Über-cool and unique: David Wylie’s BMW 2002 is one of two factory rally cars fitted with the M12 Formula 2 engine.
It recently won the ‘Pom’, the VSCC’s season-opening Pomeroy Trophy competition. But what makes this car special is that it’s the one remaining of just two factory rally cars fitted with the M12 Formula 2 engine – a twin-cam 2.0-litre screamer inhaling mightily via a heroically proportioned stack-injection system, and revving to a terrifying 10,000rpm. It sounds truly epic. ‘And most of the noise is from the front. It passes 105dB at the tailpipe…’
It ended up in David Wylie’s hands almost by accident. ‘I was looking for a Prodrive rally E30 but all the available cars had either been knocked about or weren’t very original.’ It turned up at Bonhams’ Oxford auction in 2015, after being offered unsuccessfully in Germany.
This was the last rally car BMW built before turning its attention to racing.
When BMW stopped rallying the car passed to Achim Warmbold, the team’s retained driver who, navigated by John Davenport, won the 1975 Sachs Winter Rally in Germany. It challenged for the lead on the Rally Portugal and got it on the New Caledonia Safari, but finished neither. In this livery it rallied in Ireland for a couple of seasons with David Agnew, then ended up in storage in Ireland for two decades.
The more Wylie looked, the more connections he realised he had with the car: ‘My uncle used to rally against it in an Alpine, and then I realised it had rallied in period with our name on the front. My father supplied number plates to almost all the garages in Belfast at the time and Agnew’s were, and still are, a big customer.’
A period of fettling ensued at Blakeney Motorsport, with the engine looked after by BMW M10 guru Lester Owen. ‘The rods and pistons were still original, and the previous owner had self-imposed a rev limit of 7500rpm, at which it was still making 250bhp.’ Now it’s producing 270-ish horsepower at about 7700rpm, as quoted in period. ‘It does about 3-4mpg on the road, because the Kugelfischer pump just chucks the fuel in. You could collect it out of the tailpipe and run your car on it.’
‘Nearly everything except the shell is custom-built or drilled for lightness, and it’s all beautifully done. Most ’02 bits don’t fit – it uses a rack instead of a steering box, and the rear coil springs come through the parcel shelf. It ran on super-light magnesium ATS or BBS wheels, but the originals are 40 years old so Minilites were hastily ordered for the Pom while new BBSs are made. And it eats plugs. In the Pom it used a set in the morning, then wouldn’t start and we had to put in a fresh set for the afternoon.’ It needed a plug swap to get away from our pub lunch, too.
‘It’s eligible for so much – Slowly Sideways, or with a change of suspension Group 2 Touring Cars, even the Le Mans Classic. And it’s so benign to drive: lovely, pliable, forgiving, softly sprung and you can lean on any corner you like. But to get the best out of it you really have to be “on it” all the time. With a 5:1 diff it gets to the limiter very quickly and it must have been exhausting to drive in rallies. In the Pom, we ran a 3.9 and it was still almost reaching the limiter at the end of the straights. That’s 140mph…
‘It’s only about 900kg so it’s quite quick. And you can still drive it to the pub. Just about.’
Words and photography: Paul Hardiman