BMW confirms WEC, Le Mans Hypercar entry for 2024

BMW confirms WEC, Le Mans Hypercar entry for 2024

As it rolls out its new BMW M Hybrid V8 LMDh car for testing, BMW has confirmed that it will add the World Endurance Championship to its activities with the car beginning in 2024. BMW had already stated its intentions to compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsaCar Championship GTP category with BMW M Team RLL beginning next season.

“Due to the very tight schedule for the LMDh project, the plan has always been to focus on one field of application in the first season in 2023. The IMSA series is perfectly suited for this,” explained Andreas Roos, head of BMW M Motorsport. “However, our mid-term goal was obviously to race on two fronts with the BMW M Hybrid V8, and also to use the major platform provided by the WEC and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We are now working determinedly towards this, at the same time as our program in North America. We took the next important step on Monday. The car successfully completed its rollout at Dallara in Varano de Melegari. We now start the intensive test work before the race debut in January 2023 at Daytona.”

The Dallara-based M Hybrid V8 will undergo initial testing over the next few days, with BMW works drivers Connor De Phillippi and Sheldon van der Linde taking turns at the wheel.

“It’s been an honor and a pleasure to complete the first laps of the BMW M Hybrid V8,” said De Phillippi after Monday’s shakedown. “This was a historic day for BMW M Motorsport within the LMDh project. Step by step we went through all functions of the car and by the end of the day we were able to do some laps with nearly full power, which is a good result for a roll-out.”

BMW has also released details of the twin-turbo V8 engine that will be mated to the spec hybrid unit. The origin of the P66/3 engine was previously used in the BMW M4 DTM in 2018, and had the advantage that it could be used in a monocoque chassis without an additional subframe. It was also the one that most closely corresponded to the regulatory requirements after conversion to a hybrid turbo engine, but has needed a number of adjustments to work with the LMDh Hybrid, where it will be a stressed component of the chassis.

“During the evaluation phase, we also took a look at the P48 four-cylinder turbo engine from the BMW M4 DTM and the P63 eight-cylinder turbo engine from the BMW M8 GTE, but potential problems with the durability of the P48 and the heavy weight of the P63 were negative considerations,” explained Ulrich Schulz, head of Drivetrain Design at BMW M Motorsport, of the process used to choose the engine.

“It is a huge plus that we were able to make use of existing materials such as steel and aluminum from BMW’s time in Formula 1 for the basis of the engine, as well as for individual components – like shafts, housing and small parts. That saved us time and a lot of money and was therefore efficient and sustainable.

“Converting the normally-aspirated P66/1 engine into a bi-turbo and then working with the electric drivetrain colleagues to turn it into a hybrid drive system was very complex. Thanks to the expertise, the great collaboration and the high level of motivation of all departments, we managed to complete the fire-up of the complete drive unit just a few weeks ago. We now feel that nothing is standing in the way of testing.”

The first phase of modifying normally-aspirated P66/1 DTM engine involved converting into an intermediate engine, named P66/2, primarily by adapting two turbochargers and adjusting the crank drive. The focus was on durability, increased performance and temperature management for the engine. The P66/2 completed numerous testing units, including complete racetrack simulations, on the test bench. The next step was the creation of the P66/3 race engine, adjustments to the specific requirements of the Dallara chassis, final exhaust system, oil tank, cabling and integration of the high-voltage environment.

Engineers who already boasted plenty of experience with electric drive systems from the Formula E project were testing and integrating the electric motor in parallel. The unit that forms the hybrid drive system in the car consists of the e-motor, the inverter and the high-voltage battery. There is a separator clutch between the electric and combustion engines, enabling fully-electric driving – in the pit lane, for example.

With the engine mated to the Dallara chassis and the initial tests done later this week, the next phase of preparing the M Hybrid V8 will include more European tests scheduled for August before BMW M Team RLL and a crew from BMW M Motorsport start IMSA-specific preparations with testing in the USA beginning in September. Over the course of the test phase, numerous BMW M works drivers will be at the wheel, although who will drive for the 2023 IMSA season will be decided at a later date.

The BMW M Hybrid V8 is the first top-flight prototype program from BMW since the V12 LMR, which won the Twelve Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1999.