I’ve shared my thoughts on the underrated potential of the wholesome BMW 128i before, and here I go again. I say wholesome because it’s often dramatically overshadowed by its sibling, the much more powerful and tuner-friendly 135i.

  • Car: BMW 128i, prepped for IMSA Continental Sports Car Challenge ST Class
  • Location: Unknown
  • Photog: Unknown (used with permission from BMW)
  • Camera: Unknown

Back in the early-to-mid 2010s, the 128i was successfully campaigned in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) Continental Sports Car Challenge, essentially the precursor to what is now known as the IMSA Michelin Pilot Sport Challenge. This series was one of the lowest rungs in the North American pro racing hierarchy and a solid steppingstone for many of today’s pro racing aces. By lowest rung, I mean a series with minimal prep, a lower financial commitment, and often the closest on-track action — my favorite kind of GT and TC racing.

Take this photo at Virginia International Raceway in 2014, for example. Check out the No. 23 Burton Racing car blazing ahead of a stacked pack of NC Miatas, an E90 3 Series, and Porsche Caymans. All of those were, and still are, well known and well regarded as excellent racecar chassis, but the 128i is sort of overlooked. Even though it was often on the podium in its prime. In fact, the No. 23 would end up in 3rd place after a grueling 2.5-hour session on this tricky, high-speed/high-commitment track. The previous 2013 season was all smiles for Burton Racing and pair of 128is, by the way. They ended up winning the Street Tuner-class championship.

It’s a shame we don’t see more of these little naturally aspirated beasts on track these days. I bet if BMW sold more with 6-speed manual transmissions back in the day, we would.