1986 March 86G BMW GTP
1986 March 86G/BMW GTP #86G-002
1,999cc M12/14 turbocharged four-cylinder, 900 hp @ 9,000 rpm
2,000 lbs. (approx.)
BMW USA Classic (since 1986)
Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey
After a four-year absence, BMW NA returned to IMSA GTP, entering a March 85G in the 1985 season finale at Daytona. Gearbox failure struck after 30 laps, but returned full-time in 1986 with a pair of March 86G prototypes.
March delivered its first four 86G prototypes to Livonia, Michigan, where McLaren Engineering designed its own bodywork (laid in fiberglass by a local supplier) and installed a 2.0-liter version of BMW’s turbocharged F1 engine. As the 1.5-liter M12/13, that engine made 1,000+ hp on BASF racing fuel made largely of toluene and benzene; McLaren engineer Wiley McCoy’s mission was to make the IMSA-spec M12/14 run on less-toxic race gas.
Preseason testing at Road Atlanta saw a fuel line fail and fire destroy a car, though driver John Andretti was unharmed. The team withdrew from the season opener at Daytona but returned for round two in Miami, where John Watson/David Hobbs finished 9th and Davy Jones/Andretti crashed out.
At the 12 Hours of Sebring, third driver Bobby Rahal found the 86G “extremely impressive” in practice. In qualifying, Rahal had just completed his first lap when the fiberglass bodywork delaminated at 180 mph. “all of a sudden the car just snapped sideways, and it got real quiet. Everything went upside down and it started bouncing—somebody said it was about 30 feet in the air—and then landed upside down.”
Rahal was unhurt, but the 86Gs were withdrawn yet again until new bodywork could be created. Returning at Watkins Glen, Jones and Andretti finished 5th, Hobbs and Watson 6th, followed in Portland by 4th for Hobbs/Watson and a DNF for Jones/Andretti. At least one March-BMW failed to finish each race thereafter, and the Hobbs/Watson car retired from the lead three times. Finally, at the second Watkins Glen race in September, Jones and Andretti scored the March-BMW 86G’s first win, starting from pole and setting fastest lap.
The team was set to dominate in 1987…and then BMW of North America cancelled the program. The March-BMW GTPs were finished, and so was the M12 engine. “It was a perfect race engine, the most unbelievably stout little thing we’d ever seen,” McCoy says, “You couldn’t blow them up with more boost or more power. Only mistakes, poor-quality work could damage that engine. And to take 1.5 liters to 1,100 hp or so? Amazing.”
A spare car during the 1986 season, chassis #86G-02 remains with BMW USA Classic, while the other March 86Gs were sold to privateers.