What would BMW be without racing? We could be about to find out if recent developments are any indication. The Bavarian automaker competed in F1, the World Touring Car Championship and various sportscar series, while running its own Formula BMW feeder series that has helped breed such talents as Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel. The automaker announced its withdrawal from Formula One at the end of this year, and reports now indicate that they'll be severely curtailing their participation in the World Touring Car Championship as well.
BMW mounted a concerted comeback effort in the WTCC this year, only to narrowly lose out again to SEAT. Whether the decision is directly related to the upset or not is unclear, but reports out of Europe say that BMW will be reducing the number of its cars in the championship next year from five to two. That means eliminating the national teams system it had in place, consolidating and putting its WTCC-spec 320si in the hands of Team Schnitzer (the erstwhile BMW Team Germany), which gains triple champion Andy Priaulx from BMW Team UK to partner with multiple race winner Augusto Farfus. Two-time CART champion and double amputee Alex Zanardi, who was racing for BMW Team Italy-Spain, is moving to the Superstars Series. (Touring car fans should also note that SEAT's 2008 champion Yvan Muller is moving to Chevrolet to replace the retiring former F1 driver Nicola Larini.)
What remains to be seen is whether BMW will continue cutting its racing activities in other series as well, or if they'll have cut enough expenditures from their F1 and WTCC programs to let its sportscar programs and Formula BMW survive the cutbacks.
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