BMW OF NORTH AMERICA 40TH ANNIVERSARY
n 1983, Nelson Piquet’s Brabham-BMW
BT52 earned Formula 1’s first turbocharged
World Championship. With continual
development, the same 1.5-liter, four-cylinder
M12/13 that powered that historic deed was
pushing out an outrageous 1,300hp by ’ 86.
By then, a different version of the engine
was competing in North America. Nestled in
the back of the spectacular BMW GTP, it
raced in IMSA’s Camel GT Championship
against the Porsche 962, Jaguar XJR- 7,
Nissan ZX-T, Ford Probe and Corvette GTP.
BMW Motorsport in Munich supplied
M12/13s to McLaren Engines in the U.S.,
where they became M12/14s, bored out to
two liters and mounted longitudinally in BMW
of North America’s March 86G-based chassis.
“The two-liter version had a bit less
horsepower than the F1 engine, but a lot
more torque,” remembers Steve Charsley,
who’d worked on M12/13s at the Arrows
and Brabham F1teams, before becoming
chief mechanic for the No. 18 Davy Jones/
John Andretti car from the middle of ’ 86.
“We had about 850-900hp in race trim. In
qualifying, 1,100hp sounds about right...
“But a lot of people think the BMW GTP
was all about horsepower, and that’s not
true. The team had really done its homework
and we had massive tunnels underneath
the car that helped create 5,000lbs of
downforce. A very impressed Al Holbert
told me, ‘Your guys are able to carry so
much speed into corners and brake so late.’”
The GTP’s toe-in-the-water debut was
the 1985 IMSA finale at Daytona, and
although it retired with a gearbox glitch,
it had started on the front row. While the
experienced David Hobbs set that qualifying
time, it was 21-year-old Davy Jones who’d
emerge as the BMW team’s star in ’ 86.
“The BMW GTP was far different than
anything I’d driven,” recalls Jones. “I was
used to SuperVee, Formula 3, Atlantics –
I WAS THERE... DAVY JONES
“A four-cylinder engine with a big
turbo meant a lot of lag, so it was work
in progress to get the power more
subtle and progressive. BMW of North
America and McLaren Engines worked
diligently on that, and also on
improving the car’s aerodynamics.
I enjoyed all the testing and working
with those guys. And right from our first race with the ’ 86
car, we felt we could match anyone on pace. Everyone at
McLaren and BMW of North America were working to
reach a goal and each race we felt the car improving.
“Road America and The Glen were great for our car –
not many slow corners, so turbo lag wasn’t an issue – and
there’d never been anything wrong with our top-end power!
And the medium- and high-speed turns leant themselves to
our chassis. Obviously, my Road America shunt wasn’t good,
but we dominated at The Glen, so I did the classic thing of
going from chump to champ in the space of two races!
WORDS David Malsher
MAIN IMAGE LAT archive
If one IMSA GTP car had the potential to interrupt the dominance
of Porsche’s 962 in the mid-’80s, it was the mighty BMW GTP.