BMW has announced it is returning to the FIA World Sportscar Championship in 2018 with a new GTE racer to take on Ferrari, Ford, Aston Martin and Porsche.
The news means BMW will return to the Le Mans 24 Hours race for the first time in several years and is something the firm is “particularly looking forward to”.
BMW will be hoping to repeat its success in 1999, its first and only win as a constructor – despite entering the race regularly since the 1930s. Its legendary M1 racers from the early 1980s were particular highlights, while the 1970s 3.0 CSL and 3.5 CSL are cult racing cars today.
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The 2018 car won’t be a full-on LMP1 racer to take on the title-winning Porsche 919 Hybrid and previous all-conquering Audi R18 e-trons, though: instead, it will compete in the booming GTE class which this year has welcomed the attention-grabbing (and Le Mans 24 Hours-winning) Ford GT racer.
Racing experts are already speculating a racing version of the next-generation BMW M5 or M6 is the likely new car that will mark BMW’s return to FIA WEC GT racing; the firm currently races the BMW M6 GT2 in the United States.
“The way the WEC has developed so well makes us confident that the re is a big future for GT racing,” said BMW motorsport director Jens Marquardt.
BMW confirms new motorsport strategy
The Le Mans announcement came as BMW revealed its new motorsport strategy, which will see the brand compete in:
- DTM German touring cars
- FIA World Endurance Championship
- U.S. IMSA SporsCar Championship
- FIA Formula E
- GT3 and GT4 sportscars
- Dakar Rally (with MINI)
The Formula E announcement is particularly significant – BMW is to team up with Michel Andretti’s Formula E team, “in order to familiarise itself with processes in this innovative series, and to check the possibility of a works involvement in the future”.
This adds further kudos to the fledgling all-electric single-seater racing series, which has recently been buoyed by the official launch of Jaguar’s new official works Formula E racer.
There is, however, no news of any involvement in Formula 1. BMW withdrew from F1 seven years ago and shows little desire to go back there. Instead, it is focusing on a broad, diversified motorsport strategy that includes BMW M, BMW and MINI, all branded under a new BMW Group Motorsport division.