BMW Motorsports management used the occasion of its year-end party on Dec. 1 to announce that it was replacing its M3 sedan with a newly homologated GTE version of its Z4 coupe for the 2013 American Le Mans Series (ALMS).
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, BMW’s de facto factory ALMS team, will be racing the new Z4 GTE after four successful seasons with the M3, in which it earned two team and manufacturer titles and one driver title, never finishing worse than third in team or manufacturer championship points.
“This change in model shows that we are focusing fully on the BMW Z4 as an all-encompassing GT car,” said BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt on the BMW-motorsport’s website. “The BMW Z4 GT3 has been very successful on the GT3 scene in recent years, and has proven its ability to win races. I am confident this car will also play a major role as a GTE car in the ALMS.”
The Z4 was originally rejected by the ALMS because BMW doesn’t offer a V8 version for production and the car’s production inline six simply wasn’t robust enough to compete in the GTE class against the V8s of the Corvettes and Ferraris, or the V10 Viper.
ALMS, wanting to keep BMW in the series, relaxed from its previous position, opening the door to a new era of BMW GT involvement in North America. The new GTE Z4 will have the 4.4-liter V8 and most likely the six-speed sequential gearbox of the GT3 model.
BMW has raced a GT3 version of the Z4 with great success around the world, while using the M3 for the ALMS and at Le Mans. Now the factory will focus on developing two versions of the same car, which should lower development costs and improve the Z4’s already excellent race results.
The GT3 version raced by Vita4one scored four wins in the FIA GT1 World Championship, while two of its drivers tied for second in points. In the Blancpain Endurance Series, the Marc VDS Racing Team Z4 GT3 earned two wins and two podiums, finishing second in the team championship. Thomas Biagi and Stefano Colombo won the Italian GT3 championship in a Z4 GT3.
BMW RLL Racing has also brought a new driver from the BWM factory: Maxime Martin will be replacing RLL pilot Jörg Müller.Martin, 26, started racing in 2006, gaining experience in sports and formula cars before joining the Marc VDS team in 2010. He tied for second in the Blancpain series and finished fourth in the ADAC Masters series in 2012, while also winning a race in Oak Racing’s LMP2 Morgan-Nissan in the World Endurance Championship.
The 43-year-old Müller has been with BMW Motorsport since 1999, driving in ALMS and World Touring Car Championship. He has been to Le Mans five times, his best finish being second in 1998 with Porsche’s GT1. He drove for RLL in 2009 and 2012.