It may have put BMW on the map in touring car racing, but the E30 M3 couldn’t quite translate that success to the World Rally Championship. Over four seasons in the WRC, the M3 scored just one win, taking victory at the Tour of Corsica in 1987.
Given the car’s roadracing prowess, it isn’t surprising that its sole victory came on tarmac, nor that it came at the hands of Frenchman Bernard Beguin, whose WRC career consisted solely of the paved-road rallies in Corsica and Monte Carlo. Oddly, the Grenoble native (seen above en route to that Corsica win in the #10 M3) had driven a Porsche 911SC to the French rally title in 1979 and to second in the European rally championship in 1980; both had presumably required him to compete on a variety of surfaces.
Before his star turn in the M3, Beguin had already gotten a bit of BMW experience driving the Oreca team’s Group B M1 in the 1983 Tour of Corsica. Though the 430-hp mid-engine car was fast, it proved unreliable as well as too large for rallying and would DNF.
He’d get another shot with BMW in 1987, this time in the smaller, less powerful Group N E30 M3. The 295-hp Prodrive entry looked far better suited to rallying than the M1, though its rear-drive layout put it at a traction disadvantage on sand and gravel compared to the all-wheel drive Lancias, Fords and Audis that were also introduced in 1987. It would have no such troubles on tarmac, however, particularly in the hands of a paved-road specialist like Beguin. Supported by co-driver Jean-Jacques Lenne, Beguin and the #10 M3 outpaced the entire Tour of Corsica field by more than two minutes. (A second M3, the #14 car driven by Marc Duez, finished sixth, 15:28 behind Beguin.)
It would be the only WRC victory for both car and driver: Beguin would race the E30 M3 at the Tours of Corsica in 1988 and 1989 but finished just seventh and fifth in a field dominated by AWD machinery. (Beguin’s teammate François Chatriot did a bit better with the M3 in later races, finishing fourth in 1988, second in 1989 and third in 1990.)
Though that WRC win was the highlight of Beguin’s career, it remains a footnote in E30 history. With the car unlikely to repeat its Corsica success on the Safari Rally or even the Acropolis, BMW concentrated its M3 efforts on the World Touring Car Championship. The car was entered in just one WRC event beyond those four Tours of Corsica: the 1988 Rally Finland from which Ari Vatanen DNF’d with steering trouble. Knowing it had a solid shot at a slew of roadracing victories, you can’t fault BMW for putting its eggs in a WTCC basket instead of one marked WRC.