Mike Norman Smith of one2one Motorsport now specialises in restoring them. “More and more people want to restore and race them,” he says. “The balance of them is unbelievable, a super little car. Not a lot would live with them.”
Neither the 2002 tii nor the 2000 ti was ever a race winner in the British Saloon Car Championship. That first victory came in 1973, when Brian ‘Yogi’ Muir took the chequered flag at Silverstone in a 3.0 CSL, a car a young Steve Soper, arguably BMW’s most famous touring car driver, remembers watching as a boy.
BMW had to wait until 1988 for its first championship victory, which came with Frank Sytner in an M3. But the class system that ran in the British Saloon Car Championship and then the BTCC (as it became in 1987) often prevented the overall front-runners from taking the title. Even Soper was, surprisingly, never a BTCC champion.
“They were a fantastic manufacturer to drive for,” Soper recalls of his 11-year career at BMW, during which he raced in championships all over the world, including at Le Mans. “They demanded a lot from you, but they made you feel appreciated. If you crashed, they didn’t care, as long as you won a few races. They always produced great cars no matter what.”
The M3 is a fondly remembered car, winning the BTCC again in 1991, this time with Will Hoy. The car here is a 1990 example, prepared by Prodrive and raced at a time when manufacturer competition was both healthy and expensive.
There was a clamour among privateers to race the M3, such was its prodigiousness. Nick Whale raced one at the time and has recently hunted down his M3 from the time and had it restored.
“It was the car to have,” he says. “It was a homologation special with everything optimised for racing: the wheelbase, dimensions, brakes, ride height. M cars were hand-built by BMW Motorsport back then. They were reliable and bulletproof.”
Reliable and bulletproof until the drivers got involved, that is. In 1992 Soper was involved in one of the most famous incidents in BTCC history when he clashed with John Cleland at Silverstone. If you haven’t seen it, look for it on YouTube now…