Ten Classic Cars

BMW E9 2800 CS/3.0 CSL

BWM has a rich touring car history, but the 3.0 CSL is perhaps the most famous of all.
The “E9” six-cylinder coupé was introduced in 1968. It was in fact not a coupé version of the E3 saloon, but an enlarged version of the 2000 CS. With a look at racing, this made sense; the smallest base with the biggest engine. But unfortunately, the coupé was quite heavy; even with plastic body panels it had to weigh over 1200 kg.
After the 1969 season with their 2002 Turbo, BMW quit works touring car racing, just like they would quit Formula 2 after 1970.
But fortunately BMW had active tuners, and as early as 1969 the coupé made its debut at the Spa 24 hours; a mildly tuned Alpina version finished ninth overall.
In 1970, Alpina formed the backbone of the E9 racing career. They ran cars in selected ETCC rounds as well as the German championship. The car still ran on small 13” wheels, but the engine already gave 300 HP with 3 twin Weber carburetors. There were two wins in ETCC, in Salzburg and at Spa, main opposition coming from Alfa Romeo who won their division as well as the drivers title, while Ford was still learning with the Capri. In some cases, the Alpina cars were withdrawn because of tire problems, particularly painful at the Nürburgring home race.

1971 brought more coupés when Schnitzer entered many races as well as Alpina. But the Ford team was now a formidable opponent, winning its division on every occasion – except Zandvoort, where Schnitzer had a popular victory in a straight fight.

Tires had grown further now, and the engines delivered between 325 HP (Alpina) and 340 HP (Schnitzer). After initial problems the cars raced with fuel injection.

Come 1972 and Ford’s Capri was still dominant, while the lightweight BMW CSL still was not homologated, though production had started as early as 1971. This gave way to strange situations; in the Netherlands, the Alpina car bought by the importer already was a lightweight version which was promptly rejected by the scrutineers. Worse still, Broadspeed had been given the assignment to develop the lightweight version, which turned up at the Salzburgring ETCC race; we will probably never know if the car raced at an illegal weight or not, but it won the BMW class, finishing third behind two Capris.
A shock move in May saw Jochen Neerpasch, architect of the Capri success move from Ford to BMW, together with chassis expert Martin Braungart. The BMW tuners became more involved with incentives for good grid positions or race results, and Neerpasch started to build up a works motorsport department, aptly named BMW Motorsport GmbH. The purpose was not only to form a works team for the ETCC and German national championship, but it started the cooperation with March in Formula 2 as well.
The 1972 season saw only one win in ETCC, though it was the most prestigious event in Germany, the six-hour ETCC race. But both the national title (with Stuck, who was to follow Neerpasch to BMW) and the ETCC title (with Mass) went to Ford, just like 1971.

Finally, the 3.0 CSL was homologated in 1973. Not only was the car lighter, but the engine was enlarged just a little over 3000 cc, so it could be further stretched to 3500 cc under the Group 2 regulations.
In Monza, the works team made its debut with two cars and new signings Stuck, Hezemans and Amon, but the tuners were there too with star drivers like Lauda and Muir (Alpina) and the Brambilla brothers and Wollek (Schnitzer). It wasn’t all plain sailing, the Capris were still a force to be reckoned with Formula 1 drivers Stewart and Scheckter, but in the end Alpina won the race.

Until July the opponents were more or less evenly matched, but an “evolution” homologation on July 1 settled it; with a new crankshaft 3500 cc was now a reliable option, while the aerodynamics were improved with a roof and tail spoiler, which earned the car its nickname “Batmobile”. From then on, the ETCC was settled – BMW won all the remaining races and the driver title, and the fact that they lost the German title to Ford could have been different had another choice of drivers been made.
Then came the 1974 oil crisis. Significant budget cuts meant that BMW only contested a few races with their now 24-valve CSL and experimented with ABS. In Belgium, tuner Luigi built a Group 1 "Francorchaps" version of the CSi - which won the 24 hour race in both 1974 and 1975.
In 1975, the works team entered IMSA and left Europe to their tuners, while handing them the 24-valve engines. The 1975 ETCC title, hollow as it was, went to BMW.

The rules under which the CSL was developed ran out in 1975, together with production of the coupé. But its career was far from over; though Porsche was the only one fully prepared for the new 1976 World Championship for Group 5 cars, BMW surprised with an even lighter version of the CSL with its 3500 cc engine with Schnitzer tricks. With Porsche nor always reliable, the car won three races and when BMW developed a turbo version of the car the championship seemed open even more. In the end, Porsche took the title, but the CSL had given them a good fight.

With the change of Group 2 in 1976, these cars were more or less back to 1973 specifications but with a wet-sump oil system and a 4-speed gearbox. Being the only professional outfit, the Belgian Luigi team took the championship in 1976, followed by more titles with different teams  in 1977, 1978 and 1979 after which homologation ran.

Even in Group 1 trim the car had success: a front row position at Spa 1977 for instance.

Ten years of competitive history for a single model; that must be some sort of a record.

Sources & further reading:
Unbeatable BMW : 80 Years of Engineering Success by Jeremy Walton
ISBN 0837602068 (0-8376-0206-8)
Bentley Publishers

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