The machine /// 1987 BMW M3 (E30)
It is hard to argue that the BMW M3 is anything other than the quintessential touring car. Its first iteration, the legendary E30 M3, took to the racetracks of the world in 1987. Built to FIA Group A regulations, the car was remarkably close to its road-going cousin; limited modifications were permitted, and 5000 streetcars had to be sold within 12 months to be eligible for competition. The racecar’s 2.3 litre straight-four engine was a 300 horsepower beauty; its flared arches, front air dam and distinctive rear spoiler pure ‘80s eye candy. And it was functional eye candy – the car was a revelation.
In its debut year, the car swept the touring car world. Roberto Ravaglia took the inaugural World Touring Car Championship, and Eric van der Poele the DTM title. Van der Poele also teamed with fellow Belgians Didier Theys and Jean Michel-Martin – father of BMW factory driver Maxime Martin – to take home the 24 Hours of Spa trophy. The BMW M3 E30 eventually amassed more than 1500 victories, from major races to minor club events; a spectacular racing dynasty.
The Moment /// 1987 World Touring Car Championship
A new concept for the 1987 season, the WTCC had a strong field populated with fire breathing Group A monsters. The M3 took to it superbly. Overall wins at Jarama, Dijon, the 24 Hours of Spa and the famous Tourist Trophy at Silverstone were good, the drivers’ title for Roberto Ravaglia great. The concept was proven, and the car would be a central feature of global touring car racing for years to come.
The Maestro /// Roberto Ravaglia
Italian touring car expert Roberto Ravaglia is a motorsports legend. To Ravaglia, it didn’t matter whether the top global touring car series was called the ‘European’ or ‘World’ Touring Car Championship; he won the 1986 ETCC with the BMW 635i, then utilised the new M3 to win the 1987 WTCC and, when the series reverted to being the ETCC, won that in 1988. Not content with those titles, he won the 1989 DTM and the 1990, ’91 and ’93 Italian championships too. All were won with BMW machinery, and his relationship with the brand continued as he moved to run ROAL Motorsport, in touring cars and GT racing. Fellow Italian Alex Zanardi took victory on his debut weekend with the BMW M6 GT3, racing for Roberto’s team in the Italian GT Championship.