BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt has revealed that development of the BMW M8 GTE was delayed by nearly half a year due to a last-minute design change forced upon the German manufacturer.
The new-for-2018 GTE contender, which is set to debut in next weekend’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, underwent a “major concept” redesign after at least one manufacturer vetoed BMW’s waiver request for the car to feature a lower side profile.
The rejection, which is understood have come at the last moment, forced the entire project back to the drawing boards and delayed development by “four to five months” according to Marquardt.
“It was a tight schedule from the get-go and obviously, in the very initial concept phase, we had to basically re-do a major concept at one stage,” he told Sportscar365.
“What we were initially told was OK was all of a sudden not OK anymore.
“That’s the way things go every once in a while but at the end of the day, that cost us between four and five months of development time.
“That was really the biggest challenge in that project because with that amount of time, you can never catch up.”
Initially scheduled to hit the track in February or March, the revised car did not complete its first rollout until July 1.
Marquardt said its original M8 GTE design had already been in the wind tunnel and was far along in development, which further complicated matters.
“Our initial target was, having discussed with IMSA, to get it within the ballpark of all the frontal areas of all the other cars,” he explained.
“Lowering a car is always a difficult task when you take it based on the production car because you cannot lower a roof or something.
“You can only try and lower from the bottom side of things. There you hit a lot of structural parts so you have to be careful where you do it and how you do it.
“It’s quite a complicated task.”
While not having affected powertrain development, the revised M8 GTE had less than three months of on-track testing prior to the FIA’s Balance of Performance test in Ladoux in September, which essentially locked in its homologation.
Marquardt admitted the unexpectedly tight schedule resulted in a compromised development program.
“It was clear to us that with whatever solution we had to find [in testing], the first try had to be hitting the target,” he said.
“We didn’t have time to do loads of things and try an evolution, and maybe a second loop to see what’s better, no.
“We had to sit back and think, ‘That is the issue, what is the solution that will solve the problem the safest and what’s the amount of time that it will take to get us there and reschedule everything?’
“What you would normally do when you have normal development time is to say, ‘OK, we’ll just figure that out as we go along, and we’ll focus on those kind of things at the next test and just put in evolutionary steps as we go along.’
“That chance we didn’t have.”
Despite the short timeframe, the car has still racked up considerable mileage in testing, with more than 10,000 miles, including a 23.5-hour endurance test at Paul Ricard, heading into its competition debut at Daytona.
Marquardt said they didn’t run into any major issues in its recent tests, including outings at Daytona, Sebring and Homestead-Miami Speedway with BMW Team RLL.
BMW Pushing for Daytona BoP Change
With both of the RLL entries having struggled at the Roar Before the 24, Marquardt has called for Balance of Performance adjustments to be made ahead of the race.
The pair of M8 GTEs ended the official pre-season test at the bottom of the GT Le Mans time charts, with Alexander Sims the quickest of the drivers, but still 1.4 seconds adrift.
“Clearly, we haven’t yet found everything in the car but we won’t within in the next three weeks,” Marquardt said. “The question is really to get the right BoP.
“For sure, that doesn’t fit at the moment, but with what we’ve got, it basically confirmed our simulation and predictions.
“Depending on how much the competition puts on the table, it was that we would be between 1.5 and two seconds off, and that’s exactly where we were.
“With this package, everything works. We now need to get with IMSA and get the car properly balanced.
“Knowing that our predictions fit well, it should not be rocket science to get us into the right picture there and get a good race.”