www.QV500.com - BMW E26 M1 Part 3: M1 Group 4 Procar Championship 1979 - 80
 

Carlos Reutemann & Tiff Needell, Silverstone 1979

In the event of BMW's M1 being refused homologation, Jochen Neerspach managed to pull off something of a coup by getting Formula One Constructors Association boss, Max Moseley, to agree to an F1 support series known as the Procar Championship. Grids of 25-or-so Group 4 M1's would line up against each other, most Procar races supporting European rounds of the Formula 1 World Championship with five spaces on the grid being left open for the fastest Grand Prix drivers of any weekend. These five would use works BMW Motorsport cars and whatever their practice times, start from the front of the grid. The remaining entries were built up and prepared by Osella in Turin and Project Four in Woking although in reality, all but two of these customer cars were built by the English outfit run by McLaren boss, Ron Dennis.

   

They were owned and run by privateer teams, many of whom were previously involved in German Group 5 racing like GS Tuning, Max Heidegger, Team Konrad and Eggenberger. Other crack outfits like TWR, Alimpo and Cassani also ran Procar M1's although the stiffest opposition to BMW's six Munich-based works cars came from the Marlboro-liveried Project Four entry driven by Niki Lauda. Because of contractual obligations to other tyre manufacturers (namely Michelin), some drivers like Villeneuve, Schekter, Jabouille and Arnoux never raced in the Goodyear-backed series, but despite the diminutive prize fund compared to most Grand Prix driver salaries, no F1 qualifiers ever turned down the chance to race these spectacular machines. The eight round 1979 championship supported Grand Prix's in Belgium, Monaco, France, Britain, Germany, Austria, Holland and Italy with first place finishers getting $5000, second $3000 and $1000 for third. Each car cost $60,000 and all were built to an identical specification with just a few blanket modifications being made during the course of that 1979 season. Noisier exhausts were introduced at Hockenheim whilst after Dijon, the rev limiters were taken up from 8500 to 9200rpm - this after some unrest at the pace of BMW's works cars that were noticeably quicker than rest. By the end of the year, three of the eight rounds had been won by Niki Lauda who finished the championship in first place with 78 points, second placed Hans Stuck just two points behind, the German having won twice in his Alimpo entry whilst Clay Regazzoni finished third on 61.

 

Niki Lauda, Monaco 1979

Elio de Angelis, Jacques Laffite and Nelson Piquet all won individual rounds, the future triple world champion also taking victory in a non-championship race at Donington Park, the Gunnar Nilsson Memorial Trophy held between rounds two and three. The Procar series continued fundamentally unchanged in 1980 although there were now more feature races being held away from F1 events and all cars came fitted with air-jacks for quicker wheel and tyre changes. 1979's works cars were white and red and prepared in Luton, England by BS Fabrications on behalf of FOCA and BMW, this deal concluded by Bernie Ecclestone.

   

But unlike 1979 when new exhausts had been introduced and rev-limiters relaxed, the solitary mid-season change made in 1980 was purely aesthetic and only concerned the works BS Fabrications cars. From round four at the Norisring, they had their white with red paint schemes replaced by a lurid white on lime green combination. The second and final Procar Championship fell to Nelson Piquet who, having scored three victories during the course of the season, finished on 90 points, 13 ahead of second placed Alan Jones. The Australian had five top four finishes and relegated Hans Stuck down to third despite his two wins. Thereafter, BMW's F1 programme stepped up a gear and Procar was no more - yet it remains the single greatest one make championship ever to have existed. Indeed, the combination of contemporary Grand Prix drivers, exotic locations, crack teams and of course the Group 4 M1, make it quite unmatched in history. Click on the links below to see the full results:

 

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