When BMW arrived in Belgium in late July 1964 for the country’s most famous road race, the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, the 1800 ti hadn’t even been on the road for a full year yet, and the car had only been raced a few times. Although it DNF’d its first major outing, the 6 Hours of Brands Hatch in early June, it started to show some promise when it finished seventh at the Nürburgring 6 Hour race later that month.
Nonetheless, BMW didn’t necessarily have high expectations for its new racer. A decent amount of speed and a respectable showing would be fine.
Instead, the 1800’s success at the 24 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, one of Europe’s most prestigious long-distance races, secured the Mothership’s Neue Klasse of automobiles a place in history. Driven by German racing hero Hubert Hahne (who’d raced it at the ’Ring with Toni Fischhaber) and internationally renowned Finnish rally ace Rauno Aaltonen, the 1800 raced to a sensational second place overall, single-handedly positioning the car at the top of a new class of sport sedans, a category which BMW rules to this day.
It should have even been better.
“[At the race], it was announced that we were leading but on the same lap as the Mercedes 300SE [of Gustave Gosselin/Robert Crevits],” Aaltonen told Bimmer by telephone from Finland. “We were far ahead of the Mercedes when Hubert came into the pits with 20 minutes to go due to a soft brake pedal.”
According to the Finn, Hahne left the pit after a short repair still in the lead…and finished the race in first place.
“Only after the race, the organizers said the Mercedes had won,” he recalls. “As the timekeeping was manual, there was no real chance to protest and have the result corrected.”