The BMW M1 Procar Championship was the brainchild of Jochen Neerpasch, the head of BMW Motorsport as a race series to support the European rounds of the 1979 Formula One Championship. The series was designed to attract drivers from the different disciplines of motorsport such as Formula One, the World Sportscar Championship and the European Touring Car Championship. Drivers would be entered in identical BMW M1 Procar race cars with the quickest performing Formula One drivers that weekend gaining automatic entry to the Procar grid in a ‘works’ supported BMW M1 Procar.
Manufacture of these M1 Procar’s would fall between, Project Four Racing (Ron Dennis’s F2 & F3 Team), BS Fabrications on behalf of BMW and Italian race car manufacturer and Formula One team, Osella Squadra Corse.
This Procar, chassis number 4301040 would be one of four Procars built by the Italian firm, Osella Squadra Corse and would be one of just two cars delivered to the Italian team, BMW Italia. Fielded for young Italian Formula One driver Elio de Angelis in plain white, ‘4301040’ would make its debut at the inaugural round of the 1979 Procar Championship held in May at the circuit of Zolder in Belgium. Elio de Angelis’s weekend had not gone to plan having qualified his Ford powered Shadow DN9B last for the Belgium Grand Prix only to suffer further trouble following an accident on lap twenty-one when he collided with his BMW Italia Procar teammate – fellow Italian, Bruno Giacomelli!
Fortunately, de Angelis’s luck was about to change. Having qualified his Procar in fifteenth position, the Italian put on a dominant performance and after twenty laps finished the race in first place ahead of Toine Hezemans in second and Clay Regazzoni in third, thus claiming victory in the inaugural Procar race. de Angelis would also claim the fastest lap of the race – a remarkable achievement considering his talent was pitched against the likes of Niki Lauda, Mario Andretti, Hans-Joachim Stuck and many others.
A fortnight later BMW Italia would enter Eddie Cheever in ‘4301040’ for the next round which supported the Monaco Grand Prix. Cheever finished in the points with a credible eighth place around the streets of the principality.
For the remainder of the season de Angelis would be back in the car taking in rounds at Donington Park, Silverstone, Hockenheim, and Monza. After eight rounds that year it would be double Formula One champion Niki Lauda who would claim the 1979 Championship with a total of three victories. Interestingly no single chassis dominated that year with a total of five different Procar’s amassing victories.
In 1980, American GT drivers Kenper Miller and Dave Cowart joined forces and planned an attack on the 1980 IMSA GT Championship. Having been impressed by the success with which Jim Busby had been the first person to import and race an M1 Procar in the USA, it was decided they would follow suit. Following lengthy discussions and help from BMW North America, Miller and Cowart tracked down and purchased ‘4301040’ and went about readying the Procar for its US debut. Cowart a stockbroker by profession had been successful in obtaining sponsorship from the Red Lobster restaurant chain, a relationship that would blossom and become synonymous with GT racing in the USA for many years.
Entered under the banner of Jack Deren’s preparation shop, Deren Automotive and now sporting sponsorship from Red Lobster, Miller and Cowart were joined by Belgian driver Christine Beckers for their first race of 1980, the gruelling 24 Hours of Daytona. It was not to be, and the trio were out of contention before the halfway point.
A month later and now entered as Red Lobster Racing, Miller and Cowart were joined by British Sports Car royalty – Derek Bell and entered the Coca-Cola 12 Hours of Sebring International Grand Prix of Endurance, the three finished in 30th place.
The remainder of the season saw Miller and Cowart take in the Riverside 5 Hours, Watkins Glen 6 Hours, Road America 500 Miles, Road Atlanta 50 Miles, and the Daytona Finale 250 Miles. It was billed as a season to learn the car and to build towards a full-scale assault in 1981 as the Procar would be homologated for the GTO class that year.
The 1981 IMSA GT Championship would be where ‘4301040’ would really shine with Miller and Cowart mostly sharing driving duties entered as Red Lobster Racing. With the first two rounds behind them, the M1 Procar would dominate the GTO class like no car had ever dominated before, taking the following class wins.
Round 3 – Road Atlanta Grand Prix, Road Atlanta – GTO Class – 1st Place
Round 4 – Los Angeles Times/Toyota Grand Prix, Riverside – GTO Class – 1st Place
Round 5 – Datsun Monterey Triple Crown, Laguna Seca – GTO Class – 1st Place
Round 6 – Coca-Cola 400, Lime Rock – GTO Class – 1st Place
Round 7 – Red Roof Inns GT 200, Mid-Ohio – GTO Class – 1st Place
Round 8 – Pepsi Grand Prix, Brainerd – GTO Class – 1st Place
Round 9 – Paul Revere 250, Daytona – GTO Class – 1st Place
Round 11 – G.I. Joe’s/Camel Grand Prix, Portland – GTO Class – 1st Place
Round 12 – Molson 1000, Mosport – GTO Class – 1st Place
Round 14 – Grand Prix of Road Atlanta, Road Atlanta – GTO Class – 1st Place
Round 15 – Kenwood Stereo 500, Pocono – GTO Class – 1st Place
Round 16 – Camel GT 250, Daytona – GTO Class – 1st Place
Dave Cowart was crowned 1981 IMSA GTO Champion and Kenper Miller placed second – the first time the first and second drivers had used the same car!
Following their success, the Red Lobster Racing team opted to go up a class to GTP and acquired a March 82G for their campaign and so the M1 Procar was duly sold to Colombian driver, Diego Montoya – uncle of Formula One, IndyCar, NASCAR & Sports car driver, Juan Pablo Montoya. Diego Montoya would also claim success within the GTO Class with the M1 Procar during the 1982 and 1983 IMSA seasons.
In 1987, ‘4301040’ would change hands and travel back across the Atlantic and into the ownership of Swiss automotive enthusiast and manufacturer, Franco Sbarro. Sbarro too was from a racing background having worked for legendary team owner Georges Filipinetti of Scuderia Filipinetti fame.
In 1998, the M1 Procar was acquired by a private Spanish enthusiast and subsequently a Belgian owner in 2004.
Following the completion of a chassis-up restoration during 2005-2006 performed by Graber Sportgarage AG in Switzerland which was comprehensively documented with photos and invoicing, Frenchman Gilles Gibier became the next owner of the Procar in 2007. Gibier then raced the BMW with the assistance of Graber Sportgarage at Peter Auto events.
In 2012, French historic racer, Robert Boos purchased ‘4301040’ and raced the BMW across Europe with Peter Auto’s Classic Endurance grid at circuits Spa, Mugello, Paul Ricard, Dijon, and Le Mans. Throughout this period, the BMW was maintained by Graber Sportgarage AG in Switzerland who are well respected for the preparation and maintenance of M1 Procar’s.
In 2015, the Procar was sold to ex-Formula One driver and team owner, Gerhard Berger. Berger’s link to BMW Motorsport had begun right at the start of his Formula One career with his debut in a BMW M12 powered ATS D7 at the Austrian Grand Prix. Victory in the 24 Hours of Spa in a BMW 635 CSi and his first Grand Prix victory at Mexico in 1986 driving a BMW powered Benetton would cement this relationship for the rest of his career.
In 2016, ‘4301040’ along with several other Procar’s from the 1979/80 Procar Championships were reunited with their period drivers at the Austrian Grand Prix held at the Red Bull Ring. Berger along with the likes of Niki Lauda, Dieter Quester, Marc Surer, Jan Lammers and Hans-Joachim Stuck demonstrated the Procar’s over the course of the Grand Prix weekend. During Berger’s ownership, maintenance and preparation was carried out by BMW Motorsport at the factory in Munich, photographs of this work can be seen in the history file.
In 2019, following maintenance and service work carried out by BMW Motorsport, Henderson Fellowes sold ‘4301040’ to the current owner, an historic ‘gentleman driver’ who wished to race the BMW on the same weekend as his other race cars to maximise track time. The Procar moved to the UK and was further prepared by Tim Samways Sporting & Historic Car Engineers who also undertook a complete rebuild of the M88 engine. Extensive testing ensued optimising chassis and set-up work with test days at both Anglesey and Donington Park. Having been issued with a new Historic Technical Passport (HTP), the owner then raced the Procar with Peter Auto’s Classic Endurance grid in Europe. In 2021, ‘4301040’ was invited to take part in the timed shoot-out at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, an accent of the Goodwood hill can be found below.
Henderson Fellowes is delighted to offer chassis ‘4301040’ in excellent mechanical and cosmetic condition having benefitted from much expenditure in the current ownership, which includes new safety equipment, new correct centre-lock BBS wheels with the extremely rare wheel centres to aid brake cooling, spare bodywork, and associated engine parts. Previous owners have done a remarkable job of documenting their ownership and there are numerous history files which contain invoicing, restoration photos, period race photos, period race reports, BMW Italia press release, Procar racing Series ’79 press release, BMW factory build sheets, maintenance and set-up manuals, and previous Historic Technical Passports (HTP’s). The BMW is also extensively referenced in the exceptional work of Jochen Von Osterroth, ‘M1 Procar’, with many period race photos, race results and interviews. ‘4301040’ is without doubt one of the most important and successful BMW M1 Procars built with an enviable race history both in Europe and the USA.
The BMW M1 Procar has a European title and can be viewed in our London showroom.
Photo Credit: Riiko-Andre Nuud, Riiko Photo