BMW has announced a successor to the popular M235i and M240i Racing models in the form of the M2 Competition. While the first cars are slated for delivery in the second quarter of 2020, they will see their first public race test during round 5 of the VLN Endurance Championship at the Nürburgring on August 3rd, 2019.
The “M235i Racing” customer racing model proved to be highly successful in Europe and the U.S. Introduced to the U.S. in 2016, Toby Grahovec drove his Classic BMW M235iR to the Pirelli World Challenge TC class championship that year. Customer orders were fulfilled in the second half of 2016 and I personally raced one in 2017 for Rooster Hall Racing, securing Rookie of the Year honors that season. Now in their 4th year in the U.S., the SRO TC America class is dominated by the M235iR and M240iR models. In the opening round, 14 of the 17 entrants were in the BMWs.
The M235iR has also been popular in BMW CCA Club Racing, as well as several endurance racing series. It is common to find them in organizations such as American Endurance Racing, World Racing League, and Lucky Dog Racing League. Even ChampCar (formerly ChumpCar) has seen M235iR entries. With endurance-spec brakes, a transmission that can’t be “money shifted”, and relatively benign handling, it’s an ideal car for endurance use when dealing with varying drivers.
To follow up on the popularity of the M235iR, BMW will be introducing the M2 Competition as an entry-level customer racing car, based on the M2 Competition road car. BMW’s Customer Racing services will be expanded in the U.S. by building and developing competence centers here. Capable partners will be commissioned to support teams at a local level who have extensive motorsport expertise. I can attest to the importance and value of having reliable factory-backed support for a factory-built race car.
While the M240iR was introduced in 2018 as an evolution of the M235iR, it was little more than some cosmetic upgrades to align with the production road cars. Both cars race alongside each other in TC America.
The M2 Competition road car has a 405hp S55 engine from the M3/M4, 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission, and Active M differential. The M240i – and its associated Racing version – have the 335hp N55 engine, 8-speed ZF automatic transmission, and standard clutch-type M Performance limited slip differential. The relevant suspension and brake differences between the street cars are changed out for racing, so they are not so important. But clearly, there would be a performance differential between the M2 and M240i if the powertrain and drivetrain are to be carried over.
Being that the M2 Competition racecar is aligned as an entry-level car for professional racing, as well as suitable for club racers, the performance would be expected to align with the current M240iR. The TC America class’ balance of performance is now essentially built around the BMW. It is the baseline that other manufacturer’s cars are adjusted to match. After all, it makes sense to tweak a couple cars here and there as opposed to the vast majority of the field.
The question is, what will happen to all the M235iR and M240iR cars that are currently racing? There does not exist a current classing structure here between the current M240iR and the M4 GT4 for a higher-performance M2 version to fit into.
I see two potential solutions for the U.S. One is that the M2 Competition is a largely-cosmetic “evo” package, like the M240iR update was. This would allow the existing cars to continue competing, even if an update becomes mandatory for the professional SRO TC America series.
The other possibility is that the new M2 racecar is classed into TC America but undergoes a “detuning” process to balance the performance with the M240iR. BMW Group Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt said, “With the new entry-level model — the successor to the BMW M240i Racing — we are… offering our grass-roots customers continuity.”
Continuity would indicate an evolution rather than an outright replacement. I expect that we’ll find out by August 3rd. I’ll be paying attention to this particular VLN race to find out more.
[Images: BMW Group; Halston Pitman]