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      12-12-2020, 09:59 PM   #1
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Motorsport Manager: Present and Future of BMW Motorsport North America

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Present and future of BMW Motorsport North America with Victor Leleu (part 1)

The year 2020 of BMW Motorsport has blown hot and cold. If in Europe the Bavarian brand owes its season to a success at the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring, the American continent saw the victory of BMW at the 24 Hours of Daytona without forgetting the Intercontinental GT Challenge in Indianapolis and the Michelin Endurance Cup GTLM title ( IMSA). As for the future, the M4 GT3 is still under development, the GT4 category continues to develop across the Atlantic and it is on the GTLM program side that there is some doubt. Victor Leleu, Motorsport Manager at BMW North America, provided Endurance-Info with an update on activities in the United States.

Are activities 100% resumed?

“We're opening up little by little. Since last March, there has been a lot of teleworking. We had to integrate new protocols with a different management of meetings. IMSA has done a good job of setting up the paddock. We resumed last summer on the Virginia International Raceway. It's been a complicated year and it's no surprise to say that we had to reinvent ourselves. The situation forced everyone to do it differently. On the BMW side, we have set up various sim racing races with the IMSA crown at stake. ”

Has everything been redesigned internally?

“At one point, we said to ourselves: what are we doing? All organizational processes have been reviewed, fewer staff, redesigned workspaces. Everyone knows that respecting social distances is not easy in motorsport. We saw it with Bill (Auberlen) who missed the 12 Hours of Sebring (in GTD) as a precaution. We didn't want to take the slightest risk for anyone. IMSA updated each event and everyone gained confidence, which made it possible to witness a great season. The promoter was forced to cram a season in half the usual time, or about 150 days out of usually 300. ”

Was traveling to the United States complicated to manage?

“Nationwide, each state has its own rules. As an example, the team is based in Ohio and I reside in New Jersey. Things are different in different states. Initially, it was necessary to reopen the team, so that it can work and prepare the next deadlines. The situation forces us to rethink the way we do things. There is also something to be learned from any negative situation. ”

What do you remember from the season in terms of sport?

“It's been a pretty thrilling season despite the withdrawal of Ford and the presence of Ferrari only at Daytona. With six cars on the track, one could question the value of the GTLM championship. Finally, the races were decided at the end. For BMW, there are no regrets, but some big disappointments. ”

The victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona gave the season a good start, but the rest was more complicated ...

“Daytona was amazing, as was the 6 Hours race at Road Atlanta. The overall performance at Petit Le Mans was good, but with 40 minutes remaining the victory was gone after contact with a prototype. Then there was the 12 Hours of Sebring where we all still have a heartache. It has been a while since BMW won this race. What other sport can have your performance defeated by something that is beyond your control? It is the cruelty of sport. A competitor from another category takes you around a bend and there is nothing to do. In all other sports, we can say to ourselves that we are partially responsible. Not in this case… There, it happened 12 minutes from the end of the race. Road America should also have turned to our advantage without aquaplaning. On these two races, it would be too easy to speak of regret when we are transient in the result. It's motorsport and we knew it when we went there. For everyone, 2020 has been a very difficult year and sport remains very secondary to all of this. ”

We heard a rumor that BMW could have a partial season in 2021 with only the big endurance races. What is it?

“You have to face an economic reality and have this reality in mind. Daytona is already tomorrow and we are behind schedule. We are working for 2021 and what I can say is that we will be at the 24 Hours of Daytona with two BMW M8 GTLMs. For the rest, we will see. BMW has a long history in the United States. The country represents the biggest market in the world for the M brand. I read everything about the rest of the program, but there is nothing done. Different scenarios are on the table. The decision is not just 'do or don't do'. ”

We must also ask ourselves the question of the future of GTLM?

“With six cars and three brands, we were holding up. Two, it becomes more complicated. We will have to look at the after. BMW has always been a supporter of GT convergence. The GT3 category is a global platform with many brands ready to join the premier GT category. In addition, justifying a GTE / GTD program becomes complicated.”
Present and future of BMW Motorsport North America with Victor Leleu (part 2)

The GT3 category will soon see the arrival of new rules and BMW is at the forefront on the subject. An advantage ?

BMW will have a new car in 2022 with the M4 GT3. The M6 ​​GT3 still has some nice remains, as Turner Motorsport has shown again this season in IMSA. Will Turner's team is the oldest in the BMW fold in the world after Schnitzer. They have always won at least one race every year since 2016. ”

For 2022, we are talking more and more about GTD Pro and GTD Pro-Am. What is your opinion on the matter?

“Having GTD Pro and Pro-Am is the easiest solution. We can see that there are a lot of GT3s in the United States. To divide the GTD category in two is in my opinion a good idea. It would also re-motivate teams that have GT3s. The GTD grid also tends to be reduced in IMSA, but also in GT World Challenge America. On the other hand, we are fully satisfied with the commitment of our customers to GT4 in such a difficult period. ”

Are you worried about the future of thermal motorsport at BMW?

Markus (Flasch) has been at the head of M for two years now and the philosophy still has to go towards motorsport. This leadership remains the same now that he runs BMW Motorsport. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Jens (Marquardt) for all the work accomplished at the head of BMW Motorsport. He was a true ambassador and a fervent supporter of racing in the United States, with the M3 as well as the Z4, M6 or M8. It was a real pleasure to be able to collaborate with him with the establishment of a solid working base within a very competent cosmopolitan group in Munich. ”

Do you feel a general change in mentalities in the United States?

The United States remains the number 1 performance market. The future of the combustion engine will be longer here than in Europe or Asia. Formula E has something to show, but it's harder to migrate a motorsport fan. Formula E is aimed at a different audience. For BMW, the challenge is to address both. We are in a rather particular market. The M brand has big ambitions in the years to come. For us, the priority is already to finalize 2021. ”

Are we talking about LMDh at BMW with a global product?

As always, BMW has an eye on everything that is happening. 2021 will already be a year of transition for BMW pending the arrival of the M4 GT3. We hope that it will be an advantage to be the first brand to offer a new GT3. Our customer base is satisfied.

Is IMSA talking about cost reduction?

“IMSA wants to reduce costs with, in particular, a reduction in the time spent on meetings to go to two days instead of three. Time is money. It will make the weekends more busy, but everyone will be accommodated in the same boat.”
“Despite his immense experience, Bill is always looking for improvement. He does not balk at the effort and the challenge. He continues to work to be in front of young people. I think he will be 25 in 2021 (laughs). He won his 61st race to win the 62nd the next day at VIR. I don't know where it will stop. It is a pleasure and a pleasure to work with him and to have him at BMW.”
Google Translation. Emphasis added.

Last edited by BMWGirlFL; 12-13-2020 at 05:40 AM..
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