With the American Le Mans season drawing near, BMW announced this week that it will be shifting ALMS duties to a new car. With four years and seven wins under its belt, the M3 GT is stepping aside to make room for the new Z4 GTE. The car is smaller than its predecessor, and while BMW expects to iron out some wrinkles during its debut season, it is optimistic about how it will perform on the big stage.
"As we approach the start of the ALMS season in mid-March, so the anticipation is gradually rising," said BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt. "All of us at BMW Motorsport and BMW Team RLL are very curious to see how the first few races pan out with the new BMW Z4 GTE. We are setting out on a development year, but are very confident we have once again developed a car that has the potential to win races and titles in the form of the BMW Z4 GTE."
BMW revealed the new race car at an event at the Daytona International Raceway earlier this week. Two Z4 GTE cars – number 55 and 56 – will compete during the 2013 season. The drivers who will commandeer the cars doubled as taxi drivers during the Florida event, ferrying guests about in historic BMW race cars. The drivers are Bill Auberlen (US), Dirk Müller (DE), ALMS rookie Maxime Martin (BE) and Joey Hand (US). John Edwards (US) will step in as an alternate for Hand when his DTM commitments prevent him from racing, and Jörg Müller (DE) and Uwe Alzen (DE) will bolster the squad at the Sebring (US) and Road Atlanta (US) endurance races.
Based on BMW's Z4 GT3, BMW began modifying the GTE to ACO regulations last summer. As per those regulations, electronic aids like anti-lock brakes and dynamic stability control have been dropped. The car is more compact than its M3 predecessor, measuring 4,395 x 2,010 x 1,205 mm (compared to 4,634 x 1,912 x 1,280 mm). It weighs in at the same 2,745 pounds (1,245 kg). BMW conducted its first track test last month.
The Z4 GTE uses a 4.4-liter V8 with mandatory air restrictor. The engine churns out 480 bhp and 354 lb-ft (480 Nm) of torque through a six-speed sequential sports transmission with steering wheel paddles and ZF Sachs clutch. Up front a McPherson axle with pushrods, wishbone, adjustable shock absorbers and H&R coil springs keeps the wheels engaged, while longitudinal links with wishbone, adjustable shocks and H&R coil springs handle the rear. BMW begins a new tire partnership with Michelin this season, and the marshmallow man rolls 300-680-18s (front) and 310-710-18s (rear) around the BBS forged aluminum wheels.
"In the BMW Z4 GTE, we see the potential to follow on from the success we enjoyed in 2010 and 2011," Marquardt said. "In recent years, the GT3 version of the BMW Z4 has emphatically proven its performance and reliability in many series around the world. The production model provides an excellent basis, from which to develop a competitive GT racing car. We have already achieved that in the GT3 area. We are now hoping to enjoy similar success with the BMW Z4 GTE."