Markus Flasch, CEO of BMW M, made the announcement on Instagram by posting a picture of the 1999-2000 V12 LMR prototype with the caption: "We’re back! Daytona 2023."
This alludes to the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, where LMDh prototypes will be eligible to compete. These cars will also be eligible for the FIA World Endurance Championship, which means that BMW will surely return to Le Mans 24 years after winning the race with the V12 LMR.
In 1998, both BMW V12 LMs failed to finish the 24-hour race because of mechanical issues. Still, even before that, they were outpaced in the qualifying sessions.
One of the biggest problems of the 1998 car was the low placement of the cooling ducts. Being close to the ground where temperatures were high, they failed to deliver fresh air to the engine, leading to many overheating issues. On the new racer, they were moved to the top, a revision that would prove extremely important.
Another ingenious modification, employed by exploiting a loophole in Le Mans prototype regulations of the time, was using a small roll hoop located only behind the driver's seat, instead of a wider one that covered the entire cockpit. This reduced weight but, more importantly, led to better airflow to the rear wing.
BMW and Williams built four chassis, all of which were handed over to Schnitzer Motorsport which would battle for supremacy at the infamous 24-hour race and the American Le Mans series.
Two of the cars debuted at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1999. One had a major accident and would not return, while the other managed to finish first overall.
However, one of the V12 LMRs would set the fourth fastest lap in the practice session. During qualifiers, both cars would perform flawlessly, finishing 3rd and 6th overall.
During the main event, they proved extremely competitive, climbing to the top of the rankings in the first 12 hours and outperforming closed-cockpit rivals such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Nissan, or Toyota.
Following the successful partnership with Williams, BMW decided to enter Formula One and did not return to France to defend their title. The V12 LMR continued to compete in the American Le Mans Series but facing sturdier competition from the likes of Audi, they never managed to win a race. Once the season ended, the carmaker retired from prototype endurance racing.
With the recent announcement, it will be interesting to see what BMW has up their sleeves and how it will perform in 2023. The season is shaping up to be one for the history books since apart from the manufacturers I mentioned at the beginning of this article, other big names such as Lamborghini are also rumored to join the LMDh class.