It’s hard to believe that BMW’s M3 has reached 25 years in production, especially when I can say I remember the first generation E30 cars hitting the streets. First generation M3s weren’t nearly as fast as their successors, and were powered by 2.3 liter inline four engine. U.S. spec cars made 192 horsepower, and could hit sixty from a standstill in just under seven seconds. Top speed was 146 miles per hour, but the cars are renown for their handling more than their straight line speed. In fact, BMW’s primary purpose for building the M3 was to go racing in Group A Touring Car, and the E30 M3 didn’t disappoint. The E30 took the World Touring Car Championship in 1987; the European Touring Car Championship in 1987 and 1988; the British Touring Car Championship in 1988 and 1991; The Italia Superturismo Championship in 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1991; the Deutsche Tourenwagen Meisterschaft (DTM) in 1987 and 1989 and the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1987. Throw in the car’s victories in other series, ranging from endurance racing through FIA World Rally Championship, and you begin to understand why the M3 has such a legendary presence in the automotive world.
BMW has since built M3s based on the E36, E46 and E90/92/93 platforms. The M3 has been absent from DTM racing since 1994, but will return with a BMW backed team for 2011. That’s not to say the newer generations of M3 haven’t been raced; in fact, they’ve been competing in endurance racing in the U.S. and EU, with impressive results. Rahal Letterman Racing campaigned an E92 M3 in the 2009 American LeMans Series, taking third place for the season. In 2010, the Rahal Letterman M3 took the GT class championship by beating perennial favorite Flying Lizard Motorsports. With Touring Car now rumored to be coming to the U.S., you should have plenty of chances to see the latest generation M3s in competition.