BMW will be part of the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2018, as part of the company’s plans to expand their GT racing activities and ultimately marking their return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Additionally, BMW will also join Formula E through a partnership with Andretti Formula E, their first race will be in the fifth season – 2018/19.
BMW has a great history in Le Mans, having won a class in the 1939 race with a BMW 328, and an overall fifth place finish. Later, teams like Schnitzer Motorsport with the BMW 2800CS have been part of the BMW Le Mans history. Notably, BMW Motorsport has raced cars like the BMW 3.0 CSL (1973), BMW 3.5 CSL (1976), BMW M1 (1980, 1981), McLaren F1 GTR (1996, 1997), BMW V12 LM (1998) and the BMW V12 LMR.
In modern times, BMW competes in various racing series including IMSA championship, Blancpain GT with the BMW M6 GT3 that replaced the BMW Z4, Dakar Rally with the Mini brand and DTM with the BMW M4. A return to Le Mans will mark their first attempt in WEC which currently has a few manufacturers in the GT category comprising of Ferrari, Ford, Porsche and Aston Martin. Since there is no GT3 class in WEC, BMW will have to either come up with an entirely new car or have the BMW M6 GT3 homologated as a LMGTE car.
Speaking about their new move, BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt said: “Starting with the 2018 season, we want to further expand our activities in GT racing and compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship… This obviously also includes our return to Le Mans, which we are particularly looking forward to. The way the WEC has developed so well makes us confident that there is a big future for GT racing.”
In regard to Formula E, Klaus Frölich a member of BMW’s board of management said: “Electric mobility will continue to grow in importance. In the last 10 years, we have established a leading position in the automobile industry in this field with BMW i.
“Through our partnership with Andretti Formula E in the Formula E Championship, we will now additionally see a close interaction between motor racing and production development in our company, from which both departments will benefit.”