BMW has announced that it will return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans through the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2018 after seven years away.
BMW last raced at the Circuit de la Sarthe in 2011, but will now make its comeback as part of a realignment of its motorsport program.
This also includes a technical partnership with the MS Amlin Andretti team in Formula E from season three with a view to a works entry in the series from its fifth season.
“The strong pillars of the programme for the coming years will be the DTM, the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC), the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (IWSC), the cooperation with Andretti Formula E in the FIA Formula E Championship, the customer racing programme in the GT3 and GT4 categories, the promotion of talented young drivers, and the extremely challenging Dakar Rally,” a statement from BMW reads.
“The plan is for BMW to enter the FIA World Endurance Championship in the 2018 season. The highlight of this championship is the 24-hour race in Le Mans.
“BMW claimed overall victory there in 1999 with the open prototype BMW V12 LMR. The last time a BMW took its place on the grid at the endurance classic near the river Sarthe was in 2011: back then, the BMW M3 GT finished third in the LM GTE class.
“Since it was launched in 2012, the championship has enjoyed a positive development, forged new paths in many regards, and won a lot of fans.
“Further details, such as the model of car to be used and the team responsible for the car, will be confirmed and announced over the coming months.”
BMW motorsport director Jens Marquardt added: “Starting with the 2018 season, we want to further expand our activities in GT racing and compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship, as well as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
“This obviously also includes our return to Le Mans, which we are particularly looking forward to. The way the WEC has developed so well makes us confident that there is a big future for GT racing.”
Of its involvement in Formula E with Andretti, BMW confirmed a long-rumored technical partnership that has already begun ahead of the all-electric series’ third season.
“The cooperation with Andretti Formula E is initially set to run for two seasons. It incorporates, for example, cooperation at engineer level and the mutual use of resources.
“Depending on the general development of the racing series, a works involvement is envisaged as of the series’ season five, 2018/2019, provided the conditions and circumstances are right.
“As part of this commitment, BMW Motorsport will provide its works driver António Félix da Costa as a driver for Andretti Formula E. The Portuguese, who has featured on the top step of the DTM podium with BMW and has already tasted victory in Formula E, will contest the entire 2016/17 FIA Formula E Championship.
“As well as the new partnership, BMW i will remain the “Official Vehicle Partner” of Formula E. This partnership allows BMW i to present the plug-in hybrid BMW i8, as the Safety Car, and the fully-electric BMW i3, as the Medical Car, in some of the largest cities in the world.”