Roberto Ravaglia and the BMW E30 are two motorsport icons which are inextricably linked to one another. Ravaglia, one of the world’s most successful touring car drivers, described the E30 M3 as “the best car I ever drove.” Its looks have aged well and the rarity of the car has made it a cult classic, but it’s the car’s pedigree, as well as the focus apparent in this footage that’s made it a mainstay in classic racing circles.
Perhaps the car is so enduring because it’s still remarkably fast despite nearing it’s thirtieth birthday. It had all the right ingredients: a 2,100-pound curb weight and, in this particular guise, a 1992-spec, 2.5-liter motor pumping out 340 horsepower at 10,000 rpm! It also makes a whopping 200+ lb-ft of torque from seemingly nothing, and the whining, close-ratio gearbox keeps that four-cylinder S14B25 making all the right noises.
Despite those impressive specs, it’s still hard to fathom a four-cylinder lurks under the hood. It pulls so smoothly and responsively out of every hairpin it might as well have twice the capacity. However, it’s simply a well-built motor—which happens to cost more than a mid-sized sedan to rebuild!
Ravaglia has no rust to shake off, and decades of driving brilliance come through in a series of assertive, measured, and stylish laps around a wet Modena Autodrome. Quickly, we get to understand how this underpowered car—even for the times—was able to punch above its weight and outrun turbocharged Sierra Cosworths and V8-powered Audis. It’s a legend alright, and seeing the man most qualified to hustle it around a damp track is a privilege.