With new cars, a revised driver lineup and tighter scrutiny on Balance of Performance, BMW Team RLL heads into the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season with renewed hopes of making headway in the fight for the GT Le Mans title.
The Ohio-based team returns to operate the German manufacturer’s factory GT program for the seventh consecutive season, but with some subtile changes, including two new BMW Z4 GTE chassis, as BMW Team RLL technical director Jay O’Connell explains.
“The main reason to get two new cars is that the existing cars had run two seasons,” O’Connell told Sportscar365. “Each had over 20,000 miles on them. Every mile on the track is equal to 50 miles on the street, so that’s a lot of miles on a race car. We needed to replace them.
“BMW put together two new chassis and rollcages and sent them over. We’ve painted them, prepared them and are busy building them up. We’ll have the two new cars at the Roar test in January.”
The team completed a shakedown with one of the new cars during a private test at Daytona earlier this month alongside BMW’s Z4 GTE test car and its eight drivers for the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, including Lucas Luhr and Dirk Werner, who take on full-season duties in 2015.
With GTE cars currently under a development freeze, O’Connell said the focus has been on adding further reliability to the V8-powered cars. Suspension updates were rolled out in August 2013, which counted as the car’s one permitted development.
The one visible change to the 2015 cars, O’Connell said, is a slightly updated nose.
“There’s small refinements, whatever you can do to make everything more efficient as you’re building the car,” he said. “With the issue we had in the race last year, BMW has been working to get us a better rear wheel bearing.
“That’s been a slight redesign there and the main reason we wanted to prove out the new parts at Daytona a couple of weeks ago, to make sure everything was working as expected.”
The other area of focus has been on Balance of Performance, with BMW Motorsport working directly with IMSA optimizing the performance levels of the car, which has typically struggled for straight-line speed.
For Daytona, the Z4 GTE will have a 0.7 mm larger air restrictor than it ran there one year ago, while also with reduced weight and gurney size in comparison to its end-of-2014 specification.
“We’ll do everything we can to be competitive,” O’Connell said. “I think we’ve got a good chance and of course BMW will keep pushing to keep the Balance of Performance as fair as possible so that everyone has a chance.”
While having scored a runner-up finish in the 2014 event, largely down to reliability, O’Connell realizes the importance of starting the season off strong, especially as the team looks to take the fight to the likes of Corvette and Porsche for the GTLM championship.
“The first couple of races, especially Daytona, is all about staying out of the garage,” he said. “If you look last year, the cars that finished first and second were the only two cars that didn’t go to the garage for some kind of repair.
“It’s an endurance for the first two races and after that, Long Beach to Laguna, it will be interesting to see how competitive we can make the car. We’re going to do the best we can.”