Marc VDS Racing Team will compete in the GTE class of the European Le Mans Series next year, with Andy Priaulx joining the Belgian team as the lead driver.
The European BMW Z4 GTE program for Marc VDS was confirmed at BMW Motorsport’s end-of-season awards ceremony in Munich tonight.
It will be the first time the Z4 GTE will be raced outside of North America, having contested the ALMS and new-for-2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
Priaulx, who drove the BMW Z4 GTE in America this year, has been confirmed as the lead driver for the effort. His teammates for 2015 will be announced at a later date.
“This is a nice program, it’s going to be an enjoyable team. I’m really looking forward to doing these five races with Marc VDS, and hopefully we could have a championship to our name – that would be lovely,” Priaulx said.
“I’ve really enjoyed the racing in GT – there’s no easy stint. I really like the long distance races – they’re great, and all the ELMS races are four hours so that’s a nice length to share with other drivers, you can get into a nice rhythm.”
“Let’s not forget that there are some brilliant tracks – which I know really well – on next year’s calendar. I’m really looking forward to it.”
“This is one of the most exciting programs we’ve ever taken on as a team. Racing the GTE is a new challenge, and one we’re all thrilled about. Technically, the car might look similar to the GT3, but it’s a wholly different beast,” team principal Bas Leinders added.
“To get Andy Priaulx on board is also fantastic – I know him from my early racing days in the UK, so I know he’s a great racer. He spent last year driving this car so he knows it well, and that will be very important.”
“We know that the ELMS is a strong championship, with an excellent level of competition – it’s not going to be an easy year!”
It is highly unlikely that the confirmation of a European Z4 GTE program will include a return to Le Mans for BMW. Earlier this year BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt told Sportscar365 that BMW would not be competitive at Circuit de la Sarthe.
“We are confident that we will also fare well and mix it with the front-runners in the ELMS with BMW Sports Trophy Team Marc VDS,” Marquardt said tonight, making no reference to Le Mans at all.
As was the case this season, the Marc van der Straten-owned team is also planning to compete in the 24-hour races at the Nurburgring and Spa next year, plus the first VLN rounds of the season. The full lineup for the GT3 program will be announced at a later date.