The John Player Special BMW 325i - an overshadowed Group A touring car
Everyone that is into Group A racing from Australia and New Zealand will remember the big JPS BMW 635CSi driven by people such as Jim Richards, Neville Crichton and Denny Hulme... then the race bred M3 came which was also very successful for the JPS Team in 1987 before the team shut down. One driver a lot of people will remember is Tony Longhurst, a hard charger in cars such as the Benson & Hedges Sierra RS500 and the M3. Tony's Group A career started off in the BMW 323i/325i, a car that is overshadowed by the likes of the M3 and 635CSi but in my opinion still an amazing race car ran by the JPS Team.
The BMW Motorsport 323i debuted in 1985 driven by Tony Longhurst, racing at Amaroo Park for the Better Brakes AMSCAR series. Achieving 3rd place in his second heat was an achievement already. Two more third places proved well during the season with one being the 52 laps Australian Touring Car Championship. Bigger things were yet to come for the E30 with the update to the 325i in the 1986 season, the 323i was a top contender at the smaller tracks thanks to it's light weight and ability around corners. The engine produced 215 bhp.
The 1986 season
The year began with the update to the E30 325i, it was painted in John Player Special colours in the 1986 season although still run by the same team as 1985. The car had an updated 250bhp while only weighing 970kg.
The 325i managed an impressive 2nd place at the Amaroo Park Better Brakes 300km endurance race, not bad for the little BMW against cars like VK Commodore SS and the DR30 Skyline turbos. Longhurst finished 5th place overall in the 11 round Australian Touring Car Championship.
What happened to them after 1986?
The BMW Australia factory team focused on the M3 for the 1987 Australian Touring Car season leaving the E30's to be run with privateers, the first #23 white 323i being sold to Brian Bowell running it in Australian Group A racing until the early 90s' then being sold to David Towe, Towe now races one of the ex. JPS M3, it was then sold to a man in Christchurch in New Zealand being raced at Ruapuna Park for many years. It is now in France.
The #25 JPS 325i was sold to Ed Lamont who raced it for many years in the New Zealand Touring Car Championship until the early 90s. It was then sold to someone who restored it to it's original colours. It still races in New Zealand in the Historic Touring Car Class.