RLLR BMW Le Mans entry “hasn’t been discussed”
Bobby Rahal says that the sportscar arm of the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team is focused on running the BMW M8s in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for 2020, and has downplayed the chances of his squad competing in next year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.
Rahal has run BMWs in topline U.S. sportscar racing since 2009, and while the hallowed brand’s director of motorsport Jens Marquardt announced in May that the M8 would be withdrawn from the FIA World Endurance Championship come the end of the 2018/19 superseason last June, the large coupe is to continue competing in IMSA’s GT Le Mans class in 2020.
This, says Rahal, will be the sportscar arm of his team’s primary objective in the near future.
“Honestly, I don’t know if there’s a chance of us running the M8 at Le Mans,” Rahal told Motorsport.com. “It’s a topic that hasn’t really been discussed.
“Everybody knows my desire for our team to go to Le Mans at some point in time and in some way, shape or form. But really the focus for us is on IMSA.
“Obviously if BMW said we need to be at Le Mans, we’d do everything we could to be there in a heartbeat, but there’s been no discussion of it in a substantive way.
“Right now, we’re looking to finish the IMSA season off strongly. It’s been a tough season for us since the win at Rolex 24 at Daytona; we’ve definitely suffered under the Balance of Performance.
"Hopefully at Laguna Seca [this weekend] and Petit Le Mans [in October] we’ll be competitive, and we’re already also preparing for IMSA in 2020.”
Balance of Performance difficulties
Asked where he thought the M8’s strengths lay, and where the BoP needs correcting to make the M8 more competitive, Rahal replied: “I don’t think there’s anything fundamentally wrong with the BoP, or that any one person is to blame.
"It’s such a complicated and difficult process to figure out who’s got what, and so I don’t know where we’re good or bad compared to others, or when the others are showing their hands.
“I just find it frustrating for me personally, almost looking at it more as a driver than a team owner. What I love about IndyCar racing is that if you’re not fast enough, that’s your problem and you’ve got to figure it out. Obviously with BoP, you add a whole other element to the process.
“It’s clear that Porsche have done a very good job this year on all fronts [with the 911 RSR] and they’re winning a lot of races – which seems contrary to the whole idea of BoP!
“I’m not really sure IMSA itself is happy with the whole BoP concept, but it is what it is and it’s what we’ve got, and they’ve got to figure out what the right BoP is.
"I know IMSA is working on that because it’s not like everyone thinks it’s OK: everyone recognizes that it needs to be more accurate so that it does really reflect the overall performance of the various cars. The data is all there, it’s not some mystery.”
BMW's IMSA future
Regarding BMW’s future involvement with IMSA beyond 2020, Rahal commented: “Our agreement goes through 2020 and we’re hopeful it’s going to continue. But you hear all kinds of stories regarding what’s the future of [IMSA] GTLM compared with GTD, or GTE in the WEC, and all kinds of manufacturers looking at DPi.
“I look at 2020 as preparing for the future and I’m not sure how the classes will evolve, but I think there are big things on the horizon.
“We have a very strong relationship with BMW and we feel privileged and fortunate to be associated with such a strong brand. But we’re also aware that we are a small piece of the pie when it comes to manufacturers making decisions over their future involvement in the sport. Some of those considerations won’t immediately be apparent – they aren’t discussed outside boardrooms.
"But I will say this: motorsports is part of the DNA of BMW, and I think BMW will be involved in major motorsports in one way or another for many, many years to come.”
#25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE, GTLM: Tom Blomqvist, Connor De Phillippi
Photo by: Scott R LePage / LAT Images
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