GT3 Platform Risking Collapse due to ‘Factory-Backed’ Customer Outfits – BMW’s Jens Marquardt

Credit: James Boone

The GT3 platform will not be sustainable should manufacturers continue to throw cash into customer teams, according to BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt.

In recent years, a greater influx of manufacturer involvement has taken place in supposed customer championship such as the GT Daytona class of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the European-based Blancpain GT Series, which has come at the cost of a number of gentlemen drivers being priced out of drives due to rising costs.

Marquardt insists this is not the BMW way of thinking, but he is worried for the future of GT3 racing should the trend continue.

“For me, I would say this is not sustainable on that level,” said Marquardt to Sportscar365. “It is a marketing activity for a manufacturer and then two years down the road they stop the marketing activity and then what do the customers do?

“That’s for sure not the BMW approach. We’ve really had very loyal customers to us and we’ve sold cars that are running really quite well in all championships.

“We help with drivers or technical support where we can and really help the teams to extract the real potential from the car, but that’s as far as it goes. If you look at it, we have been reasonably successful in that respect.”

According to Marquardt, the GT Daytona class has been the most affected by the influx of manufacturers, with he feeling that the likes of Lexus and even Acura are, in reality, factory outfits in a supposed customer environment.

“If you look at the field here [in IMSA], honestly speaking, I think there is half and half customer and works effort,” said Marquardt. “Lexus has two cars which, for me, are works cars. Acura’s main cars are also works cars.

“I have full respect for a guy like Will Turner who tries every year to get drivers together, to get a package together, to race in this super-highly competitive field. He is a true customer to us, so it is a difficult environment.”

The European scene has seen a similar pattern emerge, and Marquardt feels the current determination of manufacturers to offer heavily discounted rates to entice people from other brands is not what customer racing should be about, and he wants this to be addressed before it all implodes.

“We’ve had teams that have been with us for a while come to us and say, ‘Look, you have to understand,” said Marquardt. “We have to look at it commercially and what we’re getting as an offer from this other brand is good.

“‘We’d pay one-third of what we’d pay with you guys and get two cars and support and this and that.’ At the end of the day, you have to understand that those guys really have to still make a living with the people they have.

“Obviously there are manufacturers that spend a lot of money on pulling people from one brand to another but for me, this is customer racing. I don’t think it’s the right approach to basically sell the car half-price with a big package of parts or whatever.

“Other people can afford and want to [do that] but it’s not the strategy that BMW has.”