BMW took a famous win at the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1999 with the V12 LMR, but by the following year the company was already pumping its resources into its Formula 1 partnership with Williams.
Rather than throw leftover components away, however, BMW’s engineers decided to find out what would happen if they transplanted the racing car’s 6.0-litre V12 into an X5 to, as Autocar’s Andrew Frankel reported, “test the X5 concept to the limit”.
In its Le Mans race trim, the 6.0-litre motor pumped out 600bhp but only because it was forced by regulations to breathe through a restrictor in its inlet tract. For the special X5, Munich’s engineers removed the restrictor, freeing up another 100bhp.
The X5 Le Mans needed substantial tweaks before it could safely deploy that horsepower and 520lb ft. The six-speed gearbox and rear differential came from BMW’s M division, the suspension was lowered and race-spec springs, dampers and anti-roll bars fitted. The brakes were full race items located within 20in BBS magnesium rims shod with 315/35 tyres at the back, and 275/40s at the front. There was neither anti-lock nor traction control. The cockpit was barely changed.
“There’s a roll cage around the driver’s race seat, itself equipped with a full harness,” wrote Frankel. “The passenger knows no such refinements and is left to slide around in a standard seat with a conventional seatbelt. It has electric windows, central locking, air conditioning and even a sunroof.
“How futile is this car? Sensationally so. Its engine would fail every emissions test, making the car unusable on the road, while its 2200kg weight (not to mention its sky-high centre of gravity) means it would be utterly hopeless as a track machine.”