MTEK team principal Ernest Knoors has described BMW’s decision not to continue in the FIA World Endurance Championship next season as “an opportunity missed”.
The German manufacturer announced earlier today that its works program with the BMW M8 GTE will not return after the 2018-19 ‘Super Season’, while its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship project with Team RLL will carry on.
Knoors told Sportscar365 that it was a “huge disappointment” for MTEK to not be able to pursue a second term with the M8 after just one season competing in the GTE-Pro ranks.
“I would say it’s a huge disappointment [because] it’s not just a year of running in WEC, but also the year of preparation and developing the car,” he said.
“We’ve changed our team completely on BMW’s request from a DTM organization to a WEC organization, which is a different approach.
“We were extremely strong with our pit stops in DTM, winning the pit stop award, and then changing the crew to a two-gantry approach… this was different for the guys. It’s a complete reversal of your methods.
“All that effort has gone in, and you want to capitalize on that effort. Our pit stops at the start of the [season] were very good in WEC and you want to continue on that.
“You want to see BMW do well with this car. I think it’s an opportunity missed. At the end, we have to respect it. It’s BMW’s money and BMW’s budget, and they need to see a return on it.”
BMW confirmed its exit from the GTE-Pro class in a statement outlining a “greater focus” on its international motorsport programs, which include Formula E, DTM and sports cars.
The reasoning behind its WEC departure was not made explicitly clear, however it’s understood that the financial returns of its involvement in the series likely played a part.
Knoors said that BMW assured MTEK that the decision was not forced by any performance shortcomings.
The German manufacturer is the only GTE-Pro squad not to have won a race in the 2018-19 season so far, although it did pick up two second-place finishes at Fuji and Sebring.
“Jens [Marquardt, BMW Motorsport director] actually stressed to us that he was happy with the team performance,” he said.
“He understood that the BoP system in WEC is different than in IMSA, and that we have had to come from a bit further back.
“As soon as the BoP was putting a level playing field out there, we actually showed that the car could compete.
“Obviously, we were a little bit disappointed in ourselves by not winning, but there were some difficult races that we had to deal with, like Spa where the weather conditions were so variable that it was a bit of a lottery. But even there, the car showed that it is quick in a variable operating range.
“We’re still trying to put the car in the right position every time, but since the conditions have changed so much that becomes a difficult task. If you have a bit more development with the car, you can cover that easier.
“In short, I think the message that we have got from BMW is that they are happy with the performance and they are happy with the way we operate.
“They also understand that the car is quite complicated to work with. From a design point of view, it has some choices made that don’t make it the easiest car to work on.
“They’ve always acknowledged that, and we’ve always got the best out of it that we could. So I think that [performance] didn’t play a role.”
2019-20 Program “Impossible”
Knoors confirmed that tight timescales and the lack of a projected M8 GTE customer program in the WEC has prevented MTEK from returning to the series next season.
Entry applications for the 2019-20 campaign closed on May 21, while it’s understood that the final decision on the program was communicated to MTEK on the same date.
“Those options are there [to race in WEC independently] but if you look at the calendar the decision is extremely late,” explained Knoors.
“Trying to put a campaign together for next season, on that foot, is extremely tight and I would say impossible – not from a technical point of view, but from a financial and support point of view.
“That obviously is also still down to BMW, whether they would actually make the cars available for that. That’s still an open point. But at the moment there is no discussion.”
Knoors added that MTEK wants to apply its recently-gained WEC knowledge to the paddock in the future, and also expressed interest in a return to DTM.
The team, which is still under contract with BMW, raced in DTM between 2013 and 2016 before switching to sports cars when the M8 GTE program launched.
“We would like to continue in the WEC pit lane – whether that is in that category [GTE-Pro] or another category, we are open to it,” said Knoors.
“In the team itself we have a wide mix of backgrounds, which is something I have always pushed for so we can adapt to any car that we have, whether it’s a formula car, touring car or prototype.
“An engagement in WEC is pretty straightforward because we know a lot about that. We also have background in DTM, so that’s something that we could look at.
“We want to be involved in a program which is good and where we can also show our performance level. That’s what we are looking at now.”