It’s purely a coincidence that my last name is on the windshield, because this full-race BMW is definitely not my car. First, I can’t reach the pedals. The seat position is fixed, and the only way I can reach the controls is to stuff a life jacket (!) behind my back before buckling in. Second, I’m sitting so low in the cockpit that I could wear a stovepipe hat and still have room to spare, and I can barely see over the dash. Where’s that panoramic view I remember from my old 2002s?
As I’m trying to get comfortable, the car’s restorer and custodian, Mario Langsten of Vintage Sports and Restoration in Bow, New Hampshire, points to a red switch. I press it, and the sliding throttle injection squirts fuel into the 2.0-liter, 16-valve, twin-cam M10 four as the ignition sparks it raucously to life.
The pressure’s on: Can I master the finicky, on/off racing clutch well enough to launch this Schnitzer-powered 2002 without stalling? Can I turn a few respectable laps here at Club Motorsports in Tamworth, New Hampshire before bringing this rare beast safely back to the pits?
That old race car aroma
The car I’m driving has a long history as an active race car in Germany and the U.S. Before we get to that, however, we need to tell the story of how Langsten came to be involved with it, and how he discovered its secrets.
It started with an e-mail to Bimmer Tech Q&A, which editor Mike Miller says “arrived looking like any other BMW technical question” in the fall of 2012.
“It wasn’t,” Miller recalls. “The owner of an ’02-bodied race car, [Lynford Bentley] had passed away, leaving the car to his girlfriend. Her name was Belinda Horne, and she somehow found my e-mail address. She needed to value the car in order to offer it for sale.”