BMW is returning to the Le Mans Classic for the first time since 2014. In addition to hosting an exhibition, it is lining up on the Circuit de La Sarthe grid with the legendary BMW M1 Group 4. Decked out in the "Munchener Wirtshaus" livery, the car that participated in the 1981 race will be driven by the original team, including Prince Leopold of Bavaria, Christian Danner, and Peter Oberndorfer.
The drivers recently met up at the Spatenhaus and the Oper restaurant in Munich to recreate the pre-race publicity photo from 1981. That year, BMW planned to highlight the company's involvement in the upcoming 24-hour race and showcase its racing program. As they did 42 years ago, the team hoisted beer steins, toasting their efforts.
For Prince Leopold, it's also a unique way to celebrate his 80th birthday. "I’m really looking forward to driving the BMW M1 Group 4 in "Munchener Wirtshaus" livery at Le Mans again after 42 years,” he said. “It makes me particularly proud that my friends Christian Danner and Peter Oberndorfer are here with me so that we can take a trip back in time.”
In addition to the BMW M1, BMW Group Classic will host an exhibition at the Museum of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Featured cars include the BMW V12 LMR that won first overall in 1999, the 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL, BMW's first art car created by Alexander Calder, and the Jeff Koons BMW M3 GT2 Art Car from 2010.
Approximately 20 privately entered BMW racers will also participate in this year's Le Mans Classic, celebrating 100 years of the iconic race, which first took place on May 26, 1923. Held on the Circuit de la Sarthe, the course includes a mixture of a dedicated race track and public roads. The 24-hour event is held annually and is won by the car that covers the most distance in a continuous 24-hour period.
Built from 1978 to 1981, the BMW M1 was intended to be a homologated race car. It was BMW's first mid-engined sports car and the first car developed by BMW's M division. A new hybrid supercar was rumored to be a successor to both the M1 and the i8, but BMW reportedly axed it in 2020.