BMW to reduce factory IMSA entry to one car post-Sebring
The German manufacturer has confirmed a widely expected move in the wake of the IMSA debut of the new M4 GT3 with a two-car GTD Pro entry in last weekend’s Daytona 24 Hours season-opener.
BMW announced that RLL would be running two M4s in the new GTD Pro class back in November and subsequently revealed the driver line-ups for Daytona and the Sebring 12 Hours without specifying details of the remainder of the program.
The full-season entry under the BMW M Team RLL banner will be driven by Americans John Edwards and Connor De Phillippi from Round 3 at Long Beach in April.
A return to two cars is unlikely for either of the other two IMSA endurance rounds at Watkins Glen or Petit Le Mans in June and October respectively, according to BMW’s outgoing motorsport boss Mike Krack.
He explained that with development gearing up of the forthcoming LMDh program, which RLL will run in IMSA from next season, careful management of BMW Motorsport and the team’s resources was required.
“The LMDh project is getting going and we only have so many people,” said Krack, who will leave BMW this month to take up his new role as team principal of the Aston Martin Formula 1 team.
On the subject of expanding back to two cars for the two post-Sebring enduros, he said: “We don’t know for sure, but I would say it is unlikely.”
But Krack stressed the importance of contesting the full season with the M4 after Rahal ran only the four endurance rounds with its M8 GTE in the last year of the GT Le Mans class in 2021.
“The Balance of Performance is adjusted on what you demonstrate on the race track, and if you are not there, you cannot demonstrate,” he explained.
Krack described a small power increase for the M4 over the course of the Roar Before the 24 pre-event test at Daytona and then a 10kg weight increase immediately after the test as part of that process.
“We are working with IMSA to get it right, but with a new car it takes a couple of looks,” he said.
It is also important for Rahal to keep racing through the season for reasons of “team dynamics”, Krack added.
“If you only do four races, it is difficult to stay in the rhythm and to be sharp all the time,” he explained. “I think the team did well to avoid that last year, but it is something to keep in mind.”
BMW suffered a difficult IMSA debut with the M4: both cars broke their diffusers early in the race even though neither sustained any kind of contact.
The #25 entry of Edwards, De Phillippi, Augusto Farfus and Jesse Krohn ended up seventh in GTD Pro, while the sister #24 car shared by Philipp Eng, Marco Wittmann, Nick Yelloly and Sheldon van der Linde finished ninth after a further delay to repair damage caused by a puncture.
Van der Linde and Krohn will be dropping out of the BMW line-up for Sebring on 19 March.
Krack played down the possibility of BMW continuing with factory involvement in GTD Pro once its LMDh hybrid prototype starts racing next year.
“I cannot tell you for sure, but probably it will be a customer program after this,” he said. “A customer can enter GTD Pro if they want; the class is not reserved for manufacturers.
“This is something that the customers have to decide depending on what their targets are, but we will be supportive on any direction they choose.”
Longtime BMW customer Turner Motorsport will continue to run a BMW M4 in the GTD pro-am class.