It has been 100 years since BMW was formed, 13 years before it began building automobiles in 1929, beginning with diminutive English Austin Sevens built under license called Dixies. Compare that to today’s tire-smoking M3 or M5.
BMW has been celebrating that centenary around the world and used the 2016 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion to put its history on the track.
From 328s to the type of V12 LMR that won Le Mans in 1999, BMWs were the main event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Let’s home in on arguably the top 10 Bimmers at the track.
1. BMW’s famous prewar sports car, the 328. Built from 1936-1940, it had a 2.0-liter straight-6 and some 79 horsepower. This one is driven by Wilhelm Taubert, who brought it from Hünxe, Germany for the Reunion.
2. BMW’s racing variation on the 328 theme, this car was built for the 1940 Mille Miglia, a race in which BMWs finished in four of the top six places.
3. Cute little devil, BMW’s 700 Coupe. These were made from 1959 to 1965. In racing form there were driven by the likes of Hans Stuck and Jacky Ickx. Power is from a 697-cc flat-2. Steven Walker raced this 1960 700 Coupe at Laguna Seca.
4. This is the BMW that did much of the work that established the company with racing fans in the U.S., a 1969 2002. Here Alex Hugo is at the top of Laguna’s famous Corkscrew turn.
5. In 1975, BMW put the 3.0 CSL on the track to be raced by Brian Redman, Sam Posey and Ronnie Peterson. This one was driven at Laguna by BMW’s U.S. boss Ludwig Willisch.
6. Okay, it wasn’t racing at Laguna, but we can’t ignore one of BMW’s famous Art Cars. Done in 1975 by Alexander Calder, is this the first of the series.
7. From 1978, another landmark BMW race car, the 320 Turbo. Campaigned in the U.S. by McLaren, the 320’s had a 650-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four. This one is driven by well-known driver Jim Busby.
8. One of BMW’s coolest, the Giugiaro-designed M1. Henry Schmitt is driving this 1978 M1 Procar. The 3.5-liter straight-6 put out 470 horsepower. The cars were raced by pro drivers in a series that pitted Formula 1 stars against sports car and touring drivers.
9. BMW’s M3 GT-2 from 1996 and brought the automaker the IMSA GT Manufacturers crown for several seasons. Bill Auberlen was key to that string of wins. Here the car is being driven by John Edwards.
10. In 1999, Williams F1 and BMW combined to create the V12 LMR. Joachim Winkelhock, Pierluigi Martini and Yannick Dalmas drove one to win at Le Mans that year. At Monterey, a BMW-Williams V12 LMR was driven by Bill Auberlen.