BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt believes LMP1’s uncertain future, amid Porsche’s withdrawal, will put the GTE-Pro class “more into the focus” in the FIA World Endurance Championship next year.
The German manufacturer is set to enter the WEC in 2018 with its all-new BMW M8 GTE, joining Ford, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Porsche in GTE-Pro, which is set to reach double-digit numbers in the full-season for the first time.
While Porsche’s LMP1 exit has come just days after Mercedes-Benz announced it would leave DTM at the end of 2018, also for Formula E, Marquardt sees the changing motorsport landscape as a positive for GT racing in general.
“It’s sad that in a week we had two announcements that are not positive for motorsport in general,” Marquardt told Sportscar365. “At the same time, often when something is changing, there is an opportunity.
“Porsche at the same time highlighted that they’re going to strengthen the GT and GTE effort, which is great. We’re entering [GTE-Pro] and we’re happy to fight the guys from Zuffenhausen and Weissach.
“I think, within the WEC championship, this strengthens the category and hopefully shows how attractive everything is.
“There are many manufacturers that have GT cars that are not yet GTE cars, and maybe that’s creating a bit of a pull in that respect.
“I think there is definitely a good chance of a GTE to, for sure, become more visible and more into the focus.”
Marquardt has noted the steps that have already been taken this year, in the creation of world championship titles for GT drivers and manufacturers, which has put a greater focus on the production-based category.
“If you watch Le Mans this year, the main race, honestly speaking, was the GT race,” he said.
“LMP2 was good as well, but from a manufacturer point of view, the GT race was one of the best that I’ve seen in many years.”
Lamborghini’s Head of Motorsport, Giorgio Sanna, agrees that the developing situation in LMP1 could be a boost to GT racing on a global scale.
While currently evaluating a future GTE program, Sanna admitted the Italian manufacturer would “of course” be more interested in committing to the category should it become the top class in the WEC and at Le Mans.
“It could be that GT will become the protagonist in Le Mans or in the WEC,” Sanna told Sportscar365. “It would also be a good momentum for all the manufacturers involved in GT racing.
“We cannot forget that LMP2, in terms of the market, is doing well. There were many cars at Le Mans.
“But of course in order to have a big show, you need factory drivers and factory involvement and today that’s not possible in LMP2. So Something has to happen.”
Marquardt, meanwhile, believes there still needs to be prototypes at the sharp end of the grid, suggesting a potential for a DPi-like platform could be the best solution.
“I honestly think that the step that was made with LMP2 was a good one for prototypes,” Marquardt said.
“Seeing the two concepts, the DPi concept in the U.S. and the LMP2 concept, it’s maybe something between the two of them to discuss.
“It’s worth the ACO watching what happens in the U.S. because there are manufacturers involved and the manufacturer platform like DPi is maybe worth also looking at.
“I think the same on GTE level and there you are again with a strong and healthy championship.”
The BMW Motorsport boss, however, stressed that a quick fix or decision on the championship’s format should not be taken overnight, even amongst continued talks of qualifying races for GTE cars for next year.
“When something like that happens, it’s best to think and not overreact, but react and think what is best for the overall situation and then come up with good ideas,” Marquardt said.
“We are in contact with the ACO and for sure that will intensify over the next weeks and get all the manufacturers involved into a process of together working out what’s best for the platform at the moment.”