Automobiles The Iconic 1977 Group 5 BMW 320 Jägermeister Race CarHere’s your chance to own this piece of Group 5 racing history — the 1977 Jägermeister BMW 320 race car.
- Words Gray Van Dyke
- Images Kevin Van Campenhout, & RM Sotheby's
These days, many race fans tend to fixate on one particular epoch in motorsport history: Group B. It was an utterly mental category that allowed for some of the most unhinged, off-the-walls vehicles to ever line the starting grid. Between the spectacle of the crashes and the buzz of the cars themselves, Group B events attracted viewers the world over.
What many fail to realize, though, is that there is another equally high-octane motorsport discipline that’s deserving of their attention: Group 5. And it’s a shame, because over the course of its 16-year running, the classification gave rise to a similarly eye-catching — and arguably more eclectic — assembly of racing vehicles. Among them being the iconic Jägermeister orange 1977 BMW 320 race car.
The FIA originally introduced its Group 5 regulations in 1966 in an effort to expand automakers’ freedoms on the competitive circuit. Officially dubbed the “Special Touring Cars” category, it enabled far more extensive performance modifications than the existing Group 1 and Group 2 touring car classifications — each were essentially stock maker’s designations.
In 1969, the FIA amended the rules, limiting engine capacity to five liters and requiring a minimum production of 25 units. While such changes didn’t affect much in practice, they did mean that Group 6 prototypes also became eligible to race in this newly formed “Sports Car” classification.
As is so often the case when it comes to regulatory procedure, though, the FIA wasn’t content to stop there. Even before the 1970 season had come to a close, it replaced the Group 5 qualifications in their entirety (mind you, they would have expired the following year). Moreover, the next five years saw further changes as the FIA attempted to marshal support for the emerging category.
Eventually, however, they got it right. In 1976, the FIA introduced its fourth phase of Group 5 known as “Special Production Cars” — or silhouette racers.
Eventually, however, they got it right. In 1976, the FIA introduced its fourth phase of Group 5 known as “Special Production Cars” — or silhouette racers. Recognizing the public’s growing disconnect from the prototypes of the seasons prior, the new rules mandated that all participants base their entries on road-going production vehicles. Well, loosely-based, anyway.
The only requirements were that the hood, the doors, the roofline, and the rail panel be left unmodified. As long as the car could be homologated in Groups 1 through 4, automakers could pretty much do as they pleased. The cars also had to be built around standard-width bodies. Otherwise, however, the sky was the limit. Protrusive table-topped wings, swooping wheel arches, or even comically large turbos — you name it.
Out of the many iconic paint jobs in racing, there are few that are as immediately recognizable as the orange and black Jägermeister livery.
Back in 1972, an amateur racing driver by the name of Eckhard Schimpf approached his cousin (and then Jägermeister boss) Günter Mast seeking a loan to enter the Monte Carlo Rally. In exchange, he agreed to cover his Porsche 914/6 with company stickers. Given the success of Martini, Mast saw the advertising potential in automotive sponsorship.
So, even despite returning with a disappointing result (Schimpf and his co-driver Zauner broke down in the ice), Jägermeister was nevertheless all-in on racing. Mast had the car repainted from forest green to bright orange so that it would stand out on the starting line, and he made his cousin honorary team leader, tasking him with assembling a crew fit to represent the brand.
And that Schimpf did.
From German Touring Car racing to Formula 1, over 150 of the world’s best drivers competed under the Jägermeister banner. We’re talking top notch talents like Graham Hill, Stefan Bellof, Niki Lauda, Jacky Ickx, and James Hunt — to name just a few. And with some 500-plus victories — amongst which included the 24 hours of Nurburgring and the World Sportscar Championship — they certainly had the chops to make the Jägermeister name known.
...the 320 made some 330 thundering horses and revved to an ear-splitting 10,000 rpm.
The car you see before you is one of the very vehicles campaigned during Jägermeister’s nearly three decade-long racing sponsorship. An E21 3-series, it was developed in just three short months before prototypes began testing on the Circuit Paul Ricard in 1976.
Expectedly, what resulted showed a great deal of promise. Around the outside, BMW dressed the 320 in a highly-modified body kit that was almost CSL-like in its swooping proportions. From tip to tail, you’ll find that it radiates aerodynamic refinement, with a large, snowplow-like chin spoiler, some gaping side vents, and a fin-like, backswept rear wing.
And the potential extended beneath the metal. Powered by BMW’s legendary four-cylinder 1,991cc M12/7 engine — a direct carryover from the Formula 2 program — the 320 made some 330 thundering horses and revved to an ear-splitting 10,000 rpm. Oh, and we should also point out that the car rode on the same suspension setup found in the ever-iconic ‘Batmobile’ – BMW meant business.
In any case, Faltz Racing opted to run two of such 320s for the 1977 season. This car — chassis number R1-06 — was piloted by Harald Grohs. Because of his no-holds-barred (ahem, risky) driving style, Grohs only managed to finish four out of his 10 starts in the Deutsche Rundstrecken-Meistershaft (DRM) that year. Of those, he secured 4th in the season opener and 3rd in the second to last race — each one at Zolder.
After the season, chassis R1-06 was retired from racing and shipped to a BMW dealership to be a window display piece. When it finally crossed the auction block in Annemasse, France in 2002, it was all but a roller — a sight far worse-off than when it had left the track.
Thankfully, the consignor saw the significance of this 320 and spearheaded a complete nut-and bolt restoration to bring it back to its former glory. Along with painstakingly sand-blasting each and every component, the project’s team also swapped out critical wear items (fuel pumps, oil lines, and ball joints) with OEM replacements.
The matching engine, mysteriously, was lost during the 1977 season. Accordingly, R1-06 received a heart transplant in the form of a factory-fitted M12/7. Sure, some purists may take issue with the donor; however, the car will now ride good as new.
And besides, the chassis, the suspension, the differential, and the gearbox are all original. In fact, the car is even wearing the same body panels that skirted the limits of legality — with the exception of its front wings and spoiler.
The best part, though, is that it can be yours. Currently available through private sale at RM Sotheby’s, it includes an extensive 10-binder history file, within which you’ll find circuit sheets, photographs, and multitudes of magazine features. As if that wasn’t enough, buyers will also receive a slew of spare parts such as wheels and differentials.RM Sotheby's