BMW Procar: Brief history of an icon
They say the flame that burns twice as bright burns half as long. The same is true in motorsport, with some of our sport’s most cherished series burning out in just a blink of an eye.
In North America, the original CanAm series – gob-smackingly loud and powerful sportscar monsters – ran for just nine seasons (1966-’74), but is still revered and renowned by all who witnessed, and many who didn’t.
In Europe, we had the BMW M1 Procar Championship – gob-smackingly loud and powerful touring car monsters – which was even more short-lived, lasting just two brief seasons (1979-’80). Again, however, it left an indelible legacy in the hearts and minds of motorsport fans across the world.
The premise was simple: turn the wedge-shaped M1 sportscar into a race-tuned missile, build enough cars to fill a grid, and then invite some of the best drivers in the world – including some of the world’s best F1 drivers – to race them, often as support events for European grands prix.
Niki Lauda won the inaugural season, winning three of the eight races; the following season, a youthful Nelson Piquet took the honours, also sealing three victories.
BMW M1 Procar - Highlights of a short history
1. Zolder 1979
The first-ever Procar race kicks off at Zolder, on the Saturday of the Belgian Grand Prix, May 12 1979. Clay Regazzoni (28) leads Niki Lauda (red and white car) and Mario Andretti (1) into the first corner. The race was won by Elio de Angelis.
2. Monaco 1979
Jean-Pierre Jarier throws his BMW Procar into the Monaco harbour’s Tabac corner. The Frenchman, who drove for Renault in Formula 1, finished ninth. The race was won by Niki Lauda, in a car prepared by Ron Dennis’ Project Four operation.
3. Hockenheim 1979
The cars of Hans-Joachim Stuck (77), Didier Pironi (3) and Hans-Georg Bürger (90) tussle with each other as they enter the Hockenheimring’s packed stadium section. The fifth round of the series was won by Brabham F1 driver Niki Lauda.
4. Der erste Procar-Champion
Niki Lauda won three Procar races in 1979 to clinch the series’ first title. While Lauda would walk away from F1 before the end of the season, it was his links to Dennis and his Procar operation that helped lead him back to grand prix racing and a third world championship.
5. Nelson Piquet: Procar-Champion 1980
In its second season, the series hosted some races independent of the F1 calendar, with opening events at Donington Park and Avus. A hat-trick of victories at the end of the year helped Brazilian Nelson Piquet clinch the title.