BMW hasn’t had a horse in the Le Mans race (pun intended) since 1999, when its V12 LMR took the overall win in the 24 hours of Le Mans. It’s a shame, as Le Mans is one of the more prestigious and romantic automotive races in the world. However, there may be good news on the horizon, as BMW is considering an entry into LMP1 (Le Mans Prototype) racing. BMW has made serious inquiries about entering the 2017 LMP1 race, but is waiting to see the direction that the rules will be taking.
LMP1 racing is the obvious choice, if BMW wanted to get back in the Le Mans game, as its new hybrid technologies would give the Bavarian automaker a serious advantage. BMW has such cutting-edge technologies as TurboSteaming and thermoelectric generators which can give it an edge. LMP1 racing is very much about pushing the technological envelope and BMW is one of the leaders in such a field, with its current i division. BMW is said to be developing a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine which could produce up to 600 hp, through its DTM commitments.
Though, none of this is fact as of yet. There are some things that may hold BMW back from entering LMP1. Some of BMW’s latest hybrid technologies may not jive with current LMP1 rules and regulations, which is why BMW is currently waiting to see about any rule changes in the future. Also, BMW does not currently have the ability to develop a closed-wheel race car. Though, this isn’t as big of an issue as during BMW’s Formula One stint in 2008, BMW contracted Sauber to build its F1 cars.
BMW Motorsport boss, Jens Marquardt, didn’t deny any speculation towards BMW’s entry into Le Mans, however, he did state that a couple of things would need to change in order for it to happen. He considers BMW to be a trendsetter, in terms of technology, in the automotive world, so rather than following current LMP1 rules and regulations, he’d like the rules to change to allow some of BMW’s latest innovative technologies. He goes one to say “if you take BMW as a global brand we are not a slow follower or a fast follower, we are setting new paths, which we have shown with ‘i’ so I don’t think we need to follow what everyone does,” Marquardt said. “The WEC is still following and what we need to figure out is a new path that suits BMW, like with ‘i’.” He also mentions that a venture into LMP1 would need to be financially viable, and worth the investment, before it could happen. “If a global return on investment is balanced with your investment it can make a lot of sense but it has to be balanced. Some of the championships are a huge investment and a return on investment calculation sometimes in those respects are difficult but it depends how close these things are to your brand.”
So it’s possible we may see BMW enter LMP1 in 2017 and combat the likes of Audi and Porsche, but it isn’t certain. Obviously, we’d like to see such an entry for the Bavarian brand, as wins in these races could give BMW obvious bragging rights toward its i Division technologies. We won’t know for certain for quite some time, but an outcome where BMW races in LMP1 is certainly a possibility.