GT racing cars are typically based on production models. And so it is with the new BMW M8 GTE. The difference here is that BMW has unveiled the competition version before the road-going model.
The racing version of the Bavarian automaker's forthcoming flagship sports coupe, the new M8 GTE is set to replace the M6 GTLM and Z4 GTE as BMW's top sports racer – and mark its anticipated return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Revealed at the Frankfurt Motor Show, the new BMW M8 GTE packs a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 – based on the production block and cylinder heads – mandated by regulations to produce no more than 500 horsepower. Power is transmitted by a six-speed sequential gearbox.

Since the production model (previewed by the stunning concept at Villa d'Este) wasn't already finished when development began on the M8 GTE, computer simulation played a big part in developing the traction control and the vehicle's form.

The use of carbon-fiber bodywork helped keep weight down to 2,700 pounds – a good 55 lbs less than the regulations allow, which means the team ought to be able to play around with extra ballast to tweak the vehicle's handling balance.

Look for the M8 GTE to mark its race debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona in Florida come January as it gears up to take on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in North America and the FIA World Endurance Championship in Europe and around the globe. When it hits La Sarthe, it'll mark the first time that the factory will enter Le Mans since the M3 GT2 last raced in 2011.

That'll be all well and fine for race fans, but the bigger indication this debut gives us is how the road-going 8 Series will look. Strip away in your mind's eye the competition-spec aero and the fresh take on the traditional BMW Motorsport livery (we particularly dig the red extending deep into the grille) and you should have a fairly accurate picture of what Munich's new flagship will look like.

* Live photos added to gallery