Poring Over a Random Encounter With BMW’s Incredible M2 C2 Factory Race Car
What's the deal with these particular and peculiar M2 CSs? A whole lot of cool stuf, actually.
It’s not every day you happen upon a freshly assembled factory race car just sitting in a dealership parking lot. Especially in a space reserved for a just-bought M3, or a lightly used X5 that was brought in for service for the 90th time. What’s the deal with these particular and peculiar M2 CSs? A whole lot of cool shit, actually.
Huge props to Scott Hay for sending these photos to me and giving me permission to share them. I originally happened upon all of this via a post in the Apex Automotor Facebook Group.
These particular Bimmers are M2 CS Racing models. If you’re unfamiliar with BMW’s recent dealings, the street-going CS is the most hardcore version of the M2, which is the hardcore version of the 2-Series. It features a hectare of carbon fiber, an engine out of an F82 M4 Competition, more track-centric suspension equipment, and more.
BMW takes it a step further with the CS Racing by crafting it into a full-blown, ready-to-trade-paint race car. Surprisingly, though, it’s not that wildly different from the CS, which is already a beast in the streets.
Besides the crucial safety gear, new ECU tuning, a slightly altered suspension, and a different path it takes on the assembly line, it’s fairly similar to the street version. How so? Let’s discuss the cool things one can ascertain from one of these beasts in person.
What Makes It a Race Car?
Besides possessing extra carbon fiber, decent sized wings, and thicker racing rubber mounted up to their factory wheels, these look an awful lot like normal, road-going M2 CSs. Looking a tad closer, the most obvious differences lie in their safety equipment.
The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) is widely recognized as a top authority for international racing safety requirements, and the CS Racing was made with the FIA in mind. The primary, and most necessary, changes are made to conform to various racing sanctioning bodies’ rulebooks around the globe. Certain aspects of their preparation are left a little bit open-ended, such as power output, alignment specifications, and so on, but certain aspects of its construction, like the roll cage, are cemented from the get-go. Because it’s assembled to FIA spec, there’s a 99.9% chance it’ll be approved to race all over the globe.
How do you procure one? From a dealership, of course, just like this one. Though, it has to be a BMW Motorsport participating dealership. This minimizes the chance of walking into a stuffy normie dealership and getting weird looks when you politely tell the salesperson, “I want to order a friggin’ race car.” The Racing isn’t street-legal, by the way. It can’t even be converted to street use, as there’s no vehicle identification number (VIN), just a chassis number for internal BMW purposes. There are also two versions available: the Basic, which BMW claims can produce between 280 and 365 horsepower, and the top-tier option that is literally called the 450-horsepower version.
The Rear Three-Quarter
The first things you’ll notice from this angle are a few pieces of equipment behind the B-pillar. That duct is most likely for rear brake or differential cooling; something rear axle-related. Racing brakes get quite hot even in short sprint races, and differentials are tested to their limits as well. Anything that can be done to aid in their cooling is definitely worthwhile.
Below the vent is a blank for a fuel filler neck. It’s a blank because the other side has the filler neck installed. Teams can quickly swap sides depending on which track they’re racing at and which direction the event is traveling. Typically, fuel is filled on the opposite side of the pit wall, so as to keep any risk of fire away from people and equipment. The crew member filling it up, known as the fueler, is dressed up in full flame-retardant gear, with another crew member aiming a fire extinguisher at them in case something goes wrong.
Back to the image above, you might see a barely noticeable giveaway that this is a Basic version of the M2 CS Racing: the custom embroidered Sabelt Taurus XL racing seat. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s it -I’ve been out of the racing equipment game for a little while. The 450-horsepower version gets a Recaro P1300 GT seat. These are both FIA-rated, flame-retardant halo seats. Providing extra head and neck protection in the event of a crash, the halo portion is the bit that wraps around the driver’s periphery. They cut visibility on track, but a custom assortment of racing mirrors help make up the visibility deficit. These seats also have substantial bolstering to keep drivers held in tight and help communicate the feel of the chassis through their stiff carbon fiber, fiberglass, or carbon-Kevlar construction.
You’ve also gotta love the foam padding added to the edge of the door; who wouldn’t appreciate the extra care taken to ensure safe portage?
This sign is necessary on this car because it has extremely thin paint, and it’s cool that it includes both German and English text. The thin paint helps keep the weight down as much as possible, but it also makes wrapping and re-painting easier. Paint might not add much weight in the grand scheme of things, but when resources, time, and money considerations are factored in, it benefits BMW to keep it thin.
The ‘ATTENTION’ note is interesting, as well. BMW is essentially saying don’t drive it in its current state above 12 mph. This pertains to loading and unloading from a trailer, as well as just finagling it around a dealership lot, shop floor, or paddock. Its adjustable coilover suspension has spacers in it, so driving the car any faster could lead to damaging critical (and quite pricey) components.
BMW is also noting that this suspension sits on a set of slick racing tires. I’m guessing the company is stating this in case the car is unloaded or moved around on a cold, wet day. Combined with having an absolutely atrocious turning radius, it could be a bear to move around. The rough turning radius is because race cars usually don’t have power steering, and their racks are set up for high-speed stability, not navigating everyday stuff like parking lots, city streets, etc.
The note also states that there’s no central locking system. It’s not needed in a race car, and as far as security goes, there are several battery cut-off switches that are intended for safety. These conveniently double as some mild security, too.
Those Beautiful Racing Brakes
Just look at that precision machining, my God is it beautiful. These are non-factory racing brakes made by popular brand Alcon. Each one features a little chemical gauge to determine how hot the calipers are, as well as a massive, easy-to-use bleeder valve for quick brake jobs. These calipers are also generally very easy to crack open and swap pads. I’ve seen more than a few race teams use homemade tools to pull molten pads out and quickly throw fresh ones in during endurance race pit stops.
Luggage, But Make It Racing
Check out that baller attaché case. Inside, there are two of several camber shims, which are used for quickly aligning the front suspension. Then, there are various electronic connectors for running diagnostics, downloading data from the motorsports-specific ECU, and more. Finally, there’s a fuel drain hose, which I’m pretty sure is for quickly draining fuel for storage, transportation, changing between different kinds of fuels, etc.
The photo also shows what looks like a manual brake proportioning valve, a carbon fiber door card, and a door pull. The proportioning valve is for moving the braking force more fore or aft, which is useful in varying weather and track conditions. They might also adjust this based on driver preferences? I’m not sure. The carbon fiber door card is for keeping the weight down, and the door pull is for co-drivers or when a passenger wants a thrilling ride on track.
The Business End
Finally, let’s take a look at this CS Racing’s hind quarters. That little nozzle square in the middle of the trunk is one of the coolest parts about the entire car: the air jack. When a crew member plugs in an airline, it lifts the whole car up on four or more pneumatic-actuated jack stands, making pit stops a total breeze. I hope to someday have a sick track car with a system like this hooked up, even if it’s a beat-up old Mazda 2.
The two plates on either side of the air jack look to be trunk releases. Inside, you can see the routing for the fuel fill neck on the passenger side, as well as the air intake that’s possibly for cooling rear brake or drivetrain bits. This mighty little M2’s complex web of a roll cage is also quite visible.
The rear carbon fiber wing is adjustable, a feature that makes aero changes a snap during test and qualifying days. Teams want adjustability here, as aero requirements differ by track, are sometimes restricted in racing series’ rulebooks, and also affect suspension settings.
For more bits of fun info on the CS Racing, check out this gent from Pfaff Motorsports discussing more about it:
Where Do These Puppies Tango?
The M2 CS Racing is a popular factory-assembled platform in modern touring car racing. There’s a spec series for them in Europe, they’re popular in endurance racing all over the globe, and even fit pretty well into classing here in the USA.