The Old Story of How Ford Dominance Created BMW M

It’s an old story most of us have heard many times. How the Ford Capri’s dominance in European touring car racing led to BMW creating its now famous Motorsport division. But that’s doesn’t mean it’s not worth hearing again. Jalopnik published a solid recap of how it all went down this morning detailing that first critical decade of BMW’s Motorsports division. For those who have read it, head over straight-away. For those who know the story, it’s probably worth revisiting.

Here’s a teaser:

In the late 1960s, Ford was at the top of the world in terms of car racing. Their edict of Total Performance set down a few years earlier had come to fruition with four back-to-back-to-back-to-back wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, they had taken over Formula 1 with their Cosworth DFV V8, and they had seen success in just about every series from stock car racing in America to rallying in Europe.

…The Capri RS 2600 that debuted in 1970 was the brainchild of Jochen Neerpasch, who had recently become head of Ford’s Motorsport Department in Cologne.

Previously, he was a factory-backed driver for Porsche, finishing third at the 1968 24 Hours of Le Mans, but he figured it was time to retire. “You can only win at Russian roulette for so long,” he said as he announced he was leaving the then-horrifically-dangerous world of sports car racing for something more sedate.

…Neerpasch and his team continually developed the vehicle, getting more power out of the engine and getting more weight out of the car. Ultimately, in race spec, the car was producing 280 horsepower while weighing a mere 950 kilos. The minimum weight mandated by the official racing organizers at the time was 900 kilos, so the Capri ended up being both one of the most powerful and one of the lightest cars in its field.

…To get such a light and powerful car on track, Neerpasch had to produce road car versions of the car to homologate it for racing use. That produced the Ford Capri RS 2600. While it didn’t get the plastic body panels of the racing version, it still ditched its big bumpers to save weight and it got new wheels, a spare and lightened interior, an uprated engine, a new transmission (except in right-hand drive), and a thoroughly reworked suspension.

These things got Bilstien shocks, Ferodo brakes, and the front cross member got re-drilled to give the car some negative camber. A thousand of these cars needed to get built so that the car could go racing, but the car was so desirable that over 3,000 got sold. It was this same homologation requirement that forced BMW to produce the brand-defining E30 M3, and that car’s story was much the same with demand outpacing the regulatory requirement.

You see where this is going? BMW poached Neerpasch and thus BMW Motorsports division began.

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