BMW, much like Ferrari, Porsche and Audi, is returning to worldwide endurance racing with a car designed to battle for overall victories. The German automaker confirmed the news today, via a post on Instagram from BMW M chief Markus Flasch.
BMW’s entry will run in the LMDh class, a prototype category with a spec hybrid system and a selection of spec chassis suppliers. This is the route Audi, Porsche and Acura are also taking. Based on the teaser, BMW is targeting the 2023 24 Hours of Daytona for the car’s competition debut.
Manufacturers who do want to go the “from scratch” route, however, can develop an LMH machine — that stands for Le Mans Hypercar. Toyota is already campaigning its Hypercar in the World Endurance Championship now, and Ferrari will join them in 2023. Peugeot, Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus and ByKolles will also run Hypercars.
Both LMDh and LMH cars will be balanced to be competitive with each other, and several other brands have been rumored to join with cars in one or the other specifications— including Cadillac and Lamborghini, according to Racer. We’re set up for a diverse field of factory-backed prototypes in endurance racing the likes of which motorsport hasn’t seen since the late ’90s.
By running an LMDh car rather than an LMH one, BMW will be able to compete in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, and Racer’s Marshall Pruett says that will be the company’s focus. However, it’ll also be permitted to contest the WEC and its marquee rounds like the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, if it so chooses. That means fans all over the world should be able to see this car in action, making its announcement all the more exciting.
This LMDh effort will mark BMW’s first factory-backed endurance prototype since the venerable V12 LMR that won the 1999 24 Hours of Le Mans. That was the car’s only year at Le Mans, as the automaker sought to concentrate on Formula 1 beginning in 2000 with partner Williams.
The 1999 race was a very special event for several reasons. For one, it marked Audi’s first prototype entries at Le Mans with a pair of closed- and open-cockpit prototypes. Audi’s best R8R finished an impressive third, but the next year it’d debut the dominant R8, which went on to win five of next six runnings. ’99 also proved a year of heartbreak for Toyota, whose GT-One was bearing down on the lead BMW and may have won, if not for an inopportune late-race tire failure. Oh, and it was also that Le Mans with all the flipping Mercedes.