Ex-Works BMW CSL Proves That Old Race Cars Never Need To Retire
Photography by Jayson Fong
For most historically significant cars, their time after racing is largely spent under strict supervision from their owners to preserve their integrity—well, not if you were Ferrari, throwing race car chassis in the dumpster. In many cases though, original works cars are retained by the manufacturer and are most commonly found as museum pieces which, if we’re lucky, get let out from time to time to stretch their legs in short demonstrations far from the rigors of their former competitive routes.
As the trend goes then, you wouldn’t expect to find one of the most historically significant cars of its type still racing in earnest…or would you? Spending some time up and close with an ex-Quester/Hezemans Group 2 BMW 3.0CSL (albeit with different bodywork) with the stunning Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps as backdrop, I find out that the car that wrote much of the CSL’s reputation for success still has racing at its core.
Up there as one of the most iconic racing car shapes of all time, BMW’s 3.0 CSL made an undeniable impact on the future of road-car-derived racers. Derived from the BMW E9 coupe, the homologation special known as the “Coupe Sport Leichtbau” saw the E9 undergo a dramatic transformation at the hands of the masterminds at BMW Motorsport, who we now know simply as “M.”
Building 1000 homologation CSL road cars, they changed the sleek form of the E9 into a highly aggressive and menacing machine, earning it the Batmobile nickname once the big wings were attached. The differences to the E9 couldn’t be more profound, yet the same elegant underlying form was retained. With an extended front bumper, additional spoilers and exaggerated rear flares, the competition CSL saw massive benefits both aesthetically and functionally from the new aerodynamics, and of course a runner of a straight-six providing 400hp to a substantially wider rear track.
Originally built as one of four BMW Group 2 works cars for the 1973 European Touring Car Championship, chassis #2275998, piloted by the formidable duo of Dieter Quester and Toine Hezemans, didn’t make off with the best start, failing to finish due to a wheel bearing failure during its debut at Monza. However, its tally of podium finishes would begin at the Nürburgring later in the season, where it claimed 2nd place, before finally claiming the top spot in the 24 Hours of Spa.
As well as multiple podiums in the ETCC and granting Hezemans the ETCC Championship, this CSL would also come 2nd in class at the Nurburgring 1000km, and the pair would then go on to take the ultimate prize to cement the CSL’s fame, a class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the car seen here. Following the 1973 season, the car continued to race with Precision Liegeoise and the Faltz Alpina teams, before retiring from contemporary racing after three successful seasons.
Now over 40 years since it attacked apexes at such circuits Spa and the Nurburgring, #2275998’s racing spirit continues to flex its Motorsport muscle on the very same tarmac and asphalt. Restored over several years by Alex Eliott at Roundel Racing, it returned to racing in 2007.
From 2010 onwards the CSL was shared between Elliot and Australian enthusiast Adrian Brady, whose experiences in the car would lead to him eventually purchasing it in 2014. Today, it continues to campaign throughout Europe in Peter Auto’s Heritage Touring Cup with appearances at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and class victory at the Le Mans Classic also under its belt.
Although the 3.0CSL would go on in various forms to win the ETCC continuously from 1975-1979, winning races at IMSA and becoming the brand’s first art cars, I would argue that it’s still the Quester/Hezemans cars that reign supreme in the 3.0CSL hierarchy. After all, it was the car that paved the way for its successors as the “Ultimate Driving Machine” to the current day. To see this historic machine continuing its racing career rather than confined to a sheltered life away from the call of the circuit, I would say that lovers of the Batmobile are incredibly lucky indeed.