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BMW M4 GT4 marks new Supercars chapter
One of first BMW M4 GT4s to lob in Australia, paving new direction for local racing
29 Sep 2017
By TIM ROBSON
BMW Australia will not race in the Supercars championship, but its support of the newly formed GT4 racing series signals a new direction for top-end racing in Australia.
One of the first of the new M4 GT4 racecars to be built by BMW Motorsport in Germany will land in Australia in November, and will be run for Queensland ace Tony Longhurst by BMW Australia’s racing affiliate, Steven Richards Motorsport (SRM).
It is a significant move, given the recent acquisition by V8 Supercars Australia (also known as Supercars) of the rights to run the Australian GT championship from 2018.
The Australian GT championship is home to GT3 racing, which features factory-built cars from marques such as Audi, Lamborghini and Mercedes-AMG.
The new GT4 series is designed to sit below the GT3 class, using more affordable yet still high-specification cars built to a parity formula.
Supercars has already indicated that it will rename the series SuperGT, in line with its other products that include Super2 (tier-two Supercars) and SuperUtes (a forthcoming racing series using diesel dual-cab pick-ups).
SRM runs a BMW Australia-backed M6 GT3 car in the series, as well as providing support to other privately run M6s.
BMW Group Australia chief executive officer Marc Werner told GoAuto that despite discussions, the company will not enter the Supercars championship, but is pleased with the marriage between the two series.
“We are not looking into V8 Supercars, and we have a very clear motorsports strategy,” said Mr Werner.
“Globally, and as far as customer racing is concerned, the new M4 GT4 definitely targets a pure customer racing at amateurs, not pros.
“We will see it participating in Bathurst next year.”
The M4 GT4 will cost about $240,000 – approximately $60,000 less than the road-going M4 GTS – and can only be purchased through BMW Motorsport in Munich.
“We will provide you access with our BMW Motorsport team which is located in Munich,” said Mr Werner.
“There is a lot of demand for the GT4 because it’s a new category which is going to be launching in many markets around the world. Time will tell how successful we will be with the GT4 class in Australia.”
He welcomes the change of ownership of the GT category, which was purchased by pet food magnate Tony Quinn in 2011.
“We definitely appreciate that Supercars is now looking after the Australian GT championship going forward, which we believe is definitely the right step in order to further professionalise the series,” he said.
The car itself will use a turbocharged 3.0-litre straight six engine making around 320kW and 550Nm, sending power to the rear wheels via a dual-clutch paddle-shifter operated seven speed dual-clutch gearbox.
It uses a mechanical limited slip diff and offers adjustable stability and traction control.
It will also feature an in house-built FIA-compliant roll cage, carbon-fibre composite roof, doors, bonnet and front guards, lexan windows, a single BMW Motorsport-spec race seat, quick-release steering wheel and an adjustable pedal box.
SRM owner Steven Richards says that the GT4 is a crucial part of rebuilding the Australian GT championship.
“I would honestly say that probably recently the level of professionalism of the presentation of the GT championship has dropped a bit,” he told GoAuto.
“If you go ask some of the guys who own these cars they're successful people and want to be involved in success, and I think in some cases the level of professionalism’s dropped away and, therefore, they’re looking at other options.
“So Supercar’s involvement now will lift up the added element of GT4 now being included as part of championship, and that’ll lift that to a new level.”
Mr Richards said he believes the affordability of the GT4 will be a big factor, and that the category will draw customers from a wider base.
“I think that the potential drivers and owners of those cars are going to come out of club or State level and low-level National Series series,” he said. “So to me, GT4 potentially introduces a whole new market of drivers that then could then feed into GT3.”
The M4 GT4 will also appeal to BMW enthusiasts who might otherwise take rarer, more expensive machinery out on track.
“We’ve committed to buying the first of the GT4s because we see a good market for the future in those cars,” Mr Richards said. “Some potential customers are BMW enthusiasts that have bought a special model to take on the track, and the reality is the cost of driving those cars on the track is relatively high.
“For a cheaper cost, they’ll have a car that’ll move them into some club level races, then that might give them enough of a taste to go and step through the window and start competing at GT4, which is going be best for the amateur competitor.”
Mr Richards said the costs of running a GT4 will be significantly lower than those needed to run a GT3 car.
“On the numbers I’ve done, the GT4 will be 500 per cent cheaper to run,” he said. “Literally you’ll be able to go into a 12-hour race with a GT4, come home, put some new brakes on it, change the oils and fluids, and go into another 12-hour race. So, lots of driving and low costs. That’s where it needs to be.”
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