Could BMW be the latest manufacturer to join the LMP1 ranks and go up against rivals Audi and Porsche, as well as Toyota and Nissan with a factory hybrid prototype?
That appears to be a strong possibility, judging by recent reports in German media.
Auto Motor und Sport reports that a LMP1 design project is underway from the Bavarian manufacturer, which if given the green light, could see BMW on the grid by as early as 2017.
The leading German publication states that BMW Motorsport personnel have been spotted at both FIA World Endurance Championship rounds this year, taking a particular interest in machinery from the top-level prototype class.
BMW, which won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1999 with its V12 LMR (pictured above) has not taken part in a major motorsports program since its withdrawal from Formula One in 2009, having since focused on DTM and its factory GTLM program in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
It’s understood that a potential factory prototype program could hinge on advancements in the new LMP1 regulations, due in 2017, which would rely more heavily on electric technology.
The current LMP1 regulations, launched in 2014, has only been confirmed for a three-year lifespan.
BMW recently introduced its ‘i’ brand, focused on hybrid and electric technology, with its flagship BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car having launched for the 2015 model year.
BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt wouldn’t deny the existence of a pending LMP1 program but made it clear the rules would likely have to change for them to pull the trigger.
“If you take BMW as a global brand we are not a slow follower or a fast follower, we are setting new paths, which we have shown with ‘i’ so I don’t think we need to follow what everyone does,” Marquardt told Auto Motor und Sport’s Marcus Schurig.
“If a global return on investment is balanced with your investment it can make a lot of sense but it has to be balanced.”
Read more of the article here (in German)