24 HOURS – 24 TRIUMPHS.

The history of BMW Motorsport at the 24h Spa-Francorchamps.

BMW M6 GT3

Victory at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps – the biggest GT endurance race in the world – is an emotional affair. BMW works driver Nick Catsburg went through an “emotional rollercoaster” when he triumphed in 2015. Belgium’s Maxime Martin named his home win in 2016 the “best win of my career”. Philipp Eng, who in 2018 took his place on the top step of the podium with BMW for the second time, having previously won in 2016, could find no more words than “incredible”, “unbelievable” and “overjoyed”.

Victory at Spa affects everyone – goosebumps are guaranteed. The seven-kilometre circuit in the Belgian Ardennes is simply so iconic, its famous corners like Eau Rouge and Blanchimont are so demanding, the exertions required from man and machine are so great, and the opposition is so tough.

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24 BMW SUCCESSES IN 70 EDITIONS OF THE BELGIAN CLASSIC.

The legend of the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps stretches back 95 years. Since 1924, the classic has been held 70 times, with BMW emerging victorious 24 times. The first of these came in 1965. One year after the decision was made to allow only touring cars at the circuit, which was over 14 kilometres in length at the time, Belgians Pascal Ickx and Gerard Langlois triumphed in a BMW 1800Ti. Just one year later, the top step of the podium again featured an Ickx. This time, it was the more famous brother, Jacky Ickx – a six-time Le Mans winner and successful Formula 1 driver. He won alongside Hubert Hahne in a BMW 2000Ti in 1966.

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BMW 3.0 CSL

1979 heralded a new era for the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps: the ‘Ardennes Rollercoaster had become too fast and too dangerous and was consequently shortened to roughly half its original length - about seven kilometres. It received a new layout, which was essentially the same as the layout everyone knows today.
 

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BMW 1800Ti

The 1970s were dominated by the battle between the BMW 3.0 CSL and the Ford Capri. Ford initially had its nose in front, but 1973 marked the start of a five-year winning run for BMW, before Ford took control again towards the end of the 70s.

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The race track of 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps

THE SCHNITZER ERA.

The age of Schnitzer Motorsport in the Ardennes started in the 1980s. The team from Freilassing, led by legendary team principal Charly Lamm, took its first victory there in 1985. The car: the BMW 635 CSi. The drivers: Gerhard Berger, Marc Surer and Roberto Ravaglia. Despite a number of power cuts, which led to race suspensions, and heavy rainfall towards the end of the race, the famous trio became the first crew to break the 500-lap barrier. Schnitzer was to win another four times between then and 1995, with a number of those victories coming with the best BMW touring car ever – the BMW M3.

 

In 1992, the BMW M3 was also involved in a dramatic finish that went down in the history of the race. Steve Soper was embroiled in a spectacular battle with fellow BMW driver Eric van de Poele, which went right down to the final metres. In the end Soper won by a mere 0.48 seconds – after 24 hours of racing! Soper’s ability to come out on top made team-mate Jean-Michel Martin the first driver to win four times at Spa. At the same time, this was the last time a Martin would win for the next 24 years. In 2016, the story came full circle when Jean-Michel’s son Maxime triumphed for BMW.

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BMW M3
BMW 635 CSi
BMW 635 CSi

2015, 2016 AND 2018: BMW BACK ON TOP OF THE PODIUM.

BMW’s winning run at Spa came to a temporary halt in 1998. Eric van de Poele, Marc Duez and Alain Cudini claimed overall victory number 21 in the BMW 318i. At the time, nobody could have envisaged another 17 years passing before BMW’s 22nd success.

That came in 2015, courtesy of the local BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS. One year after the Belgian team missed out on victory by just 7.7 seconds, Nick Catsburg, Lucas Luhr and Markus Palttala were victorious in the final major endurance race with the BMW Z4 GT3.

Just one year later, the BMW M6 GT3 made its debut in the Ardennes – and it was once again three BMW drivers who were left celebrating in the end. Alexander Sims, Philipp Eng and Maxime Martin took their place on the top step of the podium for ROWE Racing.

 

The crowning moment so far, and the 24th overall victory for BMW, came in 2018 at the 70th edition of the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps. This time, the BMW M6 GT3 carried its drivers to a one-two – and what a one-two it was! Walkenhorst Motorsport emerged triumphant from a thrilling battle with ROWE Racing to shock everyone by claiming the first major GT success in the team’s history. Philipp Eng gave it all he had in the final hours of the race and was rewarded with his second appearance in the list of winners. His team-mates: Tom Blomqvist and Christian Krognes.

The legend of Spa-Francorchamps lives on. There is still room for many more chapters in the history books of the 24-hour race. What stories will BMW write?

 

The race is on!

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The BMW M6 GT3 with Walkenhorst Motorsport and ROWE Racing Team

ALL THE BMW WINNERS

AT THE 24H SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS.

  • 1965 Pascal Ickx, Gerard Langlois
    BMW 1800Ti
  • 1966 Jacky Ickx, Hubert Hahne
    BMW 2000Ti
  • 1970 Günther Huber, Helmut Kelleners
    BMW 2800 CS
  • 1973 Toine Hezemens, Dieter Quester
    BMW 3.0 CSL
  • 1974 Jean Xhenceval, Alain Peltier, Pierre Dieudonné
    BMW 3.0 CSi
  • 1975 Jean Xhenceval, Hughes de Fierlandt, Pierre Dieudonné
    BMW 3.0 CSi
  • 1976 Jean-Marie Detrin, Nico Demuth, Charles Van Stalle
    BMW 3.0 CSL
  • 1977 Eddy Joosen, Jean-Claude Andrue
    BMW 530i
  • 1982 Hans Heyer, Armin Hahne, Eddy Joosen
    BMW 528i
  • 1983 Thierry Tassin, Hans Heyer, Armin Hahne
    BMW 635 CSi
  • 1985 Roberto Ravaglia, Marc Surer, Gerhard Berger
    BMW 635 CSi
  • 1986 Dieter Quester, Altfrid Heger, Thierry Tassin
    BMW 635 CSi
  • 1987 Jean-Michel Martin, Didier Theys, Eric van de Poele
    BMW M3
  • 1988 Altfrid Heger, Dieter Quester, Roberto Ravaglia
    BMW M3
  • 1990 Markus Oestreich, Fabien Giroix, Johnny Cecotto
    BMW M3
  • 1992 Steve Soper, Jean-Michel Martin, Christian Danner
    BMW M3
  • 1994 Roberto Ravaglia, Thierry Tassin, Alexander Burgstaller
    BMW 318is
  • 1995 Joachim Winkelhock, Steve Soper, Peter Kox
    BMW 320i
  • 1996 Jörg Müller, Alexander Burgstaller, Thierry Tassin
    BMW 320i
  • 1997 Didier de Radiguès, Marc Duez, Eric Hélary
    BMW 320i
  • 1998 Alain Cudini, Marc Duez, Eric van de Poele
    BMW 318i
  • 2015 Nick Catsburg, Lucas Luhr, Markus Palttala
    BMW Z4 GT3
  • 2016 Philipp Eng, Maxime Martin, Alexander Sims
    BMW M6 GT3
  • 2018 Tom Blomqvist, Philipp Eng, Christian Krognes
    BMW M6 GT3
Learn more about the return to Zolder with the DTM

RETURN TO ZOLDER WITH THE DTM.

In the 2019 season, “Circuit Zolder” is back in the DTM calendar. For BMW Motorsport, it marks a return to historic terrain: The first ever DTM race was held at the racetrack east of Brussels in 1984 – and resulted in BMW finishing first, second, third and fourth.
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