The future of BMW Team MTEK’s FIA WEC GTE Pro program beyond the current FIA WEC ‘Super Season’ remains uncertain, but the team is hopeful its performances this weekend at Spa and at Le Mans next month will persuade the manufacturer to continue their association.
Thus far the team has managed just two podium finishes over the course of the season’s six races and is only beginning to find its feet with the M8 GTE. MTEK is eager to carry on racing in the FIA WEC into next season, although BMW’s commitment is still unconfirmed at this point. Doubt is spreading concerning the future of both the BMW and Ford programs in GTE Pro — in itself leading to concerns about the category, even with the strong foundation of Aston Martin Racing, Porsche and AF Corse, all of which are expected to return for 2019/20.
Despite all this, MTEK team principal Ernest Knoors was upbeat about the team’s chances at Spa this weekend and at Le Mans.
“Since the beginning of the season we’ve got the car in the ballpark of BoP — we’ve been quite competitive,” he explained. “We’ve learned quite a few lessons, Fuji and Sebring. There should be no excuse to not perform well here and at Le Mans, we’re actually quite confident.
“You try to go into a season convinced you can do better (than maybe you can) — we had expectations but the reality is we’re racing against very competitive teams. The format of the racing is tough and the modifications that needed to be made to the car.
“Our car struggles in corners; more straights are better for our car, lots of in-line braking is what we like because of how the car is. So Le Mans should be good for us. We’re not based on a 458 or GT — it’s a proper road car adapted to race, like a GT should be.”
Should BMW pull the plug on the resources currently dedicated to the WEC program, then MTEK could continue on as a private team. The deadline for WEC entries into next season is coming up fast though (May 21) and Knoors is fully aware of how tight the timing is, especially as the WEC is expected to have a capacity grid next season. WEC CEO Gerard Neveu has said that he expects to turn teams away, as LMP2 and GTE Am are set to be oversubscribed.
Knoors stressed to RACER that MTEK wants to continue in the WEC and that it is looking at alternatives.
“MTEK is a racing team, we don’t have any other businesses or interests,” he said. “We want to race. If we have the potential or chance to be back we will be back. That’s our goal for the team. We want to be back with a chance to win. And I think with the car where it is now, it has a chance to win.
“We’re hoping to be back next season. If you look at all the stuff that’s been put in place, you would assume that it makes sense to continue. The performance is there, the base is there, the motivation is there to carry on, but like everything, motorsport and the automotive industry is challenging — it’s a tough time. Projects are being questioned, especially when the company is under pressure and that’s the reality we live in.
“There are official deadlines. Soon we will know.”
But should BMW pull the plug, what then?
“We would be well advised to look at alternatives (to stay in the WEC),” he added.
Despite the tough transition to the WEC from its DTM and F1 projects, Knoors remains intrigued by the opportunities available in the WEC and in particular at Le Mans.
“The WEC is a very interesting form of motorsport. It’s been enjoyable working with the race director, with the other teams, manufacturers, working with this format,” he noted. “You have the highlight at Le Mans, but all of the circuits are highlights. It’s not always good — there’s plenty you can do to make the races that are outside of Le Mans popular.
“But in general being here has been a pleasure. We’ve worked in DTM, Formula 1, and this is a challenge that suits us — we like it.”