BMW V12 LMR #15 – Minichamps

1999 BMW V12 LMR #15
Pilots: J. Winkelhock, Y. Dalmas, P. Martini
Team: BMW Motorsport
Race: 1st overall (LMP) at Le Mans in 1999
Minichamps - 430992915 (diecast) 

Published 03/19/21

BMW first raced at La Sarthe in 1937. The manufacturer had a factory team consisting of a sole 328, that abandoned the race after eight laps. In 1939 they were back, this time with three 328. And above all, the cars finished in fifth, seventh and ninth places. Then came WWII, and BMW would only return to Le Mans in 1972, though through a privateer team. In 1995 the Bavarian brand came back, but only as an engine supplier to the winning #59. With that good result, in 1997 they had a works team. With two GT1 cars (McLaren F1 GTR LM), they managed a third place overall. However, 1998 was the last race of the GT1 class cars, replaced by purpose-built GT racers prototypes and open prototypes. Therefore, BMW needed a new prototype sports car quickly, and that’s when the story of the V12 LMR begins.

The V12 LMR is a typical open-top sports prototype of the late 90s and early 2000s.

BMW was aiming at another overall win at La Sarthe, but this time they wanted their car to win. Yet, they had already signed a partnership with Williams, to develop an F1 engine for the 2000 season. So instead of shouldering all the development of a new car themselves, they asked Williams to help. Patrick Head, Williams’ head designer, came up with a carbon fiber and aluminum honeycomb monocoque. The mid, longitudinally-mounted engine was obviously BMW’s previous winning S70/3. The S70/3 was a 5990 cm³ V12 with 48 valves and DOHC, delivering 580 hp. Naturally, the chassis was designed around the engine, with everything covered by a carbon fiber body. Called V12 LM, the new car weighed 900 kg (dry), and was capable of 350 km/h. However, the project was a bit rushed, and both V12 LM at La Sarthe in 1998 abandoned the race right at the beginning.

The V12 LMR weighed less then 900 kg, so it needed ballast to be race-legal.

With the terrible results in June at Le Mans, BMW shelved the V12 LM. However, along with Williams, they went back to the drawing board and created the V12 LMR. Visually it was very similar to 1998’s V12 LM, though all the aerodynamics, cooling system and engine air intake were new. In contrast, there were very few mechanical changes. To test the new LMR BMW entered it in the Sebring 12 Hours, and came in first place, BMW’s first victory there. For the 24 Heures du Mans of 1999 the BMW works team arrived with two V12 LMR. This year, however, the car outlasted most of the competition and BMW prevailed. The experienced trio of Winkelhock, Dalmas and Martini brought the V12 LMR #15 in first place. Despite the victory, due to the commitment with Williams in F1, that was the last race for the V12 LMR at Le Mans.

I tried, but there was no way to make the decals soft enough to stick smoothly to the model.

Yep, a grail model. Not because of BMW’s Le Mans history, but because I had this one in 1:18. It was one of my very first Le Mans cars back then, from Maisto. In 1:43rd, though with no opening parts, this one reminds me a lot my old Maisto. Like my bigger 1:18, this 1:43 is not great but is very decent. The (only) issue with it, as with many older Minichamps’ cars, are the peeling decals. I tried using both Micro Sol and Micro Set solutions, but no dice. They’re too dry for the solutions to soften them up. Those decals will probably crumble with time, so unfortunately I may have to replace the model in a few years. Bugger 😣.

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