Top-tier motorsport entry serves up details on the range-topping production iteration

The Bavarians are heading back to Circuit de La Sarthe, and they’re bringing a new race car. Say hello to the M8 GTE, which just debuted this week at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. Set to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the M8 GTE clearly has its sights set on the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That’ll make it the first BMW to run the world-famous endurance event since 2011, following in the footsteps of such machines as the V12 LMR that took outright victory in 1999. The new racer’s first competitive event will be the 24 Hours of Daytona next year, with further races in the North American IMSA series on the docket as well. That’s all well and good, but for those of us chomping at the bit to see the new 8 Series, the M8 GTE offers some tantalizing insights into what to expect.

For those unaware, the upcoming M8 is framed as Bimmer’s end-all-be-all range-topping luxury two-door, a flagship coupe sporting large-and-in-charge dimensions, plenty of power, and high-end interior extravagance. It’s essentially BMW’s answer to competitors like the Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe, previewed with the BMW 8 Series Concept Coupe revealed in Italy at the Villa d’Este event earlier this year. However, with the racing version now out and under the lights, we’re taking a closer look to see what we can learn before the 8 Series drops at the Los Angeles Auto Show in a few months’ time.

Continue reading to learn more about the BMW M8 GTE and upcoming 8 Series.

Styling And Exterior

BMW's M8 GTE Le Mans Competitor Previews Production M8 Model High Resolution Exterior
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While the M8 GTE was revealed in Frankfurt sporting the requisite M Motorsport livery, many of the details are sure to be a direct carryover on the production 8 Series and M8.

For starters, the M8 GTE measures in at 4,980 mm (196.1 inches) in length and 2,046 (80.6 inches) mm in width, and while the competition vehicle is surely longer and wider thanks to its impressive aero enhancements, those numbers still give us a general idea of what to expect from the production vehicle.

What’s more, BMW indicates that the M8 GTE’s roofline, headlight design, and taillight design will be virtually identical between the racing car and production car. Further styling indications can be found when placing the M8 GTE next the to 8 Series Concept that dropped in Italy:

BMW's M8 GTE Le Mans Competitor Previews Production M8 Model High Resolution Exterior
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2017 BMW 8 Series Concept Exterior High Resolution
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Note: BMW M8 GTE race car pictured on the left, BMW 8 Series Coupe Concept pictured on the right.

BMW indicates that the M8 GTE’s roofline, headlight design, and taillight design will be virtually identical between the racing car and production car.

Starting in front, the most obvious similarities start with the sizable kidney grille intakes in the nose. These large openings seem to dominate the fascia, and we wouldn’t be surprised if the same general shape a proportions are reused on the production car. The side intakes (replaced with yellow fog lights on the GTE) are also likely to get carried over on the production car.

Moving to the sides and rear, we find similar designs for the truncated tail and upturned trunk lid, while the fender flares also look somewhat similar.

Engine, Drivetrain, And Chassis

BMW's M8 GTE Le Mans Competitor Previews Production M8 Model High Resolution Exterior
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Making the go in the M8 GTE is a 4.0-liter V-8 stuffed by two turbochargers to produce as much as 500 horsepower. These specs are in line with the race regulations, which restrict both engine displacement and horsepower levels at the above-stated figures, but the production iteration will likely see upgrades in both departments.

The block and head will be similar and use the same lightweight alloy construction, but displacement will likely see a bump to around 4.4 liters, while power will increase to 615 horses. The production M8 will also likely get a high-performance AWD system, enormous carbon brakes, and a tasty exhaust note thanks to large-bore pipes.

The block and head will be similar and use the same lightweight alloy construction, but displacement will likely see a bump to around 4.4 liters, while power will increase to 615 horses.

The M8 GTE is also equipped with a race-spec sequential six-speed automatic gearbox, which will get replaced with an updated eight-speed automatic unit with paddles in the production version.

BMW also points out the M8 GTE utilizes copious carbon fiber reinforced plastic components to keep weight down to a feathery 1,220 kg (2,690 pounds). And while the production M8 will be significantly heavier (probably around 4,500 pounds, give or take), it will also utilize the same CFRP components to keep the heft as low as possible, even with oodles of luxury and extra equipment on board.

While the production M8 will be significantly heavier than the GTE, it will also utilize the same CFRP components to keep the heft as low as possible.

Finally, the M8 GTE gets cool stuff like a carbon fiber driveshaft and carbon fiber clutch from Sachs, both of which won’t make it to production. However, BMW says it utilized an advanced AI when developing the GTE’s traction control system, 3D printing techniques that allowed for rapid prototype development, and advanced computation fluid dynamics research for higher aero efficiency, and its likely all that go-faster stuff will benefit the production M8 in form or another.

References

Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe

2018 Mercedes-AMG S63-S65 High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the Mercedes-AMG S63 Coupe.

BMW 8 Series

2019 BMW 8 Series High Resolution Exterior Exclusive Renderings Computer Renderings and Photoshop
- image 688342

Read our full speculative review on the BMW 8 Series.

BMW M8

2019 BMW M8 Computer Renderings and Photoshop Exclusive Renderings Exterior
- image 718203

Read our full speculative review on the BMW M8.

BMW 8 Series Concept Coupe

2019 BMW 8 Series Exterior High Resolution
- image 717999

Read our full review on the BMW 8 Series Concept Coupe.

Press release

BMW Motorsport presented its new top-of-the-range model for the international GT racing scene at the International Motor Show (IAA) in Frankfurt am Main: the BMW M8 GTE. Before the BMW 8 Series Coupé goes on sale, the race car will compete on the track next season, including in the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC). It is with this series that BMW Motorsport will also make its return to the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA). As such, the BMW M8 GTE will be associated with both innovative, cutting-edge technology and decades of motorsport tradition. At the IAA, the new car was on display in a BMW M Motorsport livery, designed especially for this occasion, providing a visual taste of things to come in 2018. It reflects the close relationship between the development of production vehicles and motorsport, and once again underlines the degree, to which BMW Motorsport and BMW M belong together.

BMW's M8 GTE Le Mans Competitor Previews Production M8 Model High Resolution Exterior
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The BMW M8 GTE enjoyed a successful roll-out on 1st July 2017 at BMW Group Plant Dingolfing (GER) – the very place where the production model of the new BMW 8 Series will be manufactured. The close link between production and motor racing is one of the cornerstones of the development of the BMW M8 GTE. The knowledge gained from race outings with the new car in the FIA WEC and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC) in North America will be directly incorporated in the development of the production model, which is running parallel to the motorsport project.

“The BMW M8 GTE is our new GT flagship and will go head to head with the strong opposition in this sector,” said BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt. “For us, the presentation of the uncamouflaged car at the IAA is the next important step on the road to our first race outing, which we plan to be the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2018. The FIA WEC and the IMSA series in North America are a top competitive environment for our new challenger. With the BMW M8 GTE, we are bringing cutting-edge technology to the top international class of GT racing, whilst at the same time tying in with our tradition at Le Mans. The development of the BMW M8 GTE is on schedule, and we can hardly wait to see the car challenging for victories in 2018.”

BMW's M8 GTE Le Mans Competitor Previews Production M8 Model High Resolution Exterior
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A new degree of efficiency.
The V8 engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo Technology, which is restricted by regulations to a capacity of 4.0 litres, has a nominal base output of more than 500 hp, depending on the classification. The cylinder block and cylinder head are taken from the production engine and are produced in the light alloy foundry at the BMW Group plant in Landshut (GER). The focus of the development work is on achieving the greatest possible efficiency and maximum durability. The powerful production engine provides the perfect basis. The power transmission in the BMW M8 GTE takes place via a sequential, six-speed racing gearbox.

Artificial intelligence gives engineers greater freedom.
“Virtual development” plays a central role in the development of the BMW M8 GTE. For example, the traction control is being developed with the assistance of an artificial intelligence system. Topology optimisation with 3D printing gives the engineers far greater freedom in their search for innovative and creative solutions for the design of the car. Rapid prototyping also allows them to take delivery of a new part, as a usable prototype, just 24 hours after the virtual development.

Motor racing and production go hand in hand – design similarities.
Racing and production engineers closely worked together within the framework of the BMW M8 GTE project. For instance, consistent lightweight design also plays a crucial role in the development of the new GT sports car. A significant weight reduction is achieved through the extensive use of ultra-light CFRP components. At a length of 4,980 mm and a width of 2,046 mm, the car weighs just 1,220 kilograms. The design of the BMW M8 GTE also reflects the close relationship to the BMW 8 Series and the BMW M8. This is particularly apparent in the same roof line and the design of the front and rear lights.

Peak performance in aerodynamics development.
Work on the aerodynamics of a new race car is as time-consuming as it is indispensable. As such, it is all the more important for the BMW engineers to be able to work on the chassis of the BMW M8 GTE with maximum efficiency from the outset. A new algorithm allows a significant increase in CFD calculations, thus making it possible to use greater computing power to clearly increase the number of possible simulations, before progressing to the wind tunnel. Here, BMW Motorsport uses synergies with production development and benefits from the perfect test conditions in the BMW Group Aero Lab. One of the results of the aero development is innovative aero rims, which will be presented as a concept at the IAA.

Latest 3D measurement technology in use.
The close interdependence between production and motorsport development continues in another two important areas: the same 3D measurement technology that was used on the BMW M4 DTM, which made its first race outing in 2017, is also used on the BMW M8 GTE. The ultra-modern measurement system from the BMW production development department provides the perfect quality control once the race car has been assembled. With such a complex car as the BMW M8 GTE, which is built completely by hand, it is essential that all the dimensions are correctly adhered to and implemented.

BMW's M8 GTE Le Mans Competitor Previews Production M8 Model High Resolution Exterior
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Long history of BMW Motorsport in Le Mans.
BMW Motorsport returns to Le Mans with the FIA WEC in 2018. The last time a BMW race car featured on the grid was back in 2011, with the BMW M3 GT2. One year prior to that, the Jeff Koons’ (USA) BMW M3 GT2 Art Car had caught the eye, as it wrote the latest chapter in the story of the BMW Art Car Collection at Le Mans. Among the BMW Art Cars that had started previously at Le Mans were Alexander Calder’s (USA, 1975) BMW 3.0 CSL, the BMW 320i designed by Roy Lichtenstein (USA, 1977) and Andy Warhol’s (USA, 1979) BMW M1.

BMW Motorsport’s greatest sporting hour in Le Mans came in 1999, when Yannick Dalmas (FRA), Joachim Winkelhock (GER) and Pierluigi Martini (ITA) took overall victory in a BMW V12 LMR. The McLaren F1 GTR, powered by a BMW engine, had previously triumphed at the “Circuit de la Sarthe” in 1995.

The first time a BMW car started at the 24 Hours of Le Mans was back in 1939, when a BMW 328 claimed a class victory after 236 laps of racing. After 1972, BMW cars regularly lined up at the endurance classic.

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