Part 1 is here.
Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.
It’s as simple as the title of the “most victorious racing car of all time“. 1,436 victories in just 1,628 days. Imagine that. Over the course of four and a half years, the E30 M3 achieved a win every-day. Every single day, whether it was a weekend, a vacation, or any day without a race (which is pretty often). Against a competition that furiously improved their race cars to have more power, more grip, more everything, the E30 M3 only had two small revisions during its four year reign where its power increase was summed up to only 60 horses. The road-going version featured a 2.3 liter engine which pushed out around 200 horses, but the race-going version peaked at 300 horses with the same 2.3 liters and without forced induction. Weight was also reduced to 960 kilograms, or around 2110 pounds. This gave the racecar a power-to-weight ratio of 3.2 kilos per hp.
BMW’s first major race was round one of the first World Touring Car Championship in 1987, featuring the legendary Ford Sierra RS Cosworth, Maserati Bi-Turbo, and Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo. Judging by their names, the opposition featured turbocharged engines, while BMW decided to stay “au natural”. This decision usually gives engines better durability due to (relatively) lower engine temperatures, something needed when running a race-car at full throttle for up to twenty-four hours straight. Round one started with a Ford taking pole position while six M3s took second to seventh place on the grid. Unfortunately, while all six M3s finished 1-2-3-4-5-6, they were disqualified due to illegal lightweight bootlids. And while round one gained them no points, it showed the world that BMW was ready to dominate the world. That year (1987), the M3 won the Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC), European Touring Car Championship (ETCC), German Touring Car Championship (GTCC), and the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) all with different drivers.
What made the victories more amazing was the fact that the M3 ran with 300 horses throughout the season, while the Ford Cosworth started off with 360 ponies and ended up with 460. That’s a 160 horsepower difference, or a 2 to 3 power ratio in favor of the Ford. And with the introduction of the legendary RS500 which took the power-to-ratio crown away from the M3 later on in the year, the M3 had only superior reliability and handling to rely on to win. By the end of the season, BMW recorded four wins, while Ford took five, but BMW took home more class victories which added to their point total to give them the outright victory of the World Touring Car Championship.
The victories kept piling up in 1988 as well. The cancelling of the World Touring Car Championship just let BMW focus their attention on other touring series’. They won the ETCC again with three straight race victories for total domination of the 2.5 liter class. The Asia Pacific Touring Car Championship and British Touring Car Championship added to BMW’s list of trophies. In ’89, the ETCC was cancelled, and BMW decided to focus on the German, British, and Italian podiums instead. The same year, while the Evo 2 was released giving BMW a six-gear transmission and a small bump in power, the outright performance numbers couldn’t come close to that of the Ford RS500. That year, BMW only won the German Touring Car Championship.
With the turn of the decade, the E30 M3 was starting to show its age. Even so, BMW bagged the Italian, Dutch, Swiss, and Belgian Touring Car Championships and finished second in the German Touring Car Championship. The Evo Sport debuted in 1991 with 360 horses, but it was the newly developed 2.0 liter that BMW put into their M3 that won the BTCC in their new 2 liter class.
1992 was the last year the E30 M3 raced in Europe due to new regulations and the introduction of the E36 M3. BMW’s last season running the E30 M3 was in Australia in 1993 where they were allowed to run against V-8s and the new regulations. Though they didn’t win the Championship, but the few podium victories against the newer V-8s was testament to the aging M3’s prowess. The end of the season ended on a high note though, by winning Macau Ghia Trophy Race, one that BMW won 4 times prior with the M3.
All in all, BMW recorded over 1,400 victories in almost as many days. The M3 toiled against superior technology, massive amounts of horsepower, and AWD traction, but still came out on top. They routinely passed Sierra Cosworths, Audi 300 Quattros, Holden Commodores, and even Nissan Skylines on their road to the top of the podium, which seemed to happen quite often. This clearly shows that a well developed balanced car is more important than one with all-out horsepower or AWD traction.