BMW 320si WTCC – Click above for high-res image gallery
If you were disappointed with BMW's decision to leave Formula One at the end of last year, hold on to your hats as the Bavarian automaker is further scaling back its racing programs, announcing the discontinuation of its factory-backed World Touring Car Championship effort for next season.
The move follows a change in leadership at BMW Motorsport in which longtime director Mario Theissen is making way for incoming boss Jens Marquardt. Last year, after pulling out of the Sauber F1 team, BMW announced it was downsizing its WTCC works effort from three factory-backed teams to just one. But following its decision to compete against Audi and Mercedes-Benz in the national DTM series, it has evidently opted to shut down that single WTCC team as well.
BMW will, however, continue supplying its recently reworked 320 TC to independent teams in the WTCC, following the same path forged by SEAT in its withdrawal from the series after claiming the championship last year. The move leaves Chevrolet and Volvo (which enters the series in a limited capacity next year after dominating the Swedish Touring Car Series) as the only works teams in the series. Official announcement after the jump.
BMW presents comprehensive racing programme for 2011.
BMW announced details concerning its 2011 motor racing programme during the BMW Sports Trophy Awards Ceremony held in Munich on Saturday.
The company's programme for the coming season has four main stays: Numerous campaigns with the BMW M3 GT2 in endurance racing, with a simultaneous ramping up of the successful Customer Racing programme. Preparations for BMW's return to the DTM in 2012 are running flat out, while the brand's decades-long young driver development commitment continues under the Formula BMW Talent Cup banner.
"The 2011 international motor racing season will once again see BMW play a major role," said BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen. "Our chosen vehicle for endurance campaigns is the BMW M3 GT2, which not only celebrated victories in the 2010 American Le Mans Series, but also proved successful in Europe and Asia. The car will once again be campaigned in 24-hour classic events in Europe, and in the ALMS in North America. We are convinced we will be able build on the successes of this past year in order to continue the BMW M3's unique motor racing success story."
Theissen continued: "The BMW 320 TC, powered by the newly-developed 1.6-litre four-cylinder (DI-)turbo engine, will expand our Customer Racing offering, and be entered in the World Touring car Championship by private teams. The traditional BMW Sports Trophy and our new Formula BMW Talent Cup young driver programme complete our involvement. In parallel we are naturally pressing ahead with preparations for our return to the DTM. Development of the BMW M3 DTM is progressing very well."
Jens Marquardt, who from 1st January 2011 will share responsibility for BMW's motorsport activities before replacing Theissen on 1st July 2011, was publicly introduced in the BMW Welt's Double Cone auditorium. "It is a privilege to meet the BMW Motorsport family ahead of officially joining the company," said the 43-year-old. "BMW Motorsport's programme is extremely comprehensive, and BMW fans across the world can look forward to a thrilling season. I am proud to be able to contribute to these projects from next year."
Consistency in the cockpit.
The driver line-up for the BMW M3 GT2 campaigns remains unchanged. Andy Priaulx, Augusto Farfus, Dirk Müller, Dirk Werner, Jörg Müller, Uwe Alzen, Dirk Adorf and Pedro Lamy will race the BMW M3 GT2. As last year, it is planned to contest the big 24-hour races in Europe. A final confirmation for racing at the Nürburgring, in Le Mans and in Spa-Francorchamps will be made depending on regulation decisions and the categorisation of the BMW M3 GT2. Participation in the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) has yet to be confirmed for the same reason.In preparation for the race on the "Green Hell", it is planned to send the BMW M3 GT2 into action at numerous VLN rounds. The ILMC includes the legendary Le Mans 24 Hours plus events in the USA, Europe and Asia.
While BMW Team Schnitzer, which proved victorious in November's 2010 ILMC season finale in Zhuhai (CN), will be responsible for European operations, BMW Team RLR (Rahal Letterman Racing) will race the BMW M3 GT2 in the US. Having claimed both the ALMS team and manufacturer titles in the GT category in 2010, the team, overseen by Bobby Rahal, aims to add the Drivers' Championship. Dirk Werner joins the previous line-up of Dirk Müller, Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand, all of whom will contest the full ALMS season.
FIA WTCC remains an important Customer Racing platform.
The FIA World Touring Car Championship remains an important Customer Racing platform, enabling private teams and drivers to demonstrate the potential of the BMW 320 TC at the highest level. The BMW 320 TC will compete for victories and titles in the Independents' Trophy of the WTCC. Private teams and drivers will campaign the car – based on the successful BMW 320si WTCC, but fitted with the new 1.6-litre four-cylinder (DI-) turbo engine. The "TC" in its terminology stands for "Touring Car". Therefore this car will represent BMW in the WTCC in 2011, although a works campaign is not planned. To date BMW Motorsport Distribution has delivered over 60 BMW 320si WTCC racing kits to customer teams across the world. The 1.6-litre unit fitted to the BMW 320 TC will enjoy parallel use in the MINI WRC, the car chosen by the cult MINI brand for its FIA World Rally Championship programme, which commences in 2011.
The two additional products in BMW's Customer Racing range are the BMW Z4 GT3 and the BMW M3 GT4. The racing version of the BMW Z4 carved a strong reputation for itself in 2010, scoring numerous victories in the FIA GT3 European Championship, and posting strong results in endurance racing, while the BMW M3 GT4, a motorsport variant closely linked to the production car, enjoyed widespread popularity with customer teams.
BMW presence at DTM event in Olympic Stadium.
BMW confirmed its presence at the DTM event in Munich's Olympic Stadium on 16th /17th July 2011. BMW Motorsport wants to use the opportunity of graphically presenting its history and tradition in the DTM in close proximity to the company's headquarters – the "BMW Four-Cylinder" building.
First class coaching for young talents.
In 2011 BMW will again offer a comprehensive driver development programme with the new Formula BMW Talent Cup, which consistently prepares young talents for a career in motorsport. Dirk Adorf will provide advice and support to the participants. The highlight of this programme will be the grand finale, staged as part of the DTM event at Oschersleben. The winner will receive a fully-sponsored season in a more senior feeder category.