Auto racing history is replete with examples of clever engineers and racers taking advantage of badly worded rules. The latest example is the car you see here, the GTR, which mopped up the GT3 class in last year’s American Le Mans Series, much to the chagrin of archrival Porsche. Regulations for the 2001 Le Mans 24-hour race (and the American Le Mans Series) stated that a car had to be for sale on two continents within twelve months of the rules being issued. Hence, when BMW needed more thrust for its ALMS M3 racer to compete with Porsche, it interpreted the rules to the letter. Out went the M3’s six-cylinder engine, to be replaced with a flat-crank V-8 racing engine that had the muscle to whip the Porsches. Later, ten GTRs went on sale for 250,000 euros ($218,000) each.
It’s ironic that Porsche then threw a tantrum over the GTR, seeing that Porsche is a master of taking logic to extremes. Witness the Dauer 962 that won Le Mans in 1994: This alleged street-going GT car was nothing more than a Group C Porsche 962 in thin disguise. Another recent example of clever interpretation was the GT1 that won Le Mans in 1998. Now, thanks to pressure from Zuffenhausen, the GT3 rules have been rewritten to state that 100 cars and 1000 engines must be built. BMW could have run with weight and power penalties but chose to pull out of the ALMS.
In the end, racing fans are the losers, because the GTR is a spectacular, flame-belching beast. It also makes a regular six-cylinder M3 feel sloppy and imprecise, which is some feat. The GTR has a racer’s reflexes, with humongous slick tire grip and immediate turn-in. The 14.9-inch diameter front and 12.9-inch rear discs haul this baby down with some alacrity, which is necessary because the torquey, guttural-sounding V-8 gives 444 horsepower. Best of all, the GTR looks stunning, with body addenda that fans of The Fast and the Furious would die for. It just seems a shame that the GTRs have been consigned to a museum because Porsche whined.