BMW Motorsport had already announced some time ago that the new M Hybrid V8 LMDh prototype would be competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTP class in 2023, but the program for the car has expanded significantly with recent announcements.

For the 2024 season, BMW Motorsport will compete with the car in the Hypercar category in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC). The legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans race is the premier race on the WEC schedule, so this also means that BMW Motorsport will be competing for overall victory at Le Mans for the first time since 1999, when Jo Winkelhock, Pierluigi Martini and Yannick Dalmas drove the V12 LMR to victory. BMW last raced at Le Mans in 2018 with the M8 GTE.

For BMW M GmbH CEO Franciscus van Meel, racing at Le Mans is not only a chance to win the most prestigious endurance race in the world, but also to promote BMW’s electric car programs (the M Hybrid V8 uses a V8 combustion motor combined with an electric motor). “The decision to run the BMW M Hybrid V8 in the IMSA series from 2023, and the WEC from 2024, is a milestone for the project,” he said. “I sampled and marveled at the extraordinary flair of the 24 Hours of Le Mans during my first term as CEO of BMW M so I am very excited to be challenging for overall victory as BMW M Motorsport again at this classic and in the whole WEC for the first time in decades. The BMW M Hybrid V8 represents a turning point towards electrification for BMW M. The IMSA series in North America and the WEC, which takes place all over the world, are the perfect platforms on which to use our prototype to show how exciting electrified BMW M cars will be in the future.”

It remains to be seen whether electrified M cars will be exciting but the racing over the next few years certainly should be, as the new class of prototypes has significant participation from the world’s top auto manufacturers. The M V8 Hybrid took its first laps on a track on July 25th at the Dallara facility in Italy, with works drivers Connor De Phillippi and Sheldon van der Linde doing the driving. “It’s been an honor and a pleasure to complete the first laps of the BMW M Hybrid V8”, said De Phillippi. “This was a historic day for BMW M Motorsport within the LMDh project. Step by step we went through all functions of the car and by the end of the day we were able to do some laps with nearly full power, which is a good result for a roll-out. A huge thank you to everybody working so hard for this project at BMW M Motorsport, BMW M Team RLL, BMW M Team RMG and Dallara!”

Testing will continue in Europe in August with more works drivers getting a chance behind the wheel before BMW Team RLL and BMW M Motorsport crew take over testing in the US starting in September. “Due to the very tight schedule for the LMDh project, the plan has always been to focus on one field of application in the first season in 2023,” said Head of BMW M Motorsport Andreas Roos. “The IMSA series is perfectly suited for this. However, our mid-term goal was obviously to race on two fronts with the BMW M Hybrid V8, and also to use the major platform provided by the WEC and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We are now working determinedly towards this, at the same time as our program in North America. The car successfully completed its roll-out at Dallara in Varano de Melegari. We now start the intensive test work before the race debut in January 2023 at Daytona.”

—David Haueter

[Photos by BMW]



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