BMW is the headline act at the third New Zealand Festival of Motor Racing, on today, tomorrow and next weekend at the Hampton Downs track.

The first and second festivals were dedicated to two of New Zealand's three famous Formula One drivers - Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon. Next year's will salute Denny Hulme.

The event this year celebrates the 40th anniversary of BMW Motorsport - now known as BMW M - a nameplate synonymous with motorsport in New Zealand.

"It's particularly apt that BMW is the first automobile marque to be celebrated after the two legendary racing drivers of the previous festivals," said BMW New Zealand managing director Mark Gilbert.


"BMW has had a presence in New Zealand motorsport dating back more than 40 years.

"Cars such as the 2002 Ti and M635CSi have established themselves as both winners and driver favourites, and are still raced at tracks around the country today.

"However, it is perhaps the legendary M3 which has become a perennial superstar, thanks largely to its performance, reliability, durability and all-round drivability."

The M3 boasts a race-proven heritage, having won a number of New Zealand championships as well as five Wellington 500 street races during the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Schnitzer BMW M3s dominated the event, claiming four of five titles won by BMW between 1988 and 1992. During the 1990s, BMW Motorsport NZ, a partnership between BMW NZ and International Motorsport (Lyall Williamson), won seven straight titles in the New Zealand Touring Car Championship.

Craig Baird and Brett Riley won most of the titles in the earlier years, but the 1999 and 2000 titles were won in a BMW 325i (E36) driven by the late Jason Richards. BMW has brought from its heritage division in Germany two of its celebrated racing models - the M1ProCar and the Group A M3. Both cars will appear on the track during the event. Also on show will be the original "Batmobile", the BMW 3.0CSL that Amon and German driver Hans-Joachim Stuck drove to win the 1973 European Touring Car Championship.