Two years after the M235i Racing was introduced to the U.S. media—and two years after it started competing in its own class within Germany’s VLN endurance series—the car is finally being sold by BMW Motorsport in North America. It’s an exciting development: For the first time ever, racing teams can purchase a Motorsport-built customer race car by simply walking into one of ten BMW Motorsport dealerships in the U.S. and placing an order for one of 50 M235i Racing cars available in this market.
A pair of BMW Motorsport-built M235i Racings are competing in the Pirelli World Challenge this year, entered by Classic BMW of Plano, Texas, and they’re already winning races. As the lengthy interval between the car’s introduction and its U.S. racing debut suggests, finding a series in which it could race competitively wasn’t easy.
“There’s been a lot of back and forth about bringing the M235iR here because we’ve never done it before,” says Victor Leleu, BMW of North America’s motorsport manager. ”It was a complex process, and we had to learn a lot along the way. We didn’t want to do a spec series for a variety of reasons and didn’t know where the landing point may be. For a while, we thought about it as a track day car and club racer, but then the opportunity came up with PWC and it was too good to miss.”
So was the opportunity to go racing with Classic BMW. After opening for business back in 1971, the Plano, Texas BMW dealership started racing in 1972, campaigning the 2002 in SCCA competition. More recently, Classic BMW has been racing Z4s in everything from SCCA to the Continental Challenge series; not surprisingly, it’s also one of the ten BMW Motorsport dealers in North America. (The others are BMW of Murietta, CA; Global Imports of Atlanta, GA; Laurel BMW of Westmont, IL; Isringhausen BMW of Springfield, IL; BMW of Stratham, NH; BMW of Cleveland in Solon, OH; Bobby Rahal BMW of Canonsburg, PA; and Rick Hendrick Imports of Charleston, SC.)
Classic BMW’s motorsport activities are managed by Toby Grahovec, who started driving for the team in 2005 and races the #26 M235iR alongside Gino Carini in the #27.
“We’ve been asking BMW to bring the M235iR to the U.S. since it was announced,” says Grahovec. “Once we knew they were bringing it here, we decided that the PWC Touring Car class would be the best place to race it, so we started working on PWC to get them to accept the car.”
Making it work in PWC