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Da Costa Expecting “Character-Building” Le Mans for BMW

BMW searching for pace at Le Mans after propping up Test Day; hopeful of BoP change…

Photo: MPS Agency

BMW Team MTEK driver Antonio Felix da Costa thinks the team’s second 24 Hours of Le Mans could be a “long, character-building” race unless a performance adjustment arrives.

BMW was the slowest GTE-Pro manufacturer at the test day, with the pair of BMW M8 GTEs propping up the class order.

The team’s fastest lap time of 3:56.415 set by Martin Tomczyk ended up being 2.4 seconds off the overall pace, set by Corvette Racing’s Mike Rockenfeller.

BMW was given an extra 9 kg compared to last year’s Le Mans, as well as a lower turbo boost curve, in the BoP bulletin issued before the test.

Da Costa estimated that this has cost the M8 GTE around 1.5 seconds to the competition on each lap of the 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe.

“If I had no lap times, I’d say we were fast, because the car feels good around the corners,” da Costa told Sportscar365.

“We’re coming here a year after our first time here and having a season of WEC under our belts now, you can see the steps forward we’ve made as a team.

“We are all better prepared but unfortunately it looks like the BoP that’s been given to us is not… I never like to talk about BoP, and I don’t want to have an advantage on BoP, but I just want to be able to be in the same race.

“It’s already hard to win if you have the best car, so at the moment I can foresee a very long, character-building 24-hour race for us, which I really would hate to have.

“It’s so special to be here and I would hate for this race to be dictated by something like that. Hopefully we can get something fair and we can just be in the race.”

MTEK team principal Ernest Knoors, meanwhile, suggested the BoP ruling issued in advance of the pre-event test might have been “overdone”.

All GTE-Pro cars are made slightly slower for Le Mans, compared to the automatically-adjusted BoP that they run to during the WEC rounds outside the 24 Hours.

Da Costa suggested that the other manufacturers have been slowed by “two to three percent” for Le Mans while BMW has lost “seven percent” of its potential lap time.

When asked if the BMW MTEK team wants to see any performance adjustments during race week, Knoors said, “I would hope so”.

Last year, BoP changes were made in the build-up to and after qualifying, including a late 10 kg weight break for the Aston Martin and BMW entries that were struggling for pace.

“In the end, I understand also that for the ACO it’s a difficult one,” Knoors told Sportscar365.

“They have to quantify how much we gain through the season by learning the car and having a better package and developing the package a bit more, and then they have to see how that fits with the rest now.

“I think maybe they’ve overdone it a little bit and hopefully we get a little bit back, so we are at least in the pack.

“That’s got to be the objective for us, and I think in the end that’s also the objective for the ACO.”

“Everything in Place” for Reliable Run

Da Costa believes that BMW has arrived at Le Mans with a much more durable package than last year, which marked only the M8 GTE’s second race with the MTEK squad.

Both of the team’s entries encountered issues in 2018, with its No. 81 car finishing 12 laps down in 11th and its No. 82 machine retiring after an accident.

“The thing is, the car is so reliable,” said da Costa, who shares the No. 82 machine with Augusto Farfus and Jesse Krohn.

“Last year when we were here, we couldn’t hit the curbs because the car would break and eventually both cars did break halfway through the race with damper and suspension [issues].

“This year, we’ve worked a lot this season and the car is perfect. The car is now ready to do a full 24-hour race with no issues. Everything’s in place.”

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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