This year’s silly season in motorsport has focused on the ongoing machinations of the drivers and teams in Formula One as all parties involved attempt to finalize their positions for the 2023 season. But, I’m willing to make the case that the most significant move so far this year, just happened outside of the Formula One World Championship. BMW announced Tuesday that Team WRT will operate its factory LMDh team in the FIA World Endurance Championship.
With the global introduction of the LMDh sports prototype category in 2023, international sports car racing is in the midst of its own silly season. Participating manufacturers are deciding which teams will figuratively carry the banner for the brand and race its new cars in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the North America-based IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Many automakers simply maintained the ties already in place. For example, BMW decided late last year that Team Rahal Letterman Lanigan will race its LMDh in IMSA, continuing a relationship that began back in 2009.
However, BMW went in a completely different direction for its WEC participation. The German manufacturer will enter a factory LMDh team operated by WRT into the 2024 FIA WEC season. In entering this agreement, WRT will be severing ties with Audi that have existed since the team’s foundation in 2009. Over its 13-year existence, the Belgian team has become a GT racing powerhouse, winning the 24 Hours of Spa, the Nürburgring 24 Hours, the Bathurst 12 Hours, the Suzuka 10 Hours, as well as 49 championships.
Vincent Vosse, WRT co-owner and co-CEO, said in a statement:
“Team WRT was launched thirteen years ago and has enjoyed continuous success in different categories, mainly GT3 and endurance racing. Since the very beginning, the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been in our plans and in our dreams, and being part of the new Hypercar era of the FIA WEC that is about to open, was our strongest desire.”
Two years ago, WRT began racing in the second-tier LMP2 prototype category in preparation to operate Audi’s announced LMDh prototype. The Belgian team effectively laid waste to its opposition in its first year in the class. WRT won the LMP2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the World Endurance Championship and the European Le Mans Series championship. However, the team was left without a factory program to prepare for when Audi indefinitely paused LMDh development to explore entering Formula 1. Now, Audi’s loss is BMW’s gain.