As BMW plans to return to Le Mans for the first time in 11 years, the company will make a splash by making its new GT2 car its next Art Car, the latest in a long tradition of specially painted BMW race cars and street cars.
Crafted by world-renowned American artist Jeff Koons, the 2010 BMW M3 GT2 car will be dressed in a wild paint scheme devised with the help of the latest 3D CAD software. In a nod to BMW racing and Art Car history, the car will carry the number 79 in honor of Andy Warhol’s 1979 BMW M1 Art Car and will debut at the prestigious Centre Pompidou art center in Paris, just like Roy Lichtenstein’s 320i Art Car did in 1977.
“These race cars are like life; they are powerful and there is a lot of energy,” said Koons. “You can participate with it, add to it and let yourself transcend with its energy. There is a lot of power under that hood and I want to let my ideas transcend with the car – it’s really to connect with that power.”
The BMW Art Car phenomenon celebrates its 35th year in 2010, tracing its roots back to 1975 when French driver Herve Poulain asked American artist Alexander Calder to paint his 3.0 CSL race car. Koons’ car will be the 17th BMW Art Car and the sixth crafted by an American artist. It’s the first Art Car in four years, following Danish artist Olafur Eliasson’s H2R Hydrogen-powered Art Car in 2007. The last American-painted Art Car, the 1999 V12 LMR prototype car crafted by Jenny Holzer, was also BMW’s official foray at Le Mans and the company’s first and only overall win at Le Mans.
“The race in Le Mans is one of the most important events in international motorsport,” said BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen. “This makes it the perfect stage to revive the tradition of the BMW Art Car. Jeff Koons’ work of art will leave a lasting impression with all those who see it, even after the BMW M3 GT2 has crossed the finish line. BMW Art Cars have often also been able to impress with their sporting achievements. I am optimistic that this will be the case again this year.”
Like many of the Art Cars before it, the M3 GT2 will not be a PR special. The No. 79 car will race at Le Mans in June next to the No. 78 M3 GT2 car in the hotly contested GT2 category, where it will face competitors from Aston Martin, Jaguar, Ferrari, Porsche, and Corvette. Powered by a 500-horsepower version of BMW’s 4.0-liter DOHC V-8, the M3 GT2 cars will hit 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. The historic No. 79 Art Car will be piloted by Andy Priaulx, Dirk Muller, and Dirk Warner, while the No. 78 car will be piloted by Jorg Muller, Augusto Farfus, and Uwe Alzen.
Following the official announcement of Koons’ involvement in the project back in February, BMW has been working furiously to have the M3 GT2 finished and tested before Le Mans. The No. 79 Art Car will make its official debut on June 1 at Centre Pompidou ahead of the 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 12 and 13.