This year marks 50 years of BMW’s M division, created in 1972 to engineer the 3.0 CSL “Batmobile,” which won the European Touring Car Championship the following year. To celebrate, BMW has debuted its new M Hybrid V8 LMDh race car, which will take to the track in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2023.
When it does, it’ll be the company’s first prototype-class racer developed by BMW Motorsports in 25 years. We saw the kidney-grilled race car in its camouflaged test duds in June, but now the full race livery has been revealed.
The new graphic scheme uses the traditional BMW M colors of red, light blue and dark blue over white in a pattern the company calls “fractal blocks.” “These elements have been deconstructed to form what at first might appear to be an abstract triangular pattern across the BMW M Hybrid V8,” said Michael Scully, global director of Automotive and Advanced Design. “But when viewed from the side, the M logo clicks right into place.”
In addition, BMW says, the blue and purple colors are there to emphasize the electrified nature of the car’s 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. The addition of an asymmetrical matte black section in front of the driver has been seen on other recent BMW race cars, but is now a lot more pronounced. It likely also doubles as a glare-reduction bonus. Other sections that look black are actually exposed carbon fiber.
Up front, the nose is dominated by a pair of trademark kidney grilles. These are illuminated, but not by a traditional LED. Instead, they’re lit by a Swiss company’s non-active optical fiber technology that’s activated by a laser.
Other nods to BMW cars can be found in the bodywork. An up-close look at the M8 GTE-esque kidneys reveals a forward-leading top edge that recalls the shark-nose design of 1970s and ’80s BMWs. The L-shaped guide vane behind the front wheels is said to evoke the M4’s side vents. The mirrors also incorporate an M hook design, and a loose interpretation of the famed Hofmeister kink can be seen on the trailing edge of the windows.
Powering the BMW M Hybrid V8 is a bi-turbo and electrified version of the P66/1 eight-cylinder used in the 2017-18 M4 DTM touring car. BMW says it tried to use the P48 four-cylinder turbo but found durability issues. Testing with the turbo P63 engine from the M8 GTE found it too heavy. In forced-induction and hybridized guise called the P66/3, as it is the third version of the engine, it makes approximately 640 horsepower and 479 lb-ft of torque.
The M Hybrid V8 will make its racing debut in the GTP class of the Rolex 24 At Daytona on January 28. There, the principal drivers will be America’s Connor De Phillippi, Austria’s Philipp Eng, Brazil’s Augusto Farfus and Great Britain’s Nick Yelloly. They will be joined by IndyCar driver Colton Herta. There are some big names on the other side of the pit wall as well. Named BMW M Team RLL, the team ownership consists of CART legend Bobby Rahal, talk show host David Letterman, and Patrick Lanigan.
“We are proud that, parallel to the 50th birthday of BMW M, we are returning to the big motorsport stage with the BMW M Hybrid V8,” said BMW M CEO Franciscus van Meel. “We are delighted that this adventure begins in North America, the most important international market for BMW. After all, the BMW M Hybrid V8 is more than just a race car, it is paving the way for an electric future for BMW M, by emphatically demonstrating how dynamic and emotional electrified M Power can be.”