Although Monterey Auto Week is often all about the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, there’s actually a huge number of events going on at different venues throughout the area. One of the newer shows is the Legends of the Autobahn Concours D’Elegance which, this year, features one of ESM’s most favourite race cars.
In fact, it’s also one of the most popular race cars on EngageSportMode.com full stop, thanks to cult status and this article being cited on Italian Wikipedia as an authority on the M3 GTR. We still don’t quite know how that happened, but we’re not complaining. Regardless, BMW North America is bringing both the pictured M3 GTR 006 to Legends of the Autobahn, along with a rare road-going M3 GTR too.
This particular racer has recently been through an 18 month full restoration by BMWUSA Classic and Rahal Letterman Lanigan, returning it to how it looked back in 2001 when it won the Petit Le Mans finale. The ‘Stars and Stripes’ livery was chosen as a tribute to those who had lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks less than a month before the race. With an iconic colour scheme combined with a Petit Le Mans win, the PTG team car became something of an instant legend in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).
We’ve obviously covered the story of the E46 M3 GTR before, but the short version is BMW cleverly exploited the rules in the ALMS that meant only 10 street versions needed to be built to homologate a GT racer. BMW Motorsport thus produced a 4.0-litre V8 engine specifically for racing, featuring dry sump lubrication, a flat-plane crank, and the ability to rev all the way to 7,500rpm. It was lighter, and more powerful with at least 450bhp in race trim, than the 3.2-litre inline-6 engine fitted to the normal E46 M3.
To say the E46 M3 GTR dominated the 2001 ALMS is probably an understatement. Winning seven out of the ten rounds – basically all of them from round four onwards – the GTRs wiped the floor with the Porsche 911 competition. The result was a requirement for 100 cars and 1000 engine units to be produced to homologate an ALMS GT racer in 2002, meaning the project simply wasn’t cost-effective for BMW anymore. Plus, with such a crushing show of power, the M3 GTR had achieved an invaluable trophy by beating the Porsche 911 on track. Only three M3 GTR road cars were produced, due to the programme being cut short, all of which now reside in the care of BMW.
So for those of you who can’t get yourself down to Monterey today, enjoy these pictures of the all-conquering E46 M3 GTR; a race car so good they had to change the rules to outlaw it.