BMW M Motorsport has officially announced their racing programs for the 2023 season, some of which we already knew. The most important racing program for the factory in 2023 will be their participation in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTP class with BMW Team RLL, who will debut their pair of M Hybrid V8 LMDh prototypes at the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona on the last weekend of January.
Drivers for the LMDh program had already been announced, and include Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly, Philipp Eng, and Augusto Farfus in two cars for the full season. They will be joined by Marco Wittmann and Sheldon van der Linde as third drivers for the Daytona and Sebring races, as well as IndyCar star Colton Herta for Daytona. BMW Team RLL participated in an official IMSA test at Daytona last week, where all the GTP cars from Cadillac, Porsche, and Acura in addition to BMW experienced niggling issues. The Rolex 24 at Daytona may come down to a race of attrition, with the win going to the team with the least amount of reliability issues during the race.
In GT, newcomers BMW M Team WRT, who moved to BMW after years with Audi and are based in Belgium, will compete with a pair of M4 GT3s in the GT World Challenge Europe series as well as select races in the Intercontinental GT Challenge. This is all in preparation for the team running the M V8 Hybrid LMDh program in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2024, which includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Intercontinental GT Challenge will race at Indianapolis on October 5th-7th, which may be a chance for BMW fans to see the WRT team compete in the US, if they choose to do so.
New works drivers on the twenty-person roster include Belgians Dries Vanthoor (brother of Porsche factory driver Laurens Vanthoor) and Charles Weerts, who had previous ties with WRT when they were with Audi. In fact, Weerts is the son of team co-owner Yves Weerts. BMW Junior drivers Neil Verhagen, Dan Harper, and Max Hesse were also announced as full-fledged works drivers, but there’s no word if new Junior drivers will be brought through the program starting in 2024.
American John Edwards will return as a works driver in 2024, though we have yet to learn where he’ll be racing since he’s not in the BMW Team RLL LMDh program and they’re not running a GTD Pro program in 2023. Drivers who will not return as BMW works drivers in 2023 include Alexander Sims (who is part of the Cadillac GTP driver lineup in IMSA next year), Nicky Catsburg (who will drive for Corvette Racing in the FIA WEC GTE-Am class), and Stef Dusseldorp.
ROWE Racing will also compete with the M4 GT3s again in 2024, with programs in the GT World Challenge Europe Endurance Cup (which includes only the longer races) and at the Nürburgring 24 Hours race. BMW M Team RMG will also compete in the Nürburgring 24 Hours and will be responsible for test and development work with “various BMW M race cars” in 2023, which may include development work on a new M2 CS Racing (our opinion, not stated by BMW). BMW M Motorsport also plans to continue competing with Schubert Motorsport, which competed in the DTM last year, but that series was in flux at the time of the announcement because of a change in ownership with the series. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy BMW and LAT Images]