BMW is set to return to endurance racing and more specifically the LeMans 24 Hours and IMSA. The long expected announcement was made last week with a teaser image of the LeMans winning LMR. The first race is targeted to be the 2023 24 Hours of Daytona with LeMans to likely follow later that year. It’s unclear whether BMW intends to race all or part of the IMSA or WEC calendar but the intent is to “fulfill the prerequisites to challenge for overall victory at the most iconic endurance races in the world from 2023,” according to BMW M Head Markus Flasch.
The intent for BMW is to take in the LMDh class which is a mix or spec series and manufacturer components. Alongside Porsche, Audi and Acura, BMW will be picking from one of four chassis to design a body shell around. Manufactures will be designing and building their own engines but will have to use a series spec hybrid system that, when combined with the petrol engine, cannot produce more than 670 hp.
The class will be racing directly against cars from the Hypercar Class which is intended to be derived from (you guessed it) street based hypercars. While we love seeing BMW return to endurance racing, LMDh represents a cost conscious, templated way to do it and not quite as exciting as the clean-sheet of paper Hypercars. Toyota, Peugeot, Glickenhaus and eventually Ferrari will be racing against the LMDh class in cars that look to be potentially much more interesting.
That aside it will be incredible to see BMW back in a top level racing series and doing it on both sides of the Atlantic.
BMW M Motorsport is returning to international prototype racing. On Thursday, it was confirmed that an LMDh car is being developed for use in the North American IMSA series. From the 2023 season, this car will allow BMW M Motorsport to compete for overall race wins at such prestigious classics as Daytona, Sebring and Road Atlanta (all USA).
“BMW is back on the big motorsport stage,” said Markus Flasch, CEO of BMW M GmbH. “In entering the LMDh class, BMW M Motorsport is fulfilling the prerequisites to challenge for overall victory at the most iconic endurance races in the world from 2023. We will be fully focussed on tackling this challenge. There is a spirit of optimism here. BMW has a successful history in prototype racing – the Le Mans victory in 1999 was unforgettable. Reviving this story in a modern prototype with M Power will thrill fans of BMW M Motorsport. The LMDh concept guarantees maximum cost control and offers a wide range of possible applications, including the IMSA series in North America, an extremely important market for BMW M. We are all eager to get stuck into the LMDh category with a compact and highly-efficient team set-up.”
Mike Krack, Head of BMW M Motorsport, is responsible for the development, testing and race outings of the new car. He added: “Everyone in our motorsport team shares the same motivation: we want to test ourselves against our strongest opposition at the racetrack – and to celebrate victories for BMW. As such, the LMDh project is a real affair of the heart for us and exactly the new challenge we were hoping for. An extremely exciting project awaits us. To challenge for overall victories in Daytona and Sebring is a massive motivation. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but the anticipation is immense.”
The regulations for LMDh cars stipulate that they have both a combustion engine and an electric motor. While each manufacturer may develop their own combustion engine, the electric motor and battery, as well as the transmission, are standard parts. The chassis is also built by an external partner. A BMW M Motorsport works involvement, with two cars, is planned from the 2023 IMSA season. The works team and the driver line-up for the two LMDh prototypes will be announced at a later date.
The last big win for a BMW prototype came in 1999, when the BMW V12 LMR won the 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA). The car also won the 12 Hours of Sebring in the USA in the same season.