BMW Motorsport brought the M235i Racing—its new customer race car—to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a late-January visit. And depending on the interest of U.S. racers, the car may well come be available for sale here as well as in Europe.
The M235i Racing is intended to be an affordable entry-level, grassroots race car for the privateer and club-racing markets. In Europe, the car is priced at €59,500, a number that any serious Club racer will recognize as a bargain for a turnkey factory race car. The intention is to hold the line as much as possible on price if demand warrants bringing the car to the U.S.
Will that demand materialize? We suspect that the answer will be yes, once people get familiar with the car. The answer is definitely yes, if Europe can be used as a gauge of interest. The M235i Racing was shown at the Nürburgring in December, just weeks after the first press release on the car had appeared; BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt says that he and his team took a couple of order forms with them to the event just in case someone wanted to step up. Thirty-five orders were placed that day. The track debut for some of these customer cars will come at the VLN season opener on the Nordschleife in March. BMW Motorsport will run a cup series for the M235i as part of the VLN endurance series.
And what will the M235i Racing buyer get? The race car is based on the street edition of the new M235i, a car that will be in US showrooms in March. You can build a street version today on BMW NA’s website.
The twin turbo six in the race car turns out 333 horsepower compared to 320 in the street version. The eight-speed automatic controlled with paddle shifters is carried over from the street car to the racer. The race car’s ABS, stability control, and traction control have been tweaked, as has the steering. The race car sits a little lower than the street version; the driver sits low in the cockpit in a form-fitting Recaro race seat. A passenger side Recaro is an option; we can see this as a driving school car, so it will not be surprising to see this option exercised. To get into the seat the driver climbs over the side of an FIA-spec roll cage.
The car is built in batches on the assembly line at Leipzig that is used for the production M235i. Roll cages and fuel cells are installed on the line.
Anyone who has driven a BMW on the track will instantly feel at home in the M235i Racing. It is tractable and easy to drive, with no turbo lag, great turn-in feel, reassuring brakes, and exceptional shifting with the eight-speed. The sound is great from either outside or inside the car. The M235i is forgiving for a neophyte driver or for someone whose track skills are a bit rusty (ask me how I know), but at the same time it is ready to perform at the limits with a pro racer at the controls.
Joey Hand, who drove the car at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, observed that the car was very user friendly. He said that it was apparent that the car’s suspension was “more racy” than that in the street version, and that the front end worked well. He praised the well-tuned ABS which let him threshold brake without coming on until he braked very hard.
We expect to get more technical information on the car very soon; stay tuned. For now you can look at the specs that BMW released in November here .—Brian S. MorganBack to News