveiling of the car at the Chicago Auto Show co-owner of the team Bobby Rahal said: ‘This is a very important day for the future of Rahal Letterman Racing and we are eagerly anticipating playing a lead role in returning BMW to the front of the grid’. BMW incidentally won the first ever ALMS race at Sebring in 1999, with the Prototype-class V12 LMR.
And at least this time BMW will be sticking to the rulebook. In 2001 the company campaigned the E46 M3 GTR in the ALMS GT class. Only the car was running a 4.0-litre V8 – and there was no roadgoing V8 M3. The car caused controversy, and outcry from the Porsche teams, especially as the M3 dominated the entire season.
Just three road-going M3 GTRs are ever thought to have been built, with the race-spec 450bhp 4.0-litre V8 detuned to 350bhp. For a while BMW almost didn’t acknowledge the existence of the GTR, but with the latest M3 gaining V8 power the old racer has been welcomed back into the Bavarian family.