BMW will return to top-tier racing next year by participating in the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with its new M Hybrid V8. Confirming what motorsport enthusiasts have been wanting to hear, M boss Franciscus van Meel has announced the hybrid race car will also compete in the World Endurance Championship from 2024. That includes taking part in what is arguably the most prestigious endurance race – the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
To celebrate the announcement about its WEC entry, BMW has released new images of the M Hybrid V8 at Varano de Melegari where it completed its roll-out at Dallara’s test track. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done until January 2023 when its race debut will take place in Daytona. Additional European tests are scheduled for August before commencing work on IMSA-specific tweaks in the United States from September.
The M Hybrid V8 with its ultra-wide kidney grille will be powered by a new P66/3 engine that traces its origins in DTM, particularly the naturally aspirated P66/1 used by the M4 DTM during the 2017 and 2018 seasons. The 4.0-liter unit has gained a pair of turbochargers and can rev up to 8,200 rpm while making 640 hp and 650 Nm (478 lb-ft) of torque, but that depends on regulations.
There’s a lot riding on the M Hybrid V8 since it will serve as a spiritual successor of the V12 LMR, which triumphed at Le Mans in 1999. The LMDh machine will be facing some stiff competition in endurance racing since it’ll go up against the likes of the Porsche 963, Acura ARX-06, and the Cadillac Grand Touring Prototype Hypercar.
BMW’s WEC commitment comes at a time when the M division is celebrating 50 years of prolific existence on both road and track. So far in 2022, “the world’s most powerful letter” has been used not just for the M Hybrid V8 and M4 GT4, but also for street-legal machines like the M3 Touring and M4 CSL.
Late this year, a modern-day 3.0 CSL will pay tribute to the namesake homologation special from the early 1970s.