As previously reported on this site in June, BMW Motorsport will return to prototype racing for the first time in over twenty years, when the V12 LMR (pictured above) was last raced at Le Mans and in the American Le Mans Series here in the U.S. BMW has been busy getting everything in place for the return, with some new developments announced over the last few months.
BMW will field two cars in the IMSA LMDh category in 2023, and has chosen Dallara (based in Italy) to provide the chassis. Dallara has a huge amount of experience building prototypes and provides the DPi chassis currently used by Cadillac in IMSA. Dallara will also be designing and building the LMDh chassis for Cadillac for the 2023 season, but they will have separate teams behind closed doors working for each of the manufacturers.
“After speaking to all the possible chassis partners, the decisive factor in our decision was that Dallara, with all its expertise and experience, was enthusiastic about working together with BMW M Motorsport,” said former BMW M CEO Markus Flasch, who was succeeded by Frank Van Meel on November 1.
BMW’s LMDh program will be supported largely by staff who have come from the Formula E and DTM factory programs, according to BMW M Motorsport Director Mike Krack. BMW exited the Formula E championship at the end of this season and exited DTM when the series switched to GT3-spec machinery before this season, though they were still represented in DTM by privateer teams. Moving staff from those discontinued programs to the LMDh program reportedly saved the jobs of between 80 and 100 people at BMW. The new M4 GT3 program will be supported by personnel who worked primarily on the M6 GT3 programs, with the M4 replacing the M6 next season.
BMW M Motorsport is expecting a mid-2022 rollout of the LMDh car, with its racing debut planned for the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2023. BMW has only confirmed their LMDh entry in IMSA so far, but a future entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans is not out of the question. “We are at the stage where we decided that we could not make sure that we did it properly, if we had IMSA and WEC/Le Mans,” said Krack in an interview with Sportscar365. “So we said, OK, we do IMSA first. And then we see. Maybe to participate we have to do the full WEC first, and also maybe do two years to be properly there, but we do not want to force that. If you force it, you are there, but you are not doing a good job. And we have learned lessons from the M8.” “If we do it, we want to do it properly.” BMW raced the M8 in both IMSA and WEC in 2018–2019 before dropping the WEC program after the 2019 Le Mans race.
There will certainly be plenty of competition in the prototype class in 2023. There are currently at least ten manufacturers working on either LMH or LMDh programs, including Audi, Acura, Cadillac, Ferrari, Glickenhaus, Peugeot, Porsche, and Toyota. LMH is the “Le Mans Hypercar” class that is running this year which was created by the ACO, while LMDh evolved from the IMSA DPi class. Both LMH and LMDh cars will be allowed to race in either IMSA or the WEC in the top prototype class in 2023.
It remains to be seen how an LMDh entry in IMSA could impact factory participation in the GT class come 2023. BMW is expected to announce a GTD Pro class entry for the 2022 IMSA season, but could potentially focus on LMDh in 2023 and let privateer teams like Turner Motorsport represent the marque in the GT class.—David Haueter
[Photo courtesy BMW Motorsport.]