BMW has been making Vision Next 100 concepts all year long for their 100th birthday, and they’re delightfully bonkers. They didn’t just make a regular car with an alternative powertrain and impractical seats. They went full kook with crazy shapeshifting bodywork and even a car built for sharing. Best of all, we know exactly where kookiness is encouraged: the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Le Mans’ Garage 56 program has brought us a little bit of everything rad over the years, from this year’s car built for a quadruple amputee to the original DeltaWing. It’s a special entry specifically designed for off-the-wall innovation that doesn’t fit into any specific class regulations—one of the last true open spaces in motorsport. It’s there to encourage new ideas that could eventually shake up the rest of the racing world.
Best of all, BMW is thinking about it, reports Sportscar365. They’re also considering a top-class LMP1 prototype since new regulations will open the class to more cutting-edge technology in 2018, but BMW’s board already shot down one LMP1 proposal, which had a rumored $450 million first-year and development budget.
A Garage 56 entry would be a lot less expensive—just for Le Mans as opposed to a full racing season—and could have far more overlap with existing concepts and real-car tech if they so desired.
Sure, BMW is already jumping back into the World Endurance Championship—of which Le Mans is a part—with a GTE-spec car in 2018, but that’s all about making the most of currently accepted racing technology, not the weirdo next-tech ideas that they’ve whipped out in various concepts this year.
Garage 56 can be hit-or-miss. While next year’s bio-methane-powered entry is relevant to my interests every time I even think about having a burrito, Le Mans has had years where the garage went empty. 2013's hydrogen-powered car couldn’t get ready in time, and in 2015, the Automobile Club l’Ouest didn’t receive a single application that was up to snuff.
That’s why Garage 56 needs another major marque to step in and go crazy. BMW would have the resources to do a properly weird and innovative Garage 56 car, and could showcase some of its future-tech ideas in the most grueling environment possible: one full day of racing.
Do a Garage 56 entry, BMW. Give us weirdo suspension tires, auto-adjusting seats and all of the concept-grade insanity you can dream up in a functional race car.