After becoming a meme at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year, one might think BMW would prefer a more quiet day-long race this time around. Instead, BMW’s making news before the race begins—by announcing that after just one season, Le Mans will mark the end of its time in the World Endurance Championship.
BMW announced its future motorsport plans on Wednesday, rooted in a strategy it calls“NUMBER ONE > NEXT”—an odd mix of words and symbols that a child could have scribbled while learning their ABCs but that an adult probably got paid a lot of money to come up with.
That strategy doesn’t include WEC, and the company plans to leave after its M8 GTE’s run at Le Mans next month. It’ll join Ford in doing so.
BMW Group Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt, who had glowing words for all of the other series and disciplines BMW’s keeping in its program, explained the WEC move as such in the announcement:
“[...] But in light of us sharpening our focus as part of our strategy for the future, continuing our WEC involvement in the coming years does not fit with our direction. The global presence of BMW M Motorsport is safeguarded by customer racing and the DTM in Asia and Europe, as well as the IMSA series in North America, even without competing in a world championship. We would like to thank BMW Team MTEK for its dedication over recent years and we wish WEC all the best and hope that it makes good progress.”
BMW’s all about the future with the motorsport programs it’s keeping around, which include the all-electric Formula E Championship, DTM, sim racing, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and customer racing. Formula E is good for showing off electric technology, DTM and IMSA for its M performance cars, and customer options for making people feel like they can “get involved.” WEC, apparently, didn’t have a place in those plans.
But BMW also didn’t have much time to feel WEC out. The company started in the series just last year, announcing ahead of the 2018-2019 “super season”—part of WEC’s current championship format that spans two calendar years and ends with Le Mans—that it would join the series in the Le Mans Grand Touring Endurance Pro class that sits below both top prototype divisions.
The BMW MTEK team has yet to win a race in that class since its debut last May and sits fifth out of five in the WEC GT manufacturer championship, but it won everyone’s heart at Le Mans last year with its massive race car that became the meme we all know as Big M8.
A year also isn’t a lot of time to build a motorsport program in a new series and expect success, and MTEK boss Ernest Knoors told Motorsport.com recently that the team wanted to keep racing. He thought the team could be competitive for the title next season given its growth throughout the first year, he said.
“It doesn’t make it easy to win, but at least you would be able to fight from the beginning of the season, with a car that we understand better, can withstand hard racing better,” Knoors told Motorsport.com.
Unfortunately for Knoors and the team, unless someone with a lot of influence changes their mind, any future title bids won’t have BMW behind them.