BMW’s M8 coupe will head to the track to take on the world’s best

Why it matters to you

This is the car BMW plans to take on the 24 Hours of Le Mans with, marking its return to the famous race after seven years.

The road-going version hasn’t seen the light of day yet, but BMW is already preparing a racing version of its M8 coupe.

Christened the M8 GTE, this race car completed its first round of testing at the Lausitzring in Germany in July, and was unveiled to the public this week at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show. The “GTE” designation corresponds to the top class for production-based cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship. This series includes the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans, the main reason for developing the M8 GTE.

BMW will return to Le Mans in 2018, ending a seven-year absence. It hopes to win the GTE class title with the M8 GTE, but it will have to beat the likes of the Ford GT, Chevrolet Corvette, Aston Martin Vantage, Porsche 911, and Ferrari 488 to make that happen. Since we don’t know much about the M8 road car, it’s hard to say how the M8 race car will stack up against that formidable competition.

In addition to the globetrotting World Endurance Championship, BMW will bring the M8 GTE to the United States for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The M8 GTE will likely replace the M6 GT3 BMW currently races in that series, which makes sense, since BMW doesn’t sell the M6’s road-going counterpart in the U.S. anymore.

The M8 GTE is powered by a 4.0-liter V8 that will make at least 500 horsepower in race trim, backed by a six-speed sequential racing gearbox. The powertrain will likely change for the road-going version. The racing version is also much lighter than its road-going counterpart, thanks in part to extensive use of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic.

Some serious tech went into developing and building the M8 GTE. Engineers used an artificial intelligence program to tune the traction control, and 3D printed some parts, according to BMW. For assembly, the automaker employed a 3D measuring system to ensure accuracy. The system was especially helpful on the M8 GTE, since the car is built by hand rather than on an assembly line, BMW noted.

BMW isn’t ready to unveil the M8 road car yet, but between the M8 GTE race car and the 8 Series concept the automaker unveiled at the 2017 Villa d’Este Concours d’Elegance, we have a pretty good idea of what it will look like. The 8 Series nameplate was first used in 1989 on a sporty coupe that became an icon of its period, creating big tire tracks for the new 8 Series to fill. BMW will offer lower-level 8 Series models alongside the M8, which will be the flagship of the lineup.

BMW’s other notable racing plans take the company in the opposite direction of the brawny M8 GTE. When the M8 makes its assault on Le Mans in 2018, BMW will also step up its involvement in the Formula E electric racing series. BMW will participate as a manufacturer for the first time, supplying powertrains to Andretti Autosport. If nothing else, these high-profile racing programs will generate plenty of headlines for BMW next year.

Cars–Digital Trends