BMW is planning a return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year although is hopeful of additional manufacturers joining the GT Le Mans class, according to its motorsport director Jens Marquardt.
The German manufacturer and Corvette Racing are currently the only factory teams set to feature in the GTLM category next year, following Porsche’s previously announced withdrawal at the end of the season.
IMSA has already confirmed that the GTLM class will continue, although the makeup of the class remains undetermined.
Speaking to Sportscar365, Marquardt said a return with its pair of factory BMW M8 GTEs is “clearly the plan” but details are still needing to be worked out between IMSA and potentially other manufacturers.
“We’re working on how exactly the program is looking like,” he said. “It also depends on what the whole setup is like.
“We know Porsche is not going to be there. We are speaking with IMSA, their plans, how the GTLM field is set up for next year.
“There’s been good talks in that respect.
“We’re talking with our guys in the U.S. as well, as obviously the program is very important to the market there.
“As soon as we have something to announce, we will obviously do.”
Marquardt has suggested possibilities of other GTE-spec cars, such as the Ferrari 488 GTE and Aston Martin Vantage GTE, joining, or potentially even GT Daytona class teams with upgraded GT3 machinery.
Sportscar365 understands there had been dialogue between IMSA and Ferrari at one stage on a potential full-season factory GTLM program although those talks are understood to have died down in recent months due to sponsorship issues.
“Is it only those two [manufacturers]?” Marquardt said in relation to GTLM potentially only featuring BMW and Corvette in 2021.
“IMSA was talking to some GT manufacturers in GT3 whether they could do an upgrade or something.
“I think there’s talks of Ferrari, maybe Aston Martin as well because they run the WEC program. Maybe they are interested.
“It’s the discussion IMSA is having with the other manufacturers.
“If we are asked, obviously we tell everybody how good we feel with IMSA, how well that program suits us. It’s a very important market in the U.S.
“Clearly for us it’s a focus program and we’d be happy to have a bigger field there next year.
“We’ll see as we go along and we’ll hopefully be able to make all of the decisions and then also the announcements within the next month.”
Marquardt has ruled out BMW fielding additional cars to help fill the gap left by Porsche.
“We’re happy with the program and the team and everything,” he said. “I don’t see any way how we could expand this kind of situation.
“Where others withdraw I think it’s something where altogether how we can find a way to continue.
“But I don’t see a way to expand our efforts when others make a decision to withdraw.”
BMW “Respects” Porsche’s Decision to Withdraw from Mid-Ohio
This weekend’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio could serve as a preview to the 2021 season with both factory Porsches having been withdrawn due to COVID-19-related precautions.
It leaves just a four-car grid between the the pair of Chevrolet Corvette C8.Rs and two Team RLL-run BMW M8 GTEs.
“We respect the decision [Porsche] made,” said Marquardt. “It was for sure a difficult decision but at the end of the day we all know health and safety goes above everything.
“It’s always unpleasant if you don’t have the full competition with you but again full respect for their decision.
“We’ll fight this weekend with Corvette and try to close the gap to them.
“Still, I think after winning Daytona and the last event in Road Atlanta, we have a good chance still.
“It would be good to be in the challenge until the end of the season in Sebring.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report