BMW’s entry into the FIA World Endurance Championship for 2018 was influenced by the decision to build its first fully homologated GTE-spec car since the BMW Z4 GTE, according to motorsport boss Jens Marquardt.
The to-be-announced platform will replace the new-for-2016 BMW M6 GTLM in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, while taking the German manufacturer back to the 24 Hours of Le Mans for the first time in seven years.
“It’s obviously a very big thing for us,” Marquardt told Sportscar365. “We’ve definitely not enjoyed the time where the Z4 [would not be] really competitive at Le Mans even if it was with a GTE homologation.
“Then starting this year, knowing that we have the GTLM homologation, due to the fact that [GT] convergence didn’t happen… it was not the clear and targeted path.”
Marquardt said they had a decision to make on whether to continue racing the IMSA-only GTLM variant of the M6, through its originally planned three-year program, or make the long-term investment for an all-new car that would be accepted globally.
“It’s definitely something that we’re looking at the homologation period of our cars,” he said. “We have the first year under our belt with the M6, so in this three-year homologation period we’re [allowed one] upgrade.
“The decision was really, ‘How much sense does it make to go for an upgrade’ with the GT3, GTLM situation was rather a consequence out of convergence not happening than a plan.
“We’ve discussed this with our whole board and we’ve agreed that it’s a better step to go for a full GTE homologation and open up the opportunities for us rather than continue with something that, at the end of the day, we didn’t really intend.”
That move will see BMW take part in a global sports car championship for the first time since 2011, when it was represented in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup by both Schnitzer and RLL.
While having been on its radar for quite some time, Marquardt said the time is right for an expansion of its motorsports activities into WEC.
“The series is young, and so is Formula E, and we’ve looked at them over the last few years and you can see the WEC has become a really good and stable championship,” he said.
“Looking at the manufactures involved, it’s the place to be. I’d normally not say say ‘killing two birds with one stone’ but it really fits now.
“We have with the [WeatherTech Championship] in the U.S., the biggest and strongest market in the world, and European programs, and some activities in Asia and Australia with the GT3 cars that we’ve sold.
“We now have a program that also does the span all over with the FIA championship and a world title [in WEC]. It’s bringing the whole thing together.”
Details on BMW’s WEC program have yet to be confirmed, although Marquardt indicated it will be a full-factory GTE-Pro effort.
He said it could be run by one of its existing DTM teams, as each manufacturer will have to reduce its efforts from eight to six cars beginning next year.
Marquardt admitted they are close to finalizing the car model internally, with testing to start “as soon as we can” and would initially be with a mole car.
The fact that BMW will have two teams, on different continents, to develop and race its next-generation GTE contender plays a huge benefit, according to the global motorsports director.
“It definitely helps a lot,” Marquardt said. “Currently we have a car that is only raced in the U.S., and everything you learn is through that activity.
“Having a car that is racing in the U.S. as well as WEC, it is at the end of the day double the data and double the potential to improve, so I’m really looking forward to that because it’s going to help the total package I think.”