BMW announces WEC exit as it focuses on Formula E, DTM, IMSA, customer racing and sim racing

by Vince Pettit

The BMW Group has announced that following the 2019 24 hours of Le Mans their brand will be leaving the FIA WEC series as it refocusses its international motorsport programme for the future.

Both BMW i Motorsport and BMW M Motorsport remain important to the brand as it concentrates its efforts on the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, DTM, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, customer racing and sim racing.

“Motorsport is and will remain firmly established in the genes of the BMW Group.” -Klaus Fröhlich, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development.

“We are using our commitment – next to the sporting competition – to demonstrate our performance and future ability as a company.” Frölich added.

Credit: BMW Motorsport

“The same developers that are driving forward electrification for BMW i are also working in Formula E. This ensures that BMW is also synonymous with driving pleasure in the field of electromobility.

“Through sim racing, we are reaching new, young target groups and giving our young drivers another platform, on which to compete.

“We are also demonstrating that BMW M stands for performance and high-performance motorsport on the racetracks of this world – for example, with Class 1, GTLM, GT3 and GT4. With this broad programme, despite a challenging environment, we are well positioned and are supporting the goals of our company strategy Number ONE Next.”

“Motorsport has always been an important pacesetter”

Credit: BMW Motorsport

BMW Group Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt explained, “Motorsport has always been an important pacesetter for the BMW Group, and a relevant testing ground for future development in the automobile industry as a whole – and that will remain the case.”

The Formula E programme for the German brand has seen success already, and despite some frustrations throughout the season so far are very often frontrunners at the races.

“Formula E has proved to be a fantastic platform for us to show our expertise in the area of electromobility, and to focus on other topics of the future. Our entry at the start of Season 5 was a resounding success, and we won at the first time of asking.

“Our involvement in this series is set for the long term. For us, Formula E is not simply a matter of motorsport, our involvement goes beyond that.

“For us, it is an important platform for demonstrating our expertise in the major fields of innovation in the automobile industry. What is important to us is that the cost-benefit ratio in Formula E remains positive, even with new competitors joining constantly.”

Credit: BMW Motorsport

With DTM aligning itself with series like Super GT with the Class 1 regulations, BMW recognises the opportunities that it could present.

“With the introduction of the new Class 1 regulation, the new turbo engine, a new manufacturer and important steps towards internationalisation, the DTM has embarked on a promising journey. Now it is important to keep going. We believe in the series and will fully support the DTM in further expanding its international presence.”

“The IMSA series plays a central role for us in North America and is developing well. The USA is the most important market for BMW M cars, so it is very fitting to build a direct bridge to our production models there with the BMW M8 GTE.” added Marquardt.

End of the FIA WEC programme after 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans

While the FIA WEC programme has been brief, as a result of the ‘Superseason’ the M8 GTE will have competed in two 24 Hours of Le Mans races. The programme has been tough for the BMW Team MTEK squad as they currently sit at the bottom of the championship standings for Manufacturers.

“We will not compete in WEC going forward.” explained Marquardt. “Therefore, the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June will be another highlight for us in drawing to a close – just like in 2018, when we celebrated the successful world premiere of the BMW 8 Series Coupe there.

“But in light of us sharpening our focus as part of our strategy for the future, continuing our WEC involvement in the coming years does not fit with our direction.”

“We would like to thank BMW Team MTEK for its dedication over recent years and we wish WEC all the best and hope that it makes good progress.”

Focus on Customer Racing Programme

Credit: BMW Motorsport

As part of the restructure there will be added support for customer racing, building on the success of the BMW M4 GT4 and the BMW M6 GT3.

The success of the M6 GT3 was highlighted last weekend with the top three positions of the qualifying race for the 2019 24 Hours of Nürburgring being occupied by their cars. Marquardt revealed that a new GT3 model is already being worked on.

“As part of the BMW M Motorsport Customer Racing Programme, privateer drivers and teams will continue to represent the BMW brand around the world in the future. We will provide them with a wide range of support – and competitive vehicles of course.

“The BMW M4 GT4 has proved to be a real winner since its debut in the 2018 season and the BMW M6 GT3 continues to celebrate regular victories all over the world.

“A successor for our successful GT3 model is already in the works. This means that works-supported starts in iconic international GT races such as at the Nordschleife, at Spa-Francorchamps or in Macau will still be possible.”

Credit: BMW Motorsport

In addition to the traditional four-wheeled motorsport programme BMW Motorsport confirmed its continuation of the BMW Motorrad team as it races in the World Superbike Championship.

“It is great to see how many touch points there already are between the BMW Motorrad Motorsport programme and us at BMW Motorsport.

“We want to make these synergies even more intense under the umbrella of BMW M Motorsport in the coming years. The WorldSBK is the ideal stage for the BMW S 1000 RR, with which the BMW Motorrad WorldSBK Team represents the BMW colours.”

In the final part of the announcement Marquardt revealed that the manufacturer will be increasing its efforts in Sim racing as it grows in importances within the motorsport industry.

“Sim racing is an exciting future-oriented field for us – and is now an officially recognised motorsport discipline. We have the utmost respect for the competitors in these virtual races and want to make them even stronger with our experience and technologies.

“To that end, we will draw up a programme that is linked to our BMW Motorsport Junior Programme and raises it to a new level.”

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