In 1977, still in the middle of the development of the M1, FISA once again changed the regulations and decided that 400 cars had to be built for homologation from Group 4 to Group 5. That’s when BMW motorsport boss Jochen Neerpasch used his good contacts with Max Mosely, and after three gin and tonics in a then-popular bar in Munich, the story goes, the two of them came up with the idea of having the five fastest Formula 1 drivers from training compete against a selection of the best touring car drivers on Grand Prix weekends in almost identical M1 Procars. After Neerpasch had also convinced Bernie Ecclestone and the Formula One world of this idea, the BMW board of directors released the budget for the construction of 25 M1 Procars for the first race in Zolder in 1979. It was a well-organised and ingenious marketing move for the brand, while at the same time increasing the number of M1s built to achieve homologation. The Procar series was a win-win situation: spectators got the answer to the perennial question of whether the result depended on the car or the driver, while BMW was able to do more marketing for its company and for the M1 production car.
But the reality was that what the spectators saw on the track and what they could buy for the road were as different as night and day. Paul Rosche, the head of engine development at BMW, set to work to further improve the M1’s engine, which was now given the engine designation M88/1. Engine power increased dramatically from the standard 273 hp to over 470 hp, with the engine revving in excess of 9000 rpm. The gearbox, which continued to be housed in the ZF case, had its own oil cooler. The suspension was completely new and had adjustable anti-roll bars. The body was given significantly larger wheel arches, a deeper front splitter and a large rear wing. The cockpit was completely stripped out, but there was a sturdy roll cage to protect the driver in his single seat. The total weight, precisely worked out by the engineers, was 1000 kg, 360 kg less than the already non-heavy road cars.
The Procar M1 racing series ran for two years, 1979 and 1980, and its enormously high profile can be seen in the series winners of those two seasons – none other than eventual triple world champions Niki Lauda (1975-77-84) in 1979 and Nelson Piquet (1981-83-87) in 1980. Once BMW had met the homologation requirements for the M1 to be eligible for Group 4 of the World Endurance Championship, the M1 Procars were entered by various teams in various national racing series. In addition to the European events, the M1 Procars dominated the IMSA GTO series in the USA in 1981.
The BMW M1 Procar shown here with production number 23 and chassis number 4301066 was delivered to the Austrian Konrad Racing Team on 9 May 1979. Only 3 days later Franz Konrad took part in the first Procar Series race in Zolder in Belgium with the M1 with starting number 88 and a Baumhüter/Minolta sponsor livery. The racing history of 1979 included 10 further entries, with Franz Konrad finishing seventh in the hectic second round of the Procar Series in Monte Carlo during the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, seventh in the German Championship race at the Norisring in June and ninth in Diepholz in July. The 1066 was also driven by Ralf-Dieter Schreiber (in Zolder) and by “John Winter” (as Louis Krages also Le Mans winner) in the German Grand Prix Procar race in Hockenheim (tenth place).
In February 1980, the car was sold to Jürgen Kannacher from Krefeld, who raced it in the World Championship race at the Nürburgring (1000 km), in several races of the Procar Series and in the races for the German Championship. That year, the M1 competed under the Kannacher GT banner with Valvoline as sponsor and was mostly driven by Ralf-Dieter Schreiber. In the 1981 season, Jürgen Kannacher contested 14 German Championship races in his M1 with the number 77 car and sponsor ARAL, before selling the car to German racer Hans Heyer from Wegberg.
Under Heyer, BMW works driver Dieter Quester drove this car for the GS team in 1982 and won the German Grand Prix race at the Hockenheimring, finished second in the Jim Clark Memorial Race at the same circuit and took further second places at Hockenheim and the Salzburgring as well as third places at Zolder, the Eifelrennen and the Norisring. Dieter Quester also won the Hessen Cup race at Hockenheim in August before extending his good season record with a second place at the Nürburgring in September. Hillclimb specialist Mario Ketterer also drove the car to victory in the St. Ursanne-Les Rangiers hillclimb race in Switzerland in August. In this last season of his active career, the car was also driven by Rolf Stommelen in Diepholz. One of the liveries of this season was “Alpina exclusive sports glasses”, in which the car is presented today.
The car remained in Hans Heyer’s possession for 23 years until it was sold in 2005 to Christian Traber from Toffen in Switzerland, who undertook a comprehensive and thorough restoration that took three years and around 300,000 FRanken. The restoration is well documented and brought the car to full race-ready condition, as evidenced by an entry in LeMans Classic in 2008. In early 2012, the car was sold to German collector Biedermann, who kept it until 2018, when it was acquired by the current owner. In recent years, the car has undergone regular and extensive maintenance, including a rebuild of the engine, fuel system and suspension, which was carried out by Swiss M1 Procar specialist MK Motorsports (Michael Kammermann) and for which all invoices are available. Also included in the file are: The original 1979 car passport, current valid FIA HTP papers, 2007 Fia papers and other safety equipment compliance certificates, a full listing of race history from 1979 to 1982, pictures and details of recent historic races attended, a large selection of printed historic pictures showing the car in various liveries, and a comprehensive photographic record of the restoration. BMW M1 Procar #1066 is currently (as of August 2022) for sale at Weekend Heroes.