BMW M Motorsport will build its first all-new endurance racer in 22 years.
Earlier rumors about BMW's return to endurance racing turned out to be true. It was confirmed by the man in charge of the M division, Markus Flasch. Instead of issuing a press release, Flasch posted an image of the BMW V12 LMR, which won Le Mans in 1999. Underneath the image, he mentions Daytona 2023.
Since then, BMW has also confirmed that it will compete at Sebring and Road Atlanta. "BMW is back on the big motorsport stage," said Markus Flasch, CEO of BMW M GmbH. "In entering the LMDh class, BMW M Motorsport is fulfilling the prerequisites to challenge for overall victory at the most iconic endurance races in the world from 2023."
Although BMW has a long history in motorsport, the V12 LMR is the only Bimmer with a Le Mans trophy. BMW Motorsport teamed up with Williams F1 to create this 580-horsepower monster, which hit 214 mph down the Mulsanne Straight. In addition to winning Le Mans, the V12 LMR would go one to win twice more in the US endurance series. Of course, the BMW-powered McLaren F1 GTR saw considerable success, but that was still a British achievement. Unfortunately, the new race car won't be a V12. Instead, it will compete in the LMDh class, along with Porsche and Audi.
The LMDh is basically a new class in endurance racing. As the letter "h" suggests, it's related to hybrid powertrains. This new FIA formula seems to be cheaper than the previous prototype class, and it's an epic way for manufacturers to showcase what they can do with batteries. Audi is even taking it a step further by competing in the Dakar Rally with an electric buggy.
The FIA's rulebook for the hybrid LMDh class is essentially the same as the IMSA Sportscar Championship, which makes BMW's car eligible for Le Mans as well as Daytona. Could we see a Le Mans-inspired special edition of the recently revealed BMW i4 M50? Fingers crossed...
From a consumer perspective, the LMDh class is a lot more interesting than the prototype class the big-league manufacturers used to compete in. Unlike a prototype car which has almost nothing in common with a real car, manufacturers will likely use these race cars to test technology that will eventually syphon down into the road cars. BMW's M division hasn't gone hybrid yet, but this is a good way to convince people that it's a good idea. Perhaps BMW could work some of the design of the all-new i4 in there?
This is also the first time since 1999 that BMW will have to design a race car from scratch. All of the classes it currently competes in are based around existing models, but the LMDh car will be built from scratch. The chassis, powertrain, design and aerodynamics will be all-new, which is most likely why BMW is giving itself a full two years to get ready for the 2023 24 Hours of Daytona.
BMW will be fielding two cars, but the driver announcement will be made at a later date.