Despite rumblings in the IMSA paddock indicating a strong level of interest, BMW has ruled out a DPi effort for next year, with a continued focus on GT racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“We’re happy right now with where we are with IMSA,” BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt told Sportscar365. “We are happy with the GT, the M6, that has worked really well.
“It’s the silhouette that people really relate to as a BMW. That’s what we feel is working well right now.
“Prototypes is, for me… If it’s a technology that you communicate with it, it could be an option. If it’s standard, I see it’s fairly difficult.”
The German manufacturer, which currently enjoys a long-term factory program in the GT Le Mans class, has evaluated DPi, but according to Marqardt, is not currently in a position to move forward with a project.
“We’ve obviously been asked because they say we’ll open up the engine supply framework if there is huge interest, and it’s also a kind of a business case, then maybe yes,” he said.
“It really would be a little side-boat to a normal program, where you would say if the engine could fit without a big effort you could somehow do this, but I don’t think it’s realistic in the next couple, two years.
“It’s nothing that we’re really intensively looking at.”
BMW does have a history of prototype racing in the U.S., most recently through a DP engine supply program that brought support from BMW of North America until 2013.
Marquardt, however, said IMSA’s requirement of having manufacturer-specific bodywork would not likely have an affect on the brand’s activation, particularly as it already races its flagship production cars.
“In my honest opinion, to tweak the bodywork, make it look like something, the M6 is the M6… And the M4 is the M4, and the 235 is the 235, and I don’t need a look-alike,” he said.
“Just putting the kidney [grill] on the car doesn’t make it a BMW. There’s more to a BMW.”
While BMW’s short-term focus remains in GT, Marquardt wouldn’t discount an expansion to DPi in the future, as has been the case for a potential LMP1 effort in the 2020s.
“You should never rule anything completely out,” he said. “People ask me about F1! It’s not on the radar right now but I don’t know what’s in five years’ time.
“Honestly speaking, if I look at the program and what we are planning for the next two years, which is the radar screen that we have, I wouldn’t see that realistically.”
Fellow GTLM competitor Ford, which was also previously represented in the DP class, has shared similar views on a potential DPi entry.
“Right now we’re fully focused on GT,” Ford Performance global director Dave Pericak told Sportscar365.
“It really depends on where they take that series, what we want to do with it, and if there’s a time in the future that it would make sense for us.
“There is no DPi program in the plans right now. It doesn’t mean we will never [enter] that series again, and I think it has its place, but right now there are no plans.”
Prospects of a Bentley DPi, meanwhile, are still on the “back burner” according to motorsport director Brian Gush, who also ruled out a program for next year.
So far, only Cadillac and Mazda are understood to be firm DPi entrants for 2017, with Panoz reportedly still awaiting approval from IMSA to race with its proposed engine/bodywork package on a Ligier JS P217.