1999 V12 LMR
1999 BMW V12 LMR #002/99
5,990cc P75 V12, 580 hp @ 6,500 rpm (restricted)
BMW USA Classic
Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey
In 1997, BMW announced that it would return to Formula One in 2000, in partnership with Williams. The F1 effort would be prefaced by a sports car campaign at Le Mans from 1998. That year’s V12 LM had all the right parts—including a carbon fiber chassis that used the mid-mounted P74 V12 engine as a stressed member to which the rear suspension mounted—but it was never fast, and it DNF’d at Le Mans just four hours into the race.
For 1999, Herbert Vögele cut 33 lbs. from Paul Rosche’s 6-liter V12 engine and found 30 more hp, bringing the new P75’s output to 580 hp even with smaller air restrictors. Williams read the Le Mans rule book to find that roadsters were allowed a tiny roll hoop rather than a full-width roll bar, changing the aerodynamic equation altogether. The V12 LMR designed by Gordon Humphreys and John Russell won its very first race, the 12 Hours of Sebring in March 1999.
At Le Mans, the V12 LMR faced stiffer opposition from Mercedes, Toyota and Nissan. Thanks to attrition, the final hours saw the fuel-efficient V12 LMRs running out front. When the #14 V12 LMR crashed after rear anti-roll bar failure, the #15 of Pierre Luigi Martini, Yannick Dalmas and Jo Winkelhock held off Toyota to give BMW its first—and still only—Le Mans victory.
The car shown here, V12 LMR chassis #002/99, was raced in the ALMS by BMW Motorsport as #42. It won at Sebring with JJ Lehto, Jörg Müller and Tom Kristensen, then missed the next two rounds at Road Atlanta and Mosport. At Sears Point, #002/99 won with Lehto and Soper, then finished 2nd at Portland, and 3rd at Petit Le Mans before winning at Laguna Seca and Las Vegas. In the end, Panoz took the 1999 LMP championship by 2 points. Lehto should have been driver’s champ, but he wasn’t credited for the Sebring win thanks to a registration form error and finished 4th.
The V12 LMRs returned in 2000, but Audi won 9 races to BMW’s 2. By then, BMW was racing in F1, the LMRs no longer a priority though they continued to impress drivers like Bill Auberlen, the only American to race a V12 LMR in ALMS. “There’s nothing like a proper prototype,” Auberlen says. “It just catapults you into a different category, with incredible downforce, carbon brakes, and so little drag that nothing could keep up with it in a straight line. That V12 motor was bulletproof, and it never quit. It gained speed so fast, and it just never peaked.”
V12 LMR #002/99 is part of the BMW USA Classic collection, making occasional on-track appearances.