Team RLL enjoy their new BMW Z4 GTE in Daytona

The new BMW Z4 GTE unveiling took place today in Daytona Beach and later at the speedway. RLL team owner Bobby Rahal and his drivers for the American Le Mans Series challenge were on hand to express their views.

Daytona Beach, Fla. – With considerable pageantry and the presence of many racing dignitaries, BMW unveiled its newly created ALMS BMW Z4 GTE today at the Daytona International Speedway.

Newly designed from the ground up, the BMW Z4 GTE has been under construction for several months and in earnest since September. The first of two cars had an initial test in Spain and was subsequently shipped to the United States, arriving a few days ago. A sister car has been built and is now being tested in Spain, and the car shown at Daytona will have an on-track test at Sebring International Raceway next week in preparation for the upcoming Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 16.

I am like a little kid at Christmas with a new toy.

Bobby Rahal

The BMW Z4 GTE is considerably more compact than its successful predecessor, the BMW M3 GT. All the dimensions of the BMW Z4 GTE have been modified to comply with ACO regulations. The new car took to the racetrack for its maiden test outing in the second half of January. BMW Team RLL was integrated in the process throughout the entire development period. Engineers from the USA travelled to Munich in December to play their part in the assembly of the BMW Z4 GTE.

“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.”

Added Bobby Rahal, “I am like a little kid at Christmas with a new toy. I think it is a very impressive car and we hope for good things. When you have a new car, there’s a lot of excitement that goes into it for everybody.” The former Indianapolis 500 champion said his team’s engineering group had a lot of input with BMW, which differed from the M3 machine that was received as a finished product. “The Z4 is very much a result of a cooperative effort. Our guys spent two months in Munich, helping bolt it together and testing it.”

The 2013 BMW Z4 GTE
The 2013 BMW Z4 GTE

Photo by: Joe Jennings

According to Rahal, there’s always uncertainty with a new car but with his team’s involvement, he believes the refinement time will be short. “I think the teething time will be much less with this car, although we expect to have good and bad days. I do expect we will be competitive.”

BMW Motorsport also announced the driving pairs for the coming season. Car No. 55 will be driven by Bill Auberlen (US) and ALMS rookie Maxime Martin (BE). Dirk Müller (DE) will contest all the races in the No. 56 car. Joey Hand (US) and John Edwards (US) will alternate as the two-time ALMS GT champion’s driving partner. Edwards will stand in for Hand when he is unavailable due to his parallel commitment in the DTM. Jörg Müller (DE, #55) and Uwe Alzen (DE, #56) will bolster the squad at the endurance races at Sebring (US) and Road Atlanta (US).

Saaid Auberlen, who has raced BMWs for 18 years, “I have always said there’s no way they can make a better car than the one I won the championship with, but looking at the car, it is very fancy and has all the bells and whistles in it. If it just has the reliability of a BMW and all the stuff I know they put into it, it will be another winner.”

All BMWs that have run in the ALMS
All BMWs that have run in the ALMS

Photo by: Joe Jennings

Muller is the only driver to have tested the car, and he was brimming with confidence after taking laps in it. “It is always a pleasure to be one of the first guys in a new car,” he said. “It is a completely new car, and there’s a lot of work and BMW brainpower that went into it. I think it is the first time we went so well in the first tests. When I stepped into the car, everyone was kind of nervous and the first question they asked was, ‘What was it like?’ I told them it was very responsive and it felt like a BMW. Nobody knows where we are at right now, so we will see how it goes next week.”

If the enthusiasm of the BMW contingent bears fruit, the low-slung Z4 will be a winner. Muller summed it up well when he commented, “It is a BMW – an ultimate driving machine.”

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About this article
Series ALMS
Article type Special feature
Tags auberlen, bmw, marquardt, rahal, rll

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