While RLL’s BMW GTP program in IMSA is fully underway, the Bavarian brand’s FIA WEC Hypercar program for 2024 with Team WRT from Belgium is still coming together behind the scenes. Scheduled to debut at the start of the 2024 season, WRT’s effort with the M Hybrid V8 will be its first in the top class of sports car racing, after spending a decade at the top level of GT3 racing in Europe.
WRT, which is co-owned by Yves Weerts and Vincent Vosse, now has its sight set on winning Le Mans overall and a world championship in the FIA WEC. It has nothing left to prove in the GT sphere, as it had amassed 55 titles in series around the world by the end of last year.
However, putting together a Hypercar programme has been anything but an easy task for WRT, as its original plan fell apart. Initially, WRT was set to spearhead Audi Sport’s return to top-class racing as its defacto factory team, competing in the FIA WEC with a Multimatic chassis-based LMDh prototype, alongside fellow VAG brands, Porsche and Lamborghini.
But it was left scrambling when Audi switched its primary motorsport focus to Formula 1 in 2022, and confirmed that it shelved its LMDh plans in August, just weeks before the test programme was set to begin. This took WRT by surprise.
All of a sudden the team which was once the face of Audi’s GT3 customer racing programme in Europe, was forced to find a new deal with a new brand. By that point WRT had already made a significant commitment to prototype racing too, competing in the WEC and ELMS’ LMP2 categories since 2021 as part of its preparations to join the top class. Getting something together for 2024 wasn’t ideal, but quickly became the priority.
“We had a plan,” Vosse told RACER. “Exactly a year ago it was cut short because of Audi’s decision to withdraw from the programme to concentrate on Formula 1 goals.
“We had to start discussions with different manufacturers and we were lucky enough to find a way with BMW to follow our goals which includes running a team in the GT categories, following the success we had with the other brand for many years.
“It was personally a very difficult decision for me,” Vosse continued, “because we had such a great relationship with our friends from Audi, it was such a great successful partnership. There are a lot of people who became friends during those years and it was a pleasure to be a part of the achievements of Dr. Ullrich, followed by Dieter Gass and Chris Reinke at Audi Sport.
“To stop this collaboration and start something completely new with a new manufacturer, was tough.”
WRT’s transition to racing with BMW has been rapid, the team making its debut with the M4 GT3 back in January at the Dubai 24 Hours having only announced its decision to switch in October 2022. Getting the new deal together on a short call was assisted in no small part by the arrival at BMW of Andreas Roos from Audi, a man who had in-depth knowledge of the capabilities of the Belgian team.
Even with that familiarity, it was still a risk. Moving to a new manufacturer after a lengthy stint with a rival doesn’t always work. Vosse is nevertheless confident in his team’s ability to not only adapt to working with its new partner but expand its operation at the same time ahead of what promises to be the most competitive season in WEC history in 2024.
“BMW was one of the only manufacturers that could offer us a double programme,” Vosse explained when asked about its appeal. “We are doing GT World Challenge with two Pro cars. We are doing IGTC too with two Pro cars and then Hypercar from 2024. It’s a double program and we keep our GT and LMP2 programs completely separate. BMW was one of the only manufacturers who could give us this opportunity.”
RACER understands that its commitment to GT3 and LMP2 racing looks unlikely to be affected by its Hypercar program, underlining the scale of its ambition. Current plans could see it competing on multiple fronts in ACO competition, in Hypercar, LMP2 (likely in the European Le Mans Series) and in the WEC’s GT ranks once GT3 cars become eligible next year.
The potential for WRT to continue with its LMP2 program could be particularly significant, and see it as an early player in the customer Hypercar arena. How early that move comes, depends principally on the state of the marketplace once it has its feet under the table in the top class.
Thus, seats in all of WRT’s cars, in every category, are hot property, with so many aspirational drivers looking to step up to the WEC’s top class in the coming years. Currently, Vosse is coy about who will drive in its Hypercars next season.
“We have always had a great relationship with drivers. But this is a category where you have to find a balance between experience, speed, knowing championships, and knowing the team, it’s a bit of a compromise. It’s not just in my hands, it’s also in BMW’s, let’s see. But I don’t think you would be very surprised with who we have,” he said.
There is still a long way to go though before it begins racing in Hypercar, almost a full season. Currently the first of its WEC cars is being built in Munich, before being moved to WRT’s LMP2 base, where the program will be run from.
Testing with the M Hybrid V8 is set to begin in May, with the initial rollout of its first car. Details on the venue and the number of days it will be running are still being finaliaed.
Luckily, WRT is already familiar with the M Hybrid V8, having sent staff members to Daytona to support RLL’s effort at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January, where the car made its global race debut. How much further WRT’s collaboration with RLL will go remains to be seen.
Will WRT head stateside to support RLL’s IMSA title bid? Will RLL start racing in Europe to assist WRT?
“You never know,” Vosse told RACER. “Motorsport always springs a surprise. At the moment, we are fully committed and focused on our WEC programme, and I think RLL is fully focused on IMSA.
“And of course, you will see some similar faces in both championships because yeah, it’s not only RLL, it’s not only WRT, there are some people from BMW who are committed to the programme that you will see in the in both championships. But at the moment, so far, the discussion has been quite clear, we will fully commit to the world championship.”