BMW has pulled the silks from the new M Hybrid V8 with which it will challenge for 24 Hours of Le Mans glory in 2024.
The Bavarian brand has not entered an official works outfit at Le Mans since 1999, when, ironically, it took its first event win with its V12 LMR prototype (Yannick Dalmas also took his fourth, and final, Le Mans victory that year). Its successor, meanwhile, the first in-house developed BMW prototype in 25 years, was first presented at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, and has now been revealed in full ‘M’-division livery at a launch event in Los Angeles.
Designed according to new ‘Le Mans Daytona Hybrid’ (LMDh) regulations, introduced to the FIA World Endurance Championship and Le Mans for 2021, the M Hybrid V8 is one of several new works-developed hybrid endurance prototypes set to compete in the coming years. Alongside BMW, Cadillac, Acura and Porsche have already announced and/or revealed their ‘LMDh’ prototypes, with Lamborghini and Alpine set to follow suit shortly.
At the base of the M Hybrid sits a 4.0-litre twin-turbocharged V8 – the third generation of the ‘P66’ V8 that has powered BMW’s DTM cars since 2012 – producing “approximately 640 hp” and “approx. 650Nm” (around 479 lb-ft). This is mated with an electric motor, an Xtrac gearbox and batteries developed by Williams Advanced Engineering. As per the regulations, the hybrid powertrain will produce no more than 670 hp.
The car itself meanwhile – complete with a chassis from Italian specialist Dallara – measures 5,100 mm (16.7 ft) long, 2,000 mm (6.5 ft) wide and features a 3,150 mm (10.3 ft) wheelbase. The overall curb weight just scrapes over the ton at 1,030 kg.
Previously disguised by a camouflage livery during testing, among the more notable elements of the bodywork itself are the enormous kidney grilles, which make the front of the car unmistakably a BMW” and prove fundamental to both aerodynamic performance of the car and engine cooling.
The inverted ‘Y’ bodywork, meanwhile, between BMW’s traditional twin-headlamps is a nod to the BMW M Vision Next concept car revealed in 2019. Indeed, the natty “laser-lit” kidney grilles are an extension of the ultra-bright “nano-active optical fibre triggered by a laser” system developed by Swiss engineers L.E.S.S. SA for the Vision Next concept. In place of conventional LEDs, the lighting is said to save weight and energy.
As well as celebrating BMW M’s 50th anniversary, the “Mbedded” livery – get it?! –also features purple and lighter blue tones in reference to the electrified powertrain beneath it. The black sections of the livery, most notable around the front and rear wheel arches and the roof-mounted air scoop, will remain as bare carbon fibre.
Prior to its 2024 campaign in the World Endurance Championship though, the BMW M Hybrid V8 will first compete in North America’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2023 in a works-supported effort overseen by three-time IndyCar champion, and 1986 Indy 500 winner, Bobby Rahal. Connor De Phillippi (USA), Philipp Eng (AUT), Nick Yelloly (GBR) and long-time BMW works driver Augusto Farfus (BRA) were announced as BMW M Team RLL’s drivers for the 2023 campaign.
Two examples of the prototype sports car will make their competitive debuts at the Daytona 24 Hours in January.