ROWE Racing’s switch from BMW to Porsche for its Blancpain GT Series program came after BMW withdrew its funding from the championship, according to team principal Hans-Peter Naundorf.
The team, which is run by Motorsport Competence Group, has elected to run with two different manufacturers this year, using a new Porsche 911 GT3 R in Blancpain GT and focusing its BMW M6 GT3s on VLN and the Nürburgring 24.
It comes after a three-year run with BMWs in the Blancpain GT Series that included winning the Total 24 Hours of Spa in 2016 during the car’s debut year.
After limited success outside of Spa, the German manufacturer has elected to realign its funding towards a two-car Intercontinental GT Challenge entry for 2019.
“Our sponsor didn’t want to do [IGTC], and I didn’t have other money, and so I said I can’t do it unless [BMW] pay for it,” Naundorf explained to Sportscar365.
“[BMW] decided to go for Intercontinental and we wanted to stay in Blancpain, so we’ve been looking for the best possible solution for us and the sponsor.
“Nobody wanted to quit on BMW and nobody wanted to quit on us. We still really believe in doing the Nürburgring with the BMW, because the car is very strong there.”
Walkenhorst Motorsport and Team Schnitzer will each run a BMW for the full IGTC season, while it remains possible that the manufacturer won’t be represented in European Blancpain GT competition at all.
Naundorf says his team’s decision to run just one Porsche for the five-race Endurance Cup season, with a second car joining just for Spa, was partly based on the availability of factory drivers.
“With BMW, we had all kinds of changing driver lineups,” he said.
“There is the highlight of Spa but the races before are also important for us and the sponsor. For BMW, it wasn’t that much, so we had changing driver lineups.
“This doesn’t work anymore in Blancpain, because the racing is so tight so if you have a driver jumping from a DTM car with Hankook tires, over to the Pirelli tires, it’s horrible. They need mileage.
“This was a little bit the case with Porsche because it doesn’t have enough works drivers to give you a full commitment of the same drivers for five events.
“We have one car with a consistent driver lineup who also [do] the Intercontinental GT races [together] with other teams. We want to build a team together over the season.”
DTM Plans Abandoned Due to Costs
Naundorf confirmed that he had worked towards establishing a DTM program this year but ultimately had to abandon the plans due to the high costs involved.
He had been in “strong talks” with BMW to run as a semi-works team, similar to WRT’s situation with Audi.
“We’ve been in talks with BMW since a year ago, and we had strong talks but then the Mercedes guys just withdrew,” he said.
“I had a talk with Gerhard [Berger, chairman of DTM promoter ITR] about it and [BMW Motorsport director] Jens Marquardt about it, starting in June or July. We had sponsors interested in this series.
“These big companies look at what value they get, and the numbers. The costs are about three times what the outcome numbers are, so it’s pretty pricey.
“BMW made us an offer of what we had to bring and it was much too high to find the money for, including with pay drivers.”