The 1981 BMW M1/C IMSA Prototype on the move at BMW NA headquarters today.
The radical BMW M1/C represented BMW of North America’s entry into the high-horsepower, high-downforce, high-stakes world of prototype sports car racing. It was also March Engineering’s first car designed to compete in the newly formed IMSA GTP series in 1981. With a mechanical layout that resembled the famous BMW M1, the M1/C had a huge rear wing on top and enormous ground effect tunnels underneath, exploiting the newest aerodynamic concepts in motorsport at the time.
The car debuted and finished sixth at the Riverside International Raceway six hour race in April, 1981 with David Hobbs and Marc Surer sharing the driving duties. Despite reasonable showings in the next three races, it was clear that the M1 based 3.5-liter, six-cylinder was not powerful enough to win races. As a result, the engineers at McLaren NA (BMW NA’s racing partner at the time) adapted the four-cylinder turbo engine package from the successful BMW 320 Turbo program. Unfortunately, the chassis and the engine had not been designed for each other and the combination was plagued throughout the season by reliability issues. A fourth-place finish at Portland was the best result for the M1/C program which ended with the 1981 season.