BMW is all set to compete in the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next year and has revealed its new LMDh prototype for this new outing – the M Hybrid V8. This will be the manufacturer’s first top-level prototype race car since the V12 LMR took victory at Le Mans in 1999. It’s set to make its racing debut at the 24 Hours of Daytona in January next year.
- Will compete in USA’s IMSA championship
- No word yet on Le Mans outing
- Intended to be clearly recognisable as a BMW M car
BMW to take on Porsche, Cadillac
The BMW M Hybrid V8 follows FIA's new LMDh regulations, which debuts next season, and will give teams a chance to compete in the highest class of both the World Endurance Championship (WEC) and IMSA.
BMW has not yet said whether it will also field the prototype in the WEC – which would mean taking part in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The US is BMW M's most important global market, so IMSA is likely to be the main focus for 2023 at least.
The new M Hybrid V8 will compete against challengers from Porsche, Cadillac and Acura in the LMDh class next year. They’ll be joined by Lamborghini and Alpine in 2024. Audi was supposed to join sibling brand Porsche in the series from next year, but has since put its plans on pause.
LMDh rules explained
All LMDh cars use a spec hybrid system comprising a 49hp electric motor integrated into an Xtrac gearbox powered by batteries from Williams Advanced Engineering. A turbocharged V8 engine of undisclosed capacity will give the BMW car a maximum 680hp combined output permitted by the regulations.
Of the four nominated chassis suppliers, BMW – like Cadillac – has opted to go with Italian manufacturer Dallara. Porsche will use Multimatic-supplied underpinnings and Acura has partnered with France's Oreca.
Race car nods heavily to existing BMW M cars
Manufacturers have free reign over the design of their cars, however, and BMW has opted for a look which nods to both its current road cars and celebrates the 50th anniversary of its performance division.
"The prototype is clearly recognisable as a BMW M car," said the firm, highlighting the oversized kidney grilles on the front end – which channel air to the mid-mounted V8 – as well as the 'hook'-style wing mirrors, distinctive rear light designs and even a side graphic which mimics the firm's trademark Hofmeister kink.
The racer's camouflage – to be swapped for the official race livery later – contains references to some of the M division's most successful race cars over the last 50 years, including the 1976 BMW 3.0 CSL, 1981 BMW M1, 1986 BMW GTP and the more recent BMW M8 GTE.
Michael Scully global automotive director of BMW Group Designworks, said, “My team's job was to make the BMW M Hybrid V8 look like a BMW, and embrace every opportunity to make it also perform like one on the race track."