Welcome to the family: Schninitzer 635 BMW # RA2-55

Date Posted:3 June 2012 

We lovingly welcome a new addition to our family in Buderim, with the very German technical name of BMW 635 Chassis # E24 RA2-55, the ex Schnitzer and Bob Jane 635 is a well known, and beautifully original example of the mid eighties BMW Group A racer.

 

She began her life in 1985 running in the European Touring Car Championship, as the BMW factory M- Technic entry at Monza, Vallelunga, GP Brno (Czech), Salzburgring, GP Nurburgring and finally the big daddy of them all, the 24 hour race at SPA, Belgium.

In Czechoslovakia at the 500km Grand Prix Brno. (no that is not a spelling mistake)

 

On the cover of the 1985 Czech race program, to prove it is not a spelling mistake.

The 1985 24 hour endurance epic at SPA was the famous BMW team 1-2 form finish, as they outlasted the Rovers and Volvo's with RA2-55 coming a valiant second place, driven by the veteran Dieter Quester, a young Markus Oestreich and motorbike champion Johnny Cecotto. This was the high point of the year for the 1985 ETCC for the German manufacturer. 

Racing in 1985 for a second position at the huge SPA 24 hour enduro.

The 1985 SPA 24 hour race highlights.

After the SPA second placing RA2-55 was brought to Australia by the British team manager John Siddle, (team was managed by Charly Lamm, car still owned by Herbert Schnitzer), who was initially going to bring the Spa 24hr winning Schnitzer team car, but it ran the very famous and cool "parts car" livery, that would have to be replaced at a cost of around $10 000 when it returned to Europe. So to save the cost, the second placed and equally fast RA2-55 was resprayed in Bob Jane T-Marts orange livery and totally rebuilt by the Schnitzer team, before being tested by Deiter Quester and then flown down under for the Aussie Bathurst 1000 race. 

 

Entered by Goold Motorsport, it was was originally to be driven by F1 racers Nelson Piquet (whom Siddle managed) and endurance specialist Nikki Lauda, this however never happened as a clash in dates for the Brands Hatch F1 meeting season meant Schitzner BMW aces Johnny Cecotto and Roberto Ravaglia were flown in for the job. Siddle also had two Schnitzer mechanics on hand as well as a BMW engineer amongst the Aussie hands to make sure she ran well for the 1000 km race.

  

Original logbook images from when she first arrived in Australia.

 

Reported as the being best sounding car in Bathurst 1985, we cannot argue.

In qualifying she placed 8th with Ravaglia at the wheel. In the great race she was a remarkable 4th two hours in, with the start being a bit of a disaster, due to a rare poorly running engine, meaning he could not get of the line well, falling back to 11th as the engine cleared itself by lap 3. On lap 17 a fault in the computer electrics surfaced meaning the engine would be down on power for the remainder of the race. It was two hours into the race when the famous 635 JPS BMW's of Jim Richards and George Fury, whilst in the lead, both fell foul of the oil from a blown up Commodore and followed each other into the sand trap at Hell Corner, effectively costing them a Bathurst victory that year.

  

Pushing hard across the top.

Cecotto took over and moved the orange BMW up to 3rd place, with the two fast Walkinshaw Jaguars out in front. Ragvaglia took back over and with 13 laps to go he was 50 seconds behind the lead Jaguar of John Goss, who was suffering from a broken seat. Behind him he had the fast charging HDT Commodore of Peter Brock catching him hand over fist, even with its windscreen knocked out! Ragvaglia finally relinquishing 2nd position as Brock passed him down mountain straight in his chase for the Jag of Goss. But running low on fuel (as the race consumption was more than expected) and not wanting to do another pitstop, he held his speed to get maximum laps on low fuel. Then 3 laps from the end, the timing chain broke on Brock's Commodore, putting an end to end his huge fight. The BMW finished between the two team Walkinshaw Jaguars to come a fantastic and deserved 2nd place. After it crossed the line, it only made it as far as the entry to pit straight before running out of fuel, some pretty good luck to have!! In post race pull down, a wiring fault was found with the computer, which effectively meant if it had of been found the engine would have been a second a lap quicker, easily giving them the win, but it's these sorts of things that make Bathurst such a great race, you need luck to win and this year it was Goss's turn for victory.   

  

The Bob Jane edition of the 1985 race book, signed by Bob to boot.

After Bathurst the BMW would later reappear at the Adelaide GP support race in the hands of another BMW Motorsport and  F1 ace, the Austrian Gerhard Berger. He was famously taken out from the race by the HDT Commodore of John Harvey, it was also the last race we can see that a driver in the F1 race also competed in a support touring car event as well (might be a reason for that)... It was then retired till the end of 1986 season, when Garry Rogers destroyed his ex JPS 635 at Oran Park. He negotiated to run RA2-55 with Charlie O'Brien at Calder, Sandown and Bathurst. Then it was shipped for its final race in Japan, the Fuji 500km enduro where O'Brien and sports car racer Emanuele Pirro finished in another second position. Bob Jane then shipped her home and acquired her from Schnitzer, leaving it relatively untouched and preserved, just replacing the vinyl numbers to show the livery ran at Bathurst in 1985. It was used just for show, displayed at a few of his Bob Jane T-Mart dealerships around Australia. This leaves it as arguably the most original and complete Group A 635 Schnitzer left in the world. 

  

How she is to stay, in her last livery as applied by Bob Jane.

David Bowden has been good mates with Bob Jane for years and having asked about it on numerous occasions a deal was recently struck and the car made it's way to Qld for the second time in its life (first time being the Brisbane motor show in 1986).

  

The day she arrived in Qld, ready for her relaxed retirement in Buderim.

Our plans for her are to just get her running right again and leave it un-restored, as it is still in lovely original condition. We look forward to having both this wonderful machine and the JPS 1986 car of Richards on the track together once again, especially as she was touted as being the best sounding car in the Bathurst 1985 race, something we all need to hear in the near future.

 

Loving the new Bimmer,

Dan Bowden

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