1987 E30 M3
1987 BMW E30 M3 #2195001
2,302cc S14 inline four-cylinder, 200 hp @ 6,750 rpm
2,640 lbs. (approx.)
Scott and Fran Hughes
Sunset, South Carolina (since 2007)
The abrupt termination of BMW of North America’s IMSA GTP program in late 1986 marked a dramatic shift in BMW’s motorsport strategy. Instead of cutting-edge prototypes, BMW returned to production-based GT racing, running the new E30 M3 in the World Touring Car Championship and other international series in 1987.
The M3 wasn’t set to arrive in the US until 1988, however, leaving BMW NA with nothing to race for 1987…or so it seemed. BMW had taken enough advance orders on the new M3 that it was granted a waiver to race in IMSA’s Firestone Firehawk Endurance Championship, so motorsport manager Erik Wensberg ordered a pair of E30 M3s and engaged Korman Autoworks in Greensboro, North Carolina to run them. A BMW racer since 1964, Ray Korman had driven the E30 325e to the 1986 Firehawk Touring-class title, scoring an overall win at Watkins Glen against much more powerful opposition.
This time, he’d have the high-revving power of the S14 four-cylinder at his disposal. Paul Rosche’s 2.3-liter gem mated the M10 block with a four-valve head to put out 200 hp at 6,750 rpm, but it was still at a considerable deficit to the competition in the showroom-stock Grand Sport class. Fortunately, the E30 M3 was lighter and better-handling than its rivals; it could brake later, too, at least until the stock brakes overheated.
The car shown here is chassis #2195001, a pre-production model and the first US-spec E30 M3 built. At Summit Point in July 1987, Korman and Ron Christensen raced it to 3rd, followed by 8th at Road America. At Lime Rock, Christensen and Dorsey Schroeder finished 2nd in #001. At Watkins Glen, Davy Jones set a lap record with #001 in qualifying, then drove it to the win with Korman. “Watkins Glen was just a good track for us. We could carry a lot of speed through Turn One, and we didn’t lift for the Esses,” says Korman.
Both M3s DNF’d the last round of the season in Columbus, after which BMW NA withdrew from racing altogether until 1994. Korman raced #001 through 1991, then sold it to Walter Swick, who raced it in the Firehawk series in 1993 and ’94 before switching to SCCA for ’95 and ’96. The car was stored until December 2004, when Swick sold it to Mike Krnc, who used #001 as a track car before selling it to Scott and Fran Hughes in 2007. After a cosmetic restoration, Scott put it into action as a vintage racer. The Hughes’ reunited Korman with #001 in 2014 at Road America, where the 79-year-old gave hot laps to journalists during the US introduction of the F80 M3, and again in 2016 at Laguna Seca, where Korman raced it for BMW’s 100th anniversary celebration.