The development of the BMW M1 was driven by aspects related to a potentially successfull racing career. The road version was the spin-off. Nevertheless it was considered important to conform with the "Allgemeine Betriebserlaubnis" (ABE), the German regulation defining the requirements for a car to be allowed generally on German roads. This was the only way to avoid the exhaustive and expensive "Einzelabnahmen" - an admission for the road on an individual basis to be passed for each single car. The ABE also required crash tests. Thanks to that requirement, the M1 features a crash-optimised front section.
Important criteria, which were highlighted in the requirements for the project E26 - the BMW M1 - were:
- Cerb weight: lowest possible, to have overhead available for conforming with several racing regulations concerning minimum weight
- Weight balance: traction-optimised, in order to comply with the 800 hp in racetrim (ideal 50% weight on the front axle)
- Aerodynamics: smallest possible up-force together with smallest possible front area and favourable cw-coefficient
- CG-height: low (Racing) for superior road-holding
- Body: modular and fast assembly
- Engine: Basis should be the series six-cylinder block
- Suspension: adjustable with largest possible variability
Viewed in the light of the requirements above, it becomes clear why the M1 became and still is the one and only mid-engine coupé by BMW. The requirement "weight balance" was very important to development. In the meantime BMW has shown that an optimised weight balance can also be realised with a conventional arrangement. In a racing car where you have the freedom of arranging the aggregates the way you want to, mid-engine concepts clearly are advantageous.