The 2001 ALMS GT2 regulations stated that a car had to be for sale on two continents within 12 months of the rules being issued. That meant BMW could race during the 2001 season with a V8 without producing an E46 M3 with a V8. BMW developed the P60B40 race engine for the M3 GTR and beat the competition down winning six of the eight races and dominating the 2001 season. Keep in mind Porsche fielded eight GT3's to BMW's two M3's. BMW flat out destroyed Porsche and Porsche was not happy.
Now, BMW had a bit of a point with their switch to the V8 showing how unfair the rules were. Porsche had a displacement advantage on the 3.2 liter BMW inline-6 yet both motors had the same size air intake restrictor at 1.7 inches. That is not a level playing field so BMW essentially said screw you we'll race you with a new V8. BMW built the V8, raced the 2001 season with it, and just as the rules stated offered a couple of E46 M3 GTR's for sale at over $250,000 a pop on two continents.
BMW followed the letter of the law but the law changed after Porsche cried and cried and cried at the close of the 2001 season. ALMS changed the rules to say a minimum of 50 cars must be available for sale before the start of the season for BMW to race in 2002. BMW said that was not fair and they could never meet the 50 car production deadline in time so they simply quit. The only other option would be to race with a 220 pound penalty and an even greater air intake restriction which would hand Porsche the class victory on a silver platter.
Was what BMW did legal? Yes. Was it fair? No. BMW had a point about the air restrictors and Porsche had a point about BMW racing a car they did not sell. BMW at least made an effort with the E46 M3 GTR to sell a car with the V8. This all changed of course with the introduction of the E92 M3 that had a 4.0 liter V8 under the hood to begin with.
BMW returned to ALMS GT racing at the end of 2009 testing out the E92 M3 in preparation for the 2010 season. With BMW selling a 4.0 liter V8 powered M3 they were free to race to their hearts content with a V8. BMW won the ALMS GT championship in 2010 and again in 2011 for back to back victories. BMW was dominant with the M3 but rule changes in 2012 slowed the M3's down. BMW complained the regulations were unfair and did what they do best, find loopholes.
BMW responded with the Z4 GTE for the 2013 season retiring the M3. Now you might be wondering, how can BMW get away with racing a Z4 they do not sell? One with a 4.4 liter V8 engine that they never even sold on the North American continent? Was this not the entire problem over a decade ago? You are not the only one wondering this as BimmerBoost e-mailed ALMS three times in 2013 to get an answer. ALMS never bothered to respond.
ALMS is gone now for 2014 due to a series merger with the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and is replaced by the United Sports Car Series governed by the IMSA. The IMSA rulebook is basically the same for the GTLM class as it was for the ALMS GT class. Now with the IMSA governing perhaps they will offer a straight response as to why BMW is allowed to race a hardtop Z4 coupe despite not selling a hardtop Z4 coupe and despite never offering the Z4 with the M3's V8 anywhere on planet earth.
BimmerBoost sent two e-mails to the IMSA governing body and called the office leaving multiple messages and is still waiting for a response. This despite a nice secretary 'assuring' someone would eventually get back to me. Well, the IMSA would prefer just like ALMS to pretend BMW is not using loopholes but fortunately the rulebook is published online and this is how BMW is able to get away with it.
As the rule states here, BMW does produce and sell Z4 models in the quantities necessary. However, BMW does not produce a Z4 hardtop coupe. They only produce a hardtop convertible model. Convertibles are not allowed to race in the GTLM class so why is BMW allowed to circumvent this?
They do not specify if the race car has to have the same open or closed top as the production car which is a rather big loophole. A convertible or coupe is specified as eligible so due to this grey area BMW can sell a convertible coupe but race a hardtop coupe. Every other manufacturer racing in the GTLM class sells a car that shares the same closed roof as what they race. For example, Chevrolet does not sell the C7 Corvette only as a convertible and Ferrari does not sell the 458 only as a spider.
Here is where things get really interesting regarding the engine. Obviously, there is no E89 Z4M and no production Z4 for sale with a V8. The M3 and M3 GTS both were sold with a V8. BMW sold many more than the 300 units required of the E9X M3 so according to the rules they can use this engine. There is nothing in the rule book that states the race car has to use the motor of the car it is based on. Technically, Ferrari could race the V12 they sell which meets the production number requirement in the 458 chassis if they wanted to. They do not do this though as everyone other than BMW races a motor similar to what they actually sell the car with.
The C7 has a V8, the Viper has a V10, the GT3 has a flat-6, the 458 has a V8, etc. Everyone follows the spirit of competition by basing their race cars on their street version of the car except BMW:
The engine regulations lead to further ambiguity. Ignore for a moment that the rules state the engine shall maintain its original location, orientation, and position. Considering the Z4 never originally has a V8 to begin with what exactly is the original location, orientation, and position? Its original location, orientation, and position in the M3? Apparently that means a front engine layout.
The cylinder block, heads, and camshafts must resemble the production engine counterpart. However, this is where BMW gets away with a 4.4 liter. The M3 raced with 4.0 liters of displacement and the Z4 GTE gets a 4.4 liter displacement V8 like the M3 GTS. There is no regulation on changing the stroke only a cap on displacement of 5.5 liters maximum. Technically, Porsche could race a 5.5 liter flat-6 with these regulations.
Even though BMW never sold a 4.4 liter V8 engine in North America the way the rules are worded means BMW can get away with racing one. Even though BMW never sold a Z4 hardtop they can race with one. Even though there is no Z4M with a V8 BMW can mix and match parts and use loopholes to get away with it.
Why? Why does everyone else race something that actually resembles what they sell? Is that not the point of the GTLM class? Ferrari races a 458 coupe with a 4.5 liter V8 and sells a 458 coupe with a 4.5 liter V8. Porsche races a 911 GT3 with a 4.0 liter flat-6 and released a 911 GT3 with a 4.0 liter flat-6. Chevrolet races a C7 coupe with a 5.5 liter V8 (max displacement) and sells a C7 coupe with a V8. Dodge races a Viper coupe with a 8.0 liter V10 (accepting additional air restrictor penalties) and sells a Viper coupe with a V10.
While what BMW is doing is legal it is not consistent with the spirit of competition. BMW was not winning with the M3 after the regulation changes so they did the same thing they did back in 2001 which was look for loopholes to gain an advantage. Manufacturers having to produce cars that are similar to what they race gives us gems like the GT3 RS 4.0. This is a good thing for enthusiasts especially considering this is the closest we will ever get to sitting behind the wheel of a GTLM race car. If the rules did not allow for BMW to more or less cheat the system, we would have a Z4M in production with a 4.4 liter V8. Was it not more respectable when BMW won with a car that resembled what you could actually buy from BMW?
The rulebook needs to be updated. Why nobody is questioning BMW's tactics is anyone's guess. Perhaps the IMSA is scared of BMW quitting again since the precedent is if the rules are changed to be more strict regarding homologation BMW simply takes their car and goes home. Why is childish behavior being rewarded? Why is the spirit of GTLM competition not being honored?
If you let a child throw a tantrum and give in they will only continue to do so in order to get what they want. What BMW is doing disrespects the GTLM class and their competition. BimmerBoost says let BMW throw its tantrum and go home until they grow up and play the game the right way. Sometimes the right thing is not simply following the letter of the law but the spirit of the law.