2001 E46 M3 GTR
2001 BMW E46 M3 GTR #006
3,997cc P60B40 V8, approx. 444 hp @ 8,000 rpm
BMW USA Classic
Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey
As a racer, the E46 M3 handled well from the start, but its six-cylinder engine wasn’t powerful enough to overcome the car’s aerodynamic disadvantage to the Porsche 911. In 2000, BMW of North America won just one ALMS GT race all season while Porsche racked up 11 victories with its GT3R, a $270,000 customer race car whose purebred flat six engine had required ACO approval to run at Le Mans and ALMS that year. With its street-based S54 six, BMW just couldn’t compete.
Re-reading the rulebook, BMW found a loophole that would allow the M3 to run with V8 power if the company offered a roadgoing version on three continents, set a price and printed sales brochures. As for actually selling the cars, the rules said nothing.
As it happened, BMW had a racing V8 ready to go: Roland Ast’s Indy-spec P60 V8. Having permitted Porsche to use a real race engine in 2000, the ACO had little choice but to let BMW use the 4.0-liter P60 V8 in 2001.
Though the 911s finished 1-2 at Sebring, Porsche began complaining when the flame-throwing Team Schnitzer M3 GTR set the race’s fastest lap. When BMWs swept the top four positions at Sears Point, Porsche started lobbying for the GTR’s exclusion. At season’s end, when BMW Motorsport had topped the team, manufacturer and driver tables, Porsche threatened to withdraw from Le Mans if BMW didn’t homologate the GTR for 2002.
The ACO subjected the M3 GTRs to severe intake restrictions, then it required 1,000 engines plus 100 complete road cars. Rather than do so, BMW withdrew from ALMS. (In the end, BMW produced 10 roadgoing GTRs, offering one at the 2001 ALMS season finale at Road Atlanta for €250,000.)
The car shown here: Built by BMW Motorsport, chassis M3-GTR-006 has been owned by BMW of North America since 2001. Wearing Stars and Stripes livery in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, it won the last race of the season at Road Atlanta.
“That race was very emotional. We were debating whether to pull out, what’s proper after that horrible event,” Bill Auberlen recalls. “And then the only time we had that paint job, it wins. People didn’t know whether to smile or cry.”
With the exception of the season finale, the Team PTG cars’ racing records can’t be separated. They finished 2-4 at Sears Point, 1-DNF at Portland, 3-DNF at Mosport, 4-7 at Mid-Ohio, 4-DNF at Laguna Seca and 1-DNF at Petit Le Mans.
15 years later, the Stars and Stripes livery returned to #006 along with its P60 V8 engine when BMW NA’s Tom Plucinsky and Matt Russell led the car’s restoration for the BMW USA Classic fleet.