Steve Soper has twice been reunited with his greatest racecar. the BMW V12 LMR, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
Photo: Pete Austin
It’s difficult to tie this down to one specific car, but if I must it would have to be the 1999 BMW V12 LMR prototype car which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans that year, unfortunately I wasn’t on board. I did, however, campaign the car in the American Le Mans Series. The car was built by the Williams Formula One team in association with BMW during the time that BMW was providing F1 engines to the team and they had this reciprocal project to build a prototype sports racing car. As I’ve said, the car won the 1999 Le Mans in the hands of Winklehock, Dalmas and Martini. I drove the predecessor, the BMW V12 LM, in the same race. It was privately entered by Dave Price and Thomas Bscher Racing, driving with Bill Auberlen and team boss Thomas Bscher. We finished 5th, some 20 laps behind, and well in the wake of the new car.
In the 1999 American Le Mans Series I finally got to drive the car in anger, and won three races with teammate JJ Lehto. The first was at Sears Point, then Laguna Seca and lastly at Las Vegas. We hadn’t competed in all the rounds of the series, but after a podium place too, we only lost out to the Panoz team by a mere two points for the team championship. Ever since the first time I drove the car, I knew it was something special, and it has remained my favorite ever since. Driving it gave a certain confidence, which in turn told you that you were driving something special and in a class of its own. It seemed so much superior to anything else around during the 1999 season. It was quick, too. I believe they were getting around 580-hp at Le Mans, which would give a speed nearing 350 kph (215 mph) down the Mulsanne Straight.
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