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BMW unveils 20th art car for Le Mans

M Hybrid V8 debuts as BMW’s 20th art car, returning to top class at 24 Hours of Le Mans

24 May 2024

BMW is planning a return to Mulsanne Straight, premiering its new Hybrid M V8 in the top class of the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month – with performative painting livery honouring the firm’s nearly 50-year art car tradition.


The M Hybrid V8, with livery by renowned New York artist Julie Mehretu, was unveiled to a few hundred guests, including the artist, at the Centre Pompidou in Paris earlier this month.


BMW has celebrated art through stunning race car liveries since rolling out the 3.0 CSL back in 1975, with countless radical examples unveiled across the ages including arguably the most famous of all art cars painted by Andy Warhol in 1979, the M1.


“The BMW Art Cars are an essential part of our global cultural commitment,” said BMW chairman of the board of management Oliver Zipse.


“For almost 50 years, we have been collaborating with artists who are just as fascinated by mobility and design as they are by technology and motorsports.


“Julie Mehretu's vision for a racing car is an extraordinarily strong contribution to our BMW Art Cars series.”


BMW’s return to the top class at Le Mans comes a quarter of a century after its first outright victory in 1999, when its V12 LMR took top spot ahead of Toyota in second and Audi in third.


“Our return to Le Mans is spectacular for several reasons,” said BMW M CEO Franciscus van Meel.


“For the first time since our victory in 1999, exactly 25 years ago, we are competing with the BMW M Hybrid V8 in the top class of the world's biggest endurance race.


“We are facing the highest-class competition currently available in racing in the Hypercar category.”


Ms Mehretu's work utilises themes of space, movement and energy – not dissimilar to the cars raced at Le Mans – but this time she had to transform a two-dimensional artwork into a three-dimensional on-car masterpiece.


The use of 3D mapping allowed the artwork to be transferred to the contours of the M Hybrid V8 racer and the use of foiling allows for full-tilt race use of the art car at Le Mans.


“In the studio where I had the model of the BMW M Hybrid V8 I was just sitting in front of the painting, and I thought ‘What would happen if this car seemed to go through that painting and becomes affected by it?’” said Ms Mehretu.


“The idea was to make a remix, a mash-up of the painting. I kept seeing that painting kind of dripping into the car. Even the kidneys of the car inhaled the painting.”


Ms Mehretu describes the stunning end result as a performative painting, best suited to a racetrack and not a contemporary art gallery. 


“I don’t think of this car as something you would exhibit. I am thinking of it as something that will race at Le Mans,” she said.


“It’s a performative painting. My BMW Art Car was created in close collaboration with motorsport and engineering teams. It is only completed once the race is over.”


BMW M Motorsport works drivers Sheldon van der Linde (RSA), Robin Frijns (NED) and René Rast (GER) will enter the 20th BMW Art Car with start number 20 at the Circuit de la Sarthe on 15th June.


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