BMW M Motorsport confirmed Saturday that it will continue its relationship with BMW Team RLL, with whom it has partnered in the GT ranks since 2009, into IMSA’s LMDh era, fielding two LMDh prototypes starting in 2023. Alongside the LMDh test program, BMW Team RLL will field two BMW M4 GT3s in the new GTD Pro category in the 2022 IMSA season.
“For me, personally and professionally, this is a dream come true,” said BMW Team RLL principal Bobby Rahal. “We’ve been wanting to go to the prototype category prior to this, because now you have the opportunity to win these great races like Sebring and Daytona and others overall. It’s been a very tough competition in GT Le Mans against Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette, you name it. But this is a very big day for RLL.”
While Team RLL, which is building a new facility in Indianapolis in preparation for an elevated IMSA operation, seemed like a given for the LMDh program, nothing had been confirmed; even less certain was a GTD Pro effort, although it seemed likely that the successful RLL and BMW relationship would continue.
“We spoke about this for a while, Bobby and myself,” said Mike Krack, director of BMW Motorsport. “We have a very long partnership that in my opinion works well. It is a very respectful partnership and successful as well. I could not have thought about any better partner to do this program and I’m really happy we managed to make this happen.”
BMW is partnering with Dallara for its LMDh chassis that will make its IMSA race debut in 2023, where it will go head-to-head with cars from Acura, Cadillac, Porsche, Audi, Lamborghini and Alpine. Several powerhouse teams aside from RLL have already been confirmed to run manufacturers’ efforts.
“If you look at who’s going to be in LMDh, thats going to be a tough crowd,” said Rahal. “I don’t think we can overstate the difficulty that it will be, You’ve got Roger [Penske] in there, you’ve got Chip [Ganassi], Wayne Taylor with Acura. Who know who else is coming in, But that level of team that you’re up against now, thats a tough crowd.”
The magnitude of getting a competitive LMDh car on track keeps Rahal from confirming whether the GTD Pro program with the new M4 GT3 would continue beyond 2022. But for now it is one of three confirmed GTD programs, along with Corvette and Lexus.
“First things first, and for us that’s the M4 in GTD Pro. We’re testing that car soon – Daytona’s not far away. Every opinion I’ve received form the drivers that have driven the car, they all think it’s really good. That’s always a good way to start,” said Rahal.
With BMW introducing two new racecars in two years, that further solidified the decision to go with Team RLL, noted Krack.
“You know what you have, and you don’t know what you get if you make big changes,” he explained. “If you have something where you have a configuration where you operate on the same level, when the team has ideas or we have ideas, very quickly we’ll have agreement because the mentality of the team is a winning mentality, and this is what we are looking for. We never had a doubt about it, but it’s not only the history that makes us continue, We are carefully looking at what we have to do, but we must not forget also we’re bringing in new cars, two times in two years then, and if you change also the partner, if you change the whole configuration, you will have a lot of losses. Here we will certainly not have, You could think it’s logical step, but obviously you have to put everything under scrutiny when you make choices for the new programs; but at the end of the day, I think we have the right partner.”
The partnership has produced many victories, including GTLM wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2019 and 2020 with the M8, the GTLM titles wins in the driver, team and manufacturer standings of the 2020 Michelin Endurance Cup, and a total of five GT titles with the BMW M3 GT in the 2010 and 2011 seasons of the American Le Mans Series. The team also sits on the GTLM pole for today’s Motul Petit Le Man