BMW has announced that the German manufacturer will return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year, ending a hiatus since their last entry into the historic race in 2011, when an M3 in competition GT spec finished third in class.
The 86th running of the legendary competition will take place on June 16 and 17 this year. The announcement comes with the reveal that a highly modified 8 Series coupe, a race-prepped version of the M850i which has been circulating test strips across Western America, will be put to through its paces during the grueling endurance test.
The M8 GTE, unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show, ratchets up the already impressive performance of the production M850i. Modifications include weight reductions thanks to extensive use of carbon fiber, a body kit which widens the car’s aero profile while allowing for more aggressive air intake, including the use of a front splitter, rear diffuser, and an enormous rear wing. Per Motortrend, the 24 Hours of Le Mans M8 GTE will weigh in at right around 2,690 pounds, while utilizing a tuned up version of the twin-turbocharged 4.4-liter V8, which in the M850i already produces 530 horsepower and 553 lb-ft of torque.
Pair the massive power figures to a six-speed sequential transmission routing power to the rear wheels (whereas the M850i has been solidly defined as an all wheel drive car) and the overall package should be quite impressive. For American BMW fans desperate to catch a glimpse of the M8 GTE, the car will be traveling Stateside to battle it out in the International Motor Sports Association’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship later in the year.
"There isn’t be a better setting for the world premiere of the new BMW 8 Series Coupe than the 24-hour race at Le Mans,” said Klaus Fröhlich, BMW’s head of development, in a statement. “The race is a pure demonstration of passion, dynamics, and long-distance capability. These characteristics define our new sports car in a special way.”
Word of a road-going M8 has circulated alongside the increasingly public profile of its M850i stablemate, though that project will almost certainly result in a more restrained final product than the fully GT-styled M8 GTE. Besides the M850i, which wears the M badge and offers a partial range of performance enhancing options, from adjustable damping suspension to a novel active sway bar setup, Motor Authority reports that BMW is also in progress developing an 8 Series Gran Coupe, demonstrating the brand’s intention to set its sights on offering a range of vehicles to compete with Mercedes-Benz’s flagship S550 coupe.