It is a sad time for BMW i enthusiasts, as we mourn the final weeks and months of production of BMW’s first-ever electrified exotic—the glorious mid-engine i8. In April 2020, the influential carbon-fiber hybrid coupe and roadster will cease production, but their influential legacy will remain very much alive.
Since its official debut in 2014, we’ve seen a plethora of i8 builds grace the world stage, from low and slow SEMA show cars to fully-specced i Performance variants. There have been special editions straight from Munich, like the copper-imbued Ultimate Sophisto i8, and the establishment of a strong aftermarket presence within the enthusiast community.
Performance-boosting programs offered by prestigious tuners like AC Schnitzer, German Special Customs, and Energy Motor Sport produced some seriously wicked-looking creations over the years, which took the already polarizing out-of-the-box style and transformed it into the pinnacle of new-age automotive design. Aftermarket aerodynamic and mechanical enhancements were also engineered to augment stock power figures, coaxing all possible performance gains from the boosted little three-cylinder mounted directly behind the occupants.
While it was tunable to an extent, the i8’s track presence remained almost non-existent for most of its life. Sure, you could argue that the i8’s purpose was to mark an engineering milestone for BMW, rather than command a racing provenance, but that hasn’t stopped others from thinking otherwise. A high-performing race-car variant bearing resemblance to the famed exotic hybrid was a thought that not too many enthusiasts ever entertained—that is, unless you’re Hamofa Motor Sport.
If you were infatuated with the aggressive lines of the i8, but weren’t so enamored by the exhaust tone or performance, Hamofa has some good news for you. Codenamed the i8 GTR, this race-car build replaces all of the fancy OEM electric technology with some good old-fashioned naturally-aspirated goodness. The creative minds at Hamofa Motor Sport and didn’t just pick any naturally-aspirated motor, either; oh, no, they picked the motor—the beautifully-engineered, silky-smooth yet raucous S65 4.0-liter V8, the same engine used in the road-going E9X M3 and maximized for the legendary Z4 GT3. The modified S65 used in this example shares many aspects with the GT race-car powerplant, which means that the i8 GTR also delivers an equally brutal exhaust note on the track—a blissful symphony that defines this build.
While this ferocious track monster is a bona fide race car, it is not a legitimate i8. Instead of using the carbon-fiber panels from the road-going model, Hamofa used a specially-constructed carbon-fiber i8 shell instead. With the exterior now bearing the likeness of the plug-in-hybrid coupe, the newly completed i8 GTR was born.
The craftsmanship itself is marvelous, but the engineering is even more exquisite. Paired with the 540-horsepower, high-revving naturally-aspirated V8, the i8 GTR’s handsome exterior is met with equally alluring mechanical details, from its custom tubular headers to its ultra-lightweight Solution F1-supplied tube chassis. The mechanical artistry of the i8 GTR has already been displayed on track several times, most notably when it raced in the Belgian Belcar series, exercising its performance prowess on the Zolder and Spa circuits, among others.
Hamofa’s GTR creation has produced an opportunity for us to view the i8 from a new perspective, allowing us to finally envision the i8 as a more powerful variant of itself, properly viewed from behind the visor of a racing helmet. The finished product is as mesmerizing as it is disorienting—especially when you’re expecting the gentle, cosmic whir of some eDrive motors, rather than the ear-shattering pops and burbles of a beefy S65. The juxtaposition, however, is a welcome divergence from the original model, especially since BMW has not yet officially announced the production of a worthy successor.
While its fate has been determined, the i8 has served us well over its six-year lifespan—and there’s a reason why BMW continues to imagine and pioneer the future of electromobility. But the i8’s well-documented electrified reign doesn’t mean that we can’t also appreciate Hamofa’s motorsport concoction. If anything, the i8 GTR is proof that the i8 coupe and roadster’s influence was even more far-reaching than we thought. Its very presence was impactful enough to permeate not only the electrified market, but also the motorsport industry—a testament to the avant-garde vision with which it was created.
So, with our beloved i8 nearing the end of its life, I think it’s only apropos that we take a minute to appreciate its groundbreaking evolution over the years, from hybrid-technology pioneer to motorsport visionary. Thus, with this salute, I send our favorite spaceship coupe out with a bang—or, rather, some thunderous S65 downshifts.—Malia Murphy
[Photos and video via Dima Vysotskyi, Belgian-Motorsport, BelCarSeries.com, Hamofa Industrial Engines, and Hamofa Motor Sport.]