While having only debuted its new M6 GTLM model this year, BMW is already planning ahead to its next factory GT challenger, which is set to be built to full GTE regulations and could take on the FIA World Endurance Championship by as soon as 2018.
BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt told Sportscar365 that multiple programs are under evaluation by the German manufacturer, with the vision of building cars to global regulations, unlike its new-for-2016 BMW M6 GTLM, which is only legal for competition in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Marquardt explained the GT3-based IMSA version of the car was built as a result of GT convergence talks unexpectedly breaking down in mid-2014, at a time when the M6 was already in development around a planned single platform.
“The GTLM car was a result [rather] than a desire,” Marquardt told Sportscar365. “We had to do this solution that we see now. It wasn’t intended from the get-go. So we’ll have to clearly think about how we attack it in the future.
“Obviously the U.S. is such an important market that for sure we’ll have a consistent program over here. But having a “solitaire” car with the DTM car already, I think we should try and avoid solitaires and have more platforms that are more widespread.”
A FIA/ACO-homologated GTE car would achieve that goal, and could take BMW back to the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time since 2011, when it ran a pair of BMW M3 GT2 cars in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup.
“It obviously gives you opportunities,” he said of the GTE platform. “We’ve always been big fans of doing cars that give you multiple opportunities.
“For sure, WEC, as a platform has nicely developed over the years. It has been newly established and it has proceeded nicely. Looking at the spectator figures in Le Mans this year again and the TV coverage getting better and better, the platform is developing nicely.”
While admitting that BMW continues to evaluate prototype options for Le Mans, including a potential Garage 56 effort, Marquardt said a GTE program would be “much quicker and much easier” to establish.
However, he wouldn’t be drawn into exactly when that could come, especially with GT convergence talks potentially set to resume.
Marquardt said the BMW M6 GTLM car is confirmed for WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition again next year, with a new car being developed sometime after that, potentially for as early as 2018.
A decision on the car model has not yet been made, but is understood to likely be around the new-generation M5/M6 model.
“It depends a little bit on the timing and how much time it takes us to get to agreements and how it fits in our model plans and everything,” Marquardt said.
“If the convergence discussions drag on forever, then we need to find a solution for ourselves. Because that’s the more important one.”