24h Le Mans: BMW M Motorsport returns to the top class after 25 years with the BMW M Hybrid V8

BMW M Motorsport returns to the top class after 25 years with the BMW M Hybrid V8
BMW M Motorsport returns to the top class after 25 years with the BMW M Hybrid V8

BMW M Motorsport embarks on the most spectacular racing week of the year with the slogan “BMW M is back at Le Mans”. Exactly 25 years after the victory of the BMW V12 LMR, the start of the BMW M Hybrid V8 in the Hypercar class marks the return of the BMW brand to the top category at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans (FRA).

The #20 BMW M Hybrid V8 will play a very special role as it competes as the 20th BMW Art Car. Designed by the internationally renowned artist Julie Mehretu, the car will be a highlight in the paddock. In the LMGT3 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship (FIA WEC), two BMW M4 GT3s will compete for victory at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

In the Hypercar class, BMW M Team WRT and six BMW M works drivers face what is probably the toughest competition in current motorsport. 23 Hypercars from nine manufacturers are registered for the endurance highlight of the year. In the #15 BMW M Hybrid V8, Raffaele Marciello (SUI), Dries Vanthoor (BEL), and Marco Wittmann (GER) will take turns driving.

The #20 BMW M Hybrid V8 Art Car will be raced by Robin Frijns (NED), René Rast (GER), and Sheldon van der Linde (RSA). The design of the 20th BMW Art Car by Julie Mehretu was unveiled on May 21 at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (FRA). It was created based on one of the artist’s works as a “performative painting.”

In the LMGT3 category, Team WRT fields two BMW M4 GT3s in new liveries. The #31 BMW M4 GT3 will be driven by the winners of the 6 Hours of Imola (ITA), Augusto Farfus (BRA), Sean Gelael (INA), and Darren Leung (GBR). The #46 car will be shared by Maxime Martin (BEL), Valentino Rossi (ITA), and Ahmad Al Harthy (OMA).

History of BMW at Le Mans.

On the occasion of the comeback in the top class after 25 years, BMW is also celebrating its history at Le Mans. Legendary vehicles such as the BMW V12 LMR winning car from 1999 and the BMW 3.0 CSL Art Car by Alexander Calder from 1975 can be admired by the more than 300,000 expected fans.

BMW’s first successful start at Le Mans took place back in 1939 with a BMW 328 Touring Coupé. It won its class and finished fifth overall. It wasn’t until the 1970s that BMW once again made waves at Le Mans, especially with the invention of the BMW Art Cars by Jochen Neerpasch and Hervé Poulain. The Calder Art Car debuted in 1975. That was followed by the BMW 3.0 CSL by Frank Stella in 1976, the BMW 320i Turbo by Roy Lichtenstein in 1977, and the BMW M1 by Andy Warhol in 1979. Other BMW Art Cars at Le Mans included the BMW V12 LMR by Jenny Holzer in 1999 and the BMW M3 GT2 by Jeff Koons in 2010.

BMW M Motorsport achieved its greatest sporting successes in the 1990s. Above all stands the overall victory for Yannick Dalmas (FRA), Pierluigi Martini (ITA), and Joachim Winkelhock (GER) in the #15 BMW V12 LMR in 1999. By 1995, a car powered by a BMW engine had already won, namely the BMW McLaren F1 GTR. Most recently, BMW M Motorsport competed in 2018 and 2019 with the BMW M8 GTE.

Vincent Vosse (Team Principal BMW M Team WRT)

“It is the fourth time that we go to Le Mans, but it will be our debut in the top class. Just to be there, defending the colours of a top manufacturer such as BMW, and bringing the largest entry we have ever brought to Le Mans, makes us proud of what we have achieved as a team. Still, this is a reflection that keeps our minds busy for no more than a couple of minutes. The really important thing is the competition ahead of us. In Hypercar, it is difficult to tell what our ambitions can be. We have had a start of the season that was eventful and promising at the same time. It’s difficult to make predictions until we’re on track at Le Mans. That’s when we’ll know where we stand. Concerning the LMGT3 the objective is to make up the points lost at Spa. We won on strategy at Imola but were very unlucky at Spa. We had an ideal plan to arrive at Le Mans leading the standings, and this is not the case, so the objective is to close the gap here. We have a competitive car and great drivers, so we’ll aim at making a perfect and faultless race. We all know that in 24-hour races that generally pays off.”

Augusto Farfus (Team WRT, #31 BMW M4 GT3)

“I have unfinished business with Le Mans, as I always had bad luck there during my time with BMW M Motorsport and could never finish the race. I want to change that this time, of course. Our BMW M4 GT3 has shown very strong pace in the first FIA WEC races of the season, even though we unfortunately couldn’t convert that into points recently at Spa-Francorchamps. I think, with an experienced team like WRT, we can go into the 24 Hours of Le Mans with high expectations.”

Valentino Rossi (Team WRT, #46 BMW M4 GT3)

“The big moment has arrived, and it will be my first time at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the most famous race in the world. I am very happy and proud to be associated with BMW and Team WRT for this big race. I have known the track since last year, having participated in the Road to Le Mans race, and I like the Circuit de La Sarthe a lot. We’ll be there for a long week and we are ready. We had some good performances in the first races of the season, but now we need to understand our level, speed, and competitiveness at Le Mans. We hope to be strong and I cannot wait to live this experience!”

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