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Staff from Discontinued Factory Projects Working on BMW LMDh

BMW’s LMDh program staff “mainly” coming from FE with others holding DTM background…

Photo: BMW

BMW’s LMDh program will be supported by a combination of staff who previously worked on the company’s discontinued factory racing projects in Formula E and the DTM, according to BMW M Motorsport director Mike Krack.

The Munich-based marque is working with chassis constructor Dallara to develop an LMDh car for use in the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

BMW remained in the DTM for the series’ transition from Class One to GT3 rules this year, but entries are now operated by independent teams instead of the factories.

BMW’s works involvement in the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship came to an end after the 2020-21 season, although it continues to supply powertrains to the Andretti team.

Former DTM program boss Maurizio Leschiutta was named as the LMDh project leader in September, but the rest of the development team’s make-up had not been outlined.

“From stopping DTM and Formula E, there are still a lot of good people available at BMW,” Krack told Sportscar365.

“We recruited from these two. We also had to lay off some people and we have reduced the headcount. But mainly they come from Formula E, and some have a DTM background.

“The GT guys were all on the M6 and stayed on with the development of the M4, and we cannot take them out of there. They have to stay there because we also have a new GT4 coming.

“It’s not fully separated. The exchange is important, but what we’ve learned is that Formula E is giving us some good directions for the hybrid era of LMDh.”

Entering prototypes enabled BMW to maintain the bulk of its factory racing personnel.

In the second episode of a documentary series about the new program, BMW M CEO Markus Flasch explained that he would have “had to let go another 80 to 100 people” if the company’s executive board rejected his LMDh proposal earlier this summer.

Krack approximated that the split between former factory program staff is about three-quarters in favor of Formula E, with the rest coming from the DTM.

“In Formula E you have no core design on the chassis; you just get the chassis,” he said.

“So we were focusing on the rear end with the powertrain. In LMDh you have a core design on the chassis and a core design on the bodywork, with the BMW styling elements.

“It’s a little bit different. You cannot put a fixed ratio on it, but it’s all made up of people from former projects.”

BMW is aiming to roll out its new top-level prototype midway through 2022, while Krack acknowledged that there is little margin for error as the development moves on.

Of the 2023 participants, BMW was the second-latest to announce its program in June this year after Audi (November 2020), Porsche (December), Acura (January 2021) and Ferrari (February). The only one to make a later announcement was Cadillac in August.

“You have a project plan saying when you want to have the engine ready, the rollout, testing in Europe and testing in the U.S. because the first race is at Daytona,” said Krack.

“You count back from that. There is a homologation period which we had to change, but the whole chassis design process is on schedule. It’s a common plan we have with Dallara.

“There has been a lot of work done in CFD. Wind tunnel testing has begun. From that point of view, it’s on time. But we also don’t have huge margins, because it’s really tight. If we have a problem, we will quickly run into time problems.

“I think [it would be] something that we cannot predict, like the deliveries and function of all the spec parts. We are not saying it’s a huge risk, because others are having them earlier.

“Porsche is having them to roll out this year, so they will debug a lot of things. But if there is a small delay in the delivery of the gearbox or the hybrid system, it will affect everybody and us – with the tightest schedule – maybe even more.”

Former DTM factory team RMG is set to support the European-based development and testing of the LMDh car, as it has done with the upcoming BMW M4 GT3.

It is unclear if RMG will race the LMDh in the future, with BMW currently only committed to an American campaign.

A future 24 Hours of Le Mans and FIA World Endurance Championship bid has not been ruled out and BMW is understood to be keen for its car to appear in those events.

However, Krack suggested that BMW “has to be aware” of the possibility that the ACO would only allow its car to compete at Le Mans under a full-season entry into the WEC.

“Maybe to participate we have to do the full WEC first, and also maybe do two years to be properly there,” he noted.

“But we do not want to force that. If you force it, you are there, but you are not doing a good job. And we have learned lessons from the M8. If we do it, we want to do it properly.

“We are at the stage where we decided that we could not make sure that we did it properly, if we had IMSA and WEC/Le Mans. So we said, OK, we do IMSA first. And then we see.”

BMW Has “Had to Turn Down” Customer Enquiries

Krack revealed that demand has already been felt for customer-bought LMDh cars, however BMW is not in a position to advance on any of the preliminary requests.

BMW has only announced a factory endeavor so far, although other LMDh entrants including Porsche and Alpine have stated interest in selling cars.

“There are a lot of teams interested, and we have had to turn them down,” Krack said.

“It’s why we don’t want to do everything in the first place, because we would provide a bad service and not enough parts, support. And then the customers will not be happy.

“It sounds a bit conservative, but I think it’s better to do it small and a good job, and then everybody is happy after two years.”

Should BMW commit to selling LMDh cars in the future, it would need to decide whether that program operates under its factory or customer racing departments.

“It’s an interesting question,” said Krack. “We have the same with Formula E now. Because it’s only for one year, one team and one partner, we leave it as it is. We just try to help them to do that year.

“But it’s interesting: will we do LMDh from the customer racing department? I think it would be the right way to do it. Because the factory guys do not know what customers need: you need to always tell them!

“But you have the structure, the spare parts trucks and so on. So we would be foolish not to do that.

“But to be 100 percent honest, we have not really made up our mind about it. We are first focusing on [IMSA in 2023] and then we will see what comes next.”

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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