Customer racing has played an important role in all motorsport activities of BMW for over 50 years. In an interview, BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt explains the importance of the programme for the BMW brand, the range of current projects, and the goals for the future.
Mr. Marquardt, from 2012 the DTM is the main project for BMW Motorsport. Why is customer racing still important to BMW as a further mainstay of its operations?
BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt: “A look back into the history of BMW shows that the brand has always been involved in customer racing, ever since the realignment at the start of the 1960s. This tradition is one of a kind. On the one hand we feel obliged to continue this tradition. On the other hand, customer racing has lost none of its importance on the international motorsport scene in the second decade of the new millennium. All around the globe, BMW racing cars are lining up in countless racing series, in which privateers are advertising our brand by means of their sporting success. That will remain very important to us in the future.”
Over the years, the BMW 320 TC, which was developed in line with the S2000 regulations, and all of its predecessors have been the driving force behind the BMW customer racing programme. What will the programme look like in the future?
Marquardt: “The BMW 320 TC is indeed a very important car for us. The concept of the S2000 regulation made it possible to use the BMW 3 Series in countless racing series, including the FIA World Touring Car Championship. This made it particularly attractive to both our customers and us. Within ten years we were able to sell almost 200 models of the BMW 320 TC, including its predecessors, the 320si and 320i – this figure speaks for itself. At the moment, however, we are noticing a change. A number of central series, such as those in the UK and Scandinavia, are moving away from the S2000 regulations. At the same time, GT3 championships are growing in popularity. We are providing for this development by means of our intensified commitment with the BMW Z4 GT3.”
Can the scope of this programme be compared to that of the BMW 320 TC?
Marquardt: “As far as the figures alone are concerned, the two programmes cannot currently be compared. In terms of the technological effort, however, there are many parallels. It requires different resources, both from us and on the customer side. We are supporting our customers at a very high level and are present at the track in all the important racing series, in which the BMW Z4 GT3 is appearing.”
How many BMW Z4 GT3 cars have you sold to date?
Marquardt: “In its debut year in 2010 we sold seven BMW Z4 GT3 cars. By January 2012 we were up to 29 cars, which are being run by various customer teams around the world. This figure shows the great confidence many private customers have in this car’s ability.”
Which are the most important racing series, in which the BMW Z4 GT3 is appearing?
Marquardt: “There are a lot these days. Even the prestigious FIA GT1 World Championship is switching to GT3 cars. The Vita4One team is planning to run two BMW Z4 GT3 cars in this world championship. Then there is the FIA GT3 European Championship, the German ADAC GT Masters, the Blancpain Endurance Series, which includes the 24-hour race in Spa-Francorchamps, the VLN with the Nürburgring 24 Hours, where Team Schubert will be among those representing BMW, the Japanese Super GT, and the British, French, Italian, Swedish and Brazilian GT Championships. As you can see, we are present in all the important GT3 series around the world. That just goes to prove the strategic relevance of this programme for our brand.”
What are your sporting goals?
Marquardt: “Wherever BMW is competing on the motorsport scene, we want to challenge for victories and titles. That is what the customers expect from us, and what we expect of ourselves.”
Until when do your plans with the BMW Z4 GT3 run?
Marquardt: “In order to guarantee that this car is competitive, we have invested a lot, particularly in its development. The Upgrade Kit for 2012 has just been homologated and is aimed at improving the important aspects for our customers: driveability, tyre wear, and overall performance. With this expenditure in mind, this car will be our customer racing car in the GT3 sector until at least 2015. Anything else would not make sense from a purely economic point of view.”
Have you already started considering a possible successor? A BMW M3 GT3, for example?
Marquardt: “No. We don’t believe that sort of thing makes any sense. Aside from the fact that, purely from a construction point of view, it is simply not possible to base a GT3 racing car on that kind of production counterpart: we are planning with the BMW Z4 GT3, as mentioned before, until the end of 2015. This makes it the GT3 car for the coming years, and we are confident that this racing car will remain utterly competitive until the end of its service.”
Besides the BMW Z4 GT3, what form will your Customer Racing portfolio take?
Marquardt: “In 2012 we will continue to offer our usual, high standard of technical support for the BMW 320 TC. The same applies to our entry-level customer racing car, the BMW M3 GT4. We are proud to say that we have just sold numbers 24 and 25 of this car to Brazil. As such, we have already achieved our goals with this car. We are now starting to think about a new entry-level car in the GT4 category – and/or below. However, that is all purely hypothetical at the moment.”[Source: BMW Motorsport ]