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How can we archive this?
How can we possibly explain what this weekend was about?
We can only try to sketch the situation.
A new beginning, a great start.
The resurrection of a tormented gladiator who was hailed in his youth, who never got the promised armor in the prime of his life, but on it's old day is still prepared to defend himself against the same competition.
The BMW-March M1 was never successful in its time. The M1 turbo engine which the car was designed for had already spent considerable time on the dyno at BMW when the management decided that they should focus on Formula One and kiss GT-racing and the M1-project goodbye. A tragic story for all those involved. The two cars that were already racing with temporary 'normal' M1 racing engines didn't stand a change against the much more power full Porsche 935 turbo.
That's why Jim Busby, team owner and driver of what is now our M1 car, had to take action when he got the news that he was waiting for something that would never happen. He took out the M1 engine and replaced it with the brutal American horses of a Chevrolet V8, a modification that was allowed in the IMSA GTX rulebook.
The upcoming race showed that there were some teething problems to tackle, not surprising after such a major modification. Lots of problems, no finish.
Next race, new chances. But then the engine blew a cylinder.
Four months later and still no finish, we estimate that about $300.000 was spent (you could get a new top of the range BMW 528i for $19,565!).
Busby decided he had to say farewell to the BMW and get himself a Porsche.
The 'replica' part in this newspaper article doesn't mean a replica in the European sense. It means that the car was exactly the same as the 'works' car. In fact, our latest insights suggest that our car was probably even built before the other car.
1982. In his second life with Bob Gregg and Joe Varde the BMW engine was back. This meant the power disadvantage was back again and somehow the finish line was still a bridge to far. Then a disqualification followed because the rear spoiler was raised and towered above the roof, something that was not allowed. The car wasn't getting prettier anyway. By now, the arena had evolved into the GTP championship (Group C in Europe), not the place to be for a modified special production car.
In 1983 a final effort was made and a state-of-the-art Chevrolet small block was built that had the potential to surprise the opposition at the Grand Prix of Miami. However, the surprise turned out to be the weather, a tropical storm destroyed the event. After 80 of the total 500 kilometers, the race had to be stopped. After this last disaster, the car was carefully stored in a garage and for as long as 28 years nothing was heard of it. But in 2011 it was time for Bob Gregg to sell the car and that was the moment it popped up on our computer screen.
How did we know what we where dealing with?
Since we stumbled upon a lot of spare parts, the molds and the last uncompleted chassis from the factory in 2007, we began to collect everything that was about or on these cars. Piece by piece, we discovered that the hard numbers that where left in history books and records did not tell the whole story, that the cars never reached their full potential, and that pieces of turbo propaganda still get quoted over and over again.
Wikipedia for instance says that the M88/2 M1 turbo engine would develop 850 HP in group 5 form and would propel the cars to more then 350km/h. Yes indeed, that was the plan...
If you find one of the two BMW-March M1's that ever raced and that you considered as lost, in the garage of it's last driver and untouched for 28 years..then you know that you will never get such a chance again.
Like this, a very unsuccessful, uncompleted piece of racing history, where nobody has ever heard about, that has never finished a race, for many has a 'wrong' engine, and where nobody can tell you the full story about, comes into your possession. Pretty soon you will get the feeling that you are the person who has to put things right.
Incidentally, another person learned about the failed story of the BMW-March M1's.
In 2010, Marc Dürscheidt found a Le Mans style bodywork in someone's garage. After searching for it's origin he found out that it had to be from the BMW-March M1 that started the 24 hours of Le Mans in 1980, the only other raced example of these cars. As you may have guessed, the car didn't finish. In fact, it turned out that that this car also didn't finish a single race! The car itself still exists, although in a somewhat altered form and with a totally new bodywork. It looks just the same as in 1980, but it's not the original body. Because the original is in Marc's garage. Pretty soon, he was dreaming about owning his own complete BMW-March M1. He decided that his only chance was to build one himself.. a monster task.
Luckily he got help from BMW Classic. They let him in their depot where another example of the BMW-March M1 is collecting dust. This one even has the promised turbo layout, but has never turned a single wheel under it's own power and was only used as a show car. Even BMW Classic themselves don't know much about it. With his camera in hand he went and tried to measure everything as precisely as possible and took a lot of photographs. Based on his measurements and pictures, he started to build his own monocoque and suspension. That he already got this far can be seen as a miracle, and we consider it a fact that he must be an outstanding constructor.
The media also recognized his efforts and this resulted in an article in Der Spiegel and a lot of commotion on the internet.
Take a look at the photo's.. incredible.
If these two BMW-March M1 fascinated party's decide to meet each other on a beautiful historic race event, where a BMW-March M1 will race for the first time in 30 years.. I probably don't have to explain that there was a lot to talk about. With Marc we talked about all the differences between the cars, inspected every detail, exchanged theory's, and made a lot of pictures to help him in his quest to build his own car. It was interesting and fun to meet you Marc!
But now we really have to turn to a factual report of the past week, and we have to try to not let all the feelings of euphoria and nostalgia influence the actual story because otherwise this would be a very very long piece of writing.
9th of april, Circuit Assen.
+ :First 'real' test. The new driveshafts work, new carburator works, tires stay full, nothing falls off.
- : Shifting gears is awful and seems to be nearly impossible. Clutch proves to be totally worn out by the end of the day. Front wheels have some play.
10-17 April, Botspeed headquarters.
+ : + : Gearbox taken of, replacement clutch plates found(3x) and made to fit, gearbox put on again. Wheel bearing mounted correctly instead of reversed. Replaced some suspension bushes. Junior finds out that he has to learn about 'double clutching' with this gearbox. Brake lights made to work. Fixed worn out thread in the gearbox housing. Heat isolation applied to the rear bodywork, to stop it from burning. Lowered the front end.. All in all pretty much.
- : The weekend was approaching very fast and some exams had to be taken care of..(also pretty much)
Thursday 18th of april, Circuit Hockenheim
+ We're on the circuit! We are on time for a test session at 17:30! The car has passed scrutineering!
- We are banged of the track by a modern Porsche after only 3 cruising laps..he probably forgot that this was a test session, not a race. You can judge it yourself . Front to back, everything had a nice piece of crash evidence. Back in the pits the mood was..let's say it was not 'happy'. Flying gloves, hands in hairs, discussions why this should happen to us...and then we saw that all the oil was leaking out of the non-hit side of the car. We had to pick ourselves up, get the toolbox and apply some red tape. Stick stickers on where we could and try to locate the oil leak. Paul Geeris from PGMotorsport gave us a helping hand. He proposed to get the car in his trailer/truck so that we could properly inspect the underside of the car and find the leaking lower transmission cooler connection. Thank you very much Paul! Without you this would have been a very difficult operation. At 9 o'clock we were done, went to the hotel and decided we had to start again tomorrow and forget about today.
Friday 19th april
+We are ready!
- Driving to the pre-start area.. 'I can still see some drops of oil..' 2 minutes later.. 'Yes.. it's still leaking pretty much, but now at the top connection of the cooler! When the session started we could immediately turn right again to the paddock, get the body off, fix the impossible to reach connection, get the body back on and do 2 laps. Ofcourse junior was a bit... 'irritated' and in a hurry. Two things which seem to help shifting the gears in a proper way. For the first time he got some feeling for the downshifts.
+ First time driving five laps in a row! To our surprise 3th time in the 40 something field!
- After four laps, the engine begins to have some trouble and after five laps it cuts out when we entered the pits. Only after a long cooling down period it would start again.
We analyze the symptoms and come to the conclusion that this has to be the famous "vapor lock". Luckily there are some suppliers of heat isolation materials on the paddock and we do everything we can to get fuel temperatures down. This has to work.
Saterday 20th April
Being interviewed by motorsportvideo.tv who also mounted a camera in the car. Result will follow later.
+ It looks like he will make it! Gear changes are becoming smoother! The car in 2nd place experiences mechanical trouble and we finish 2nd! Great! The first finish ever for a BMW-March M1! And that with a podium! Fantastic! No words!
- no, the claimed 700 horsepower is not there yet, over 200km/h and in corners there is considerable less power available... and we seem to have the wrong petrol. But this won't harm us at all because of the + points above!
Sunday 21 april
+ We are still fit to compete!
- Driving to the starting grid for the warming up lap... 2 meters before the starting position.. klunkkrrrr. Differential blocked. Wobbling back and forth to get it past the critical point is successful. Start warming up lap.. 30 meters.. klunk again and rattling sound. Time to stop and look for a truck. Immediately put it from the truck on the trailer. What a pity!
It didn't really bother us. Saturday was such a great day, sunday could only get worse. With the gained experience of the past weeks we are confident we are able to fix the problem and be back later this year. We decided to get some icecream and scored two books where the BMW-March M1 was mentioned, quote: "the group 5 version with it's 850 BHP turbocharged engine will .. " yeah right..maybe someday.
Tired but very satisfied we went on our way home again.
We have started a new chapter in the story of the BMW-March M1.
It has become a somewhat egocentric report, where very little space is appointed to the great event itself, the rest of the happenings on the track and all the other participants. There was a lot of things happening, there was much to see, it was good to see everybody again, the rest of the field was of a very high standard and we had a lot of positive reactions. But this time we were very busy with ourselves and didn't have much attention left for the rest. We hope to make up for it another time.
Thanks for reading!