The 2018 BMW M8 GTE race car has been unveiled at this week's Frankfurt motor show, teamed with confirmation the German marque will make its Le Mans 24 Hours endurance race return after a seven-year hiatus.
Due to hit racing tracks of the 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) season ahead of its road-going base car – the yet-to-be-revealed BMW 8 Series Coupe – going on sale, the completely hand-built 2018 BMW M8 GTE is planned to make its competitive debut at the 2018 24 Hours of Daytona in January next year.
On display at Frankfurt finished in a classically-inspired BMW M Motorsport livery, the M8 GTE teams a twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8 with “a nominal base output of more than 500hp (368kW), depending on the classification”, with a six-speed paddle-shifted sequential racing gearbox and a Sachs carbon-fibre clutch.
Employing the same cylinder block and cylinder head as the engine to be used in the production car, the M8 GTE is also equipped with a carbon-fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) drive shaft, a limited-slip rear differential, four-way adjustable shock absorbers front and rear, and adjustable anti-roll bars.
Thanks to the extensive use of additional CFRP components, including a composite body and a CFRP outer shell, BMW claims the 4980mm long, 2046mm wide M8 GTE weighs in at 1220kg.
Measuring 12.5-inches-wide up front and 13-inches-wide out back, “Innovative aero rims” complete the new race car’s look, with all four 18-inch wheels encased in high-performance Michelin rubber.
As well as taking on the likes of the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, Ferrari 488 GTE, Ford GT, Porsche 911 RSR, and upcoming Aston Martin Vantage GTE in the WEC, BMW says its new flagship international GT racing car will also compete in the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC).
According to BMW Motorsport themselves, the brand’s 2018 return to the Le Mans 24 Hours’s famous Circuit de la Sarthe will mark the first time a BMW race car has competed at the event since a BMW M3 GT2 took on the notoriously challenging race in 2011.
Other BMWs to have taken on Le Mans include a 3.0 CSL in 1975, a 320i in 1977, an M1 in 1979, and the 1999 race-winning V12 LMR of Yannick Dalmas, Joachim Winkelhock, and Pierluigi Martini. BMW’s history with Le Mans, however, dates all the way back to 1939, when a 328 claimed a class victory after 236 laps of the then 13.0-kilometre French circuit.