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BMW rekindles motorsport fire

On sale: Australian racing enthusiasts are now being offered the race-bred M6 GT3 for more than half a million dollars, but customers will only be able to use them in the Australian GT Championships.

SRM Team BMW enters 2016 Australian GT series with BMW M6 GT3

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BMW logo10 Dec 2015

By DANIEL GARDNER

BMW has confirmed it will return to Australian motorsport with its factory-built M6 GT3 racer joining the 2016 Australian GT Championship, piloted by local veteran racer and current Bathurst 1000 champion Steve Richards.

The German car-maker today officially confirmed the formation of SRM Team BMW, which will go head-to-head with a host of other privateer GT3 racers and numerous brands next year, in a bid to raise the profile of its M-car range of high-performance road vehicles.

Just one of the specially race-prepared M6s has been confirmed for the series at this stage, but BMW Australia has ordered two M6 GT3s, and expects more teams to express an interest in the competition model now that SRM Team BMW has been announced.

Despite SRM being the first to put its hand up, other interested teams will be offered “complete transparency” and full parts support from BMW as well as trackside support from Steve Richards Motorsport.

On top of the costs associated with a season racing in the series, potential candidates will also have to stump the cost of an M6 GT3 which cost €379,000 ($A572,000) per vehicle. Mr Richards explained that the cost of one season can vary but needn't cost more than the Porsche Carrera championship, in which he also competes.

BMW will provide the car for SRM Team BMW — the first factory car in the championship, while other M6 teams will be required to stump the asking price like any other team in the GT series.

Speaking at the announcement of the partnership, BMW Australia CEO Marc Werner said, like all of its ventures, the return to local motorsport was to raise the profile of its brand and sales, but the motorsport connection was more specifically targeting an M-car customer.

“At the end of the day, the intention is always to sell more cars,” he said.

“We believe it is a perfect fit for our BMW M-brand and if you look at what is happening next year, we will be launching the all-new BMW M2, the M4 GTS and there will be an M6 competition package, so it makes perfect sense to really give the M-brand the right arena.

“On the back of that we would consider to sell a lot more BMW M-cars next year.

Overall we will have a positive effect for the entire BMW brand, but when it comes to sales opportunities, we will be targeting BMW M-customers.”

With significant changes to the homegrown V8 Supercar league and recent additions joining the two big players Ford and Holden, some speculation has suggested more European brands may join the series.

Mr Werner explained that the company had been approached several times regarding BMW entering the V8 Supercar series but it had not been right for the German car-maker.

“We were getting so many proposals on a daily basis, be it motorsports or sailing,” he said.

“We believe that GT racing is the rising sport in Australia and we want to offer something for our customers.

“We’ve had initial discussions with a couple of opportunities that came up during the year, however, when we saw what is coming out of Europe with our GT customer racing we said this is the best fit for BMW Australia. That’s why we ruled out any other motorsports involvement.”

The decision to pursue a four-wheeled competition other than V8 Supercars is the latest in a chain of wobbles for the series, with Ford pulling out, Mercedes making no commitment of cash for the future, and Nissan and Volvo contemplating their actions beyond current contracts.

BMW is bundling the option to buy and run an M6 GT3 in the GT Championships as part of the range of Driving Experience programs, which allow customers to experience varying degrees of track driving – albeit at a much more expensive end of the scale.

“We want to provide a truly unique Australian experience and that’s why Steve came on board. He is going to be the BMW hat at the track in order to not only provide these kind of services but assist our customers to become a better driver,” he said.

“The objective is to attract as many customers as possible to engage in the Australian GT Championship.”

Mr Werner’s comments were seconded by Mr Richards, who said the BMW program differs from similar experiences from Audi.

“As an owner of the team and a driver I can bring something different to the table,” he said. Something that isn’t available from other customer programs.

“We have very much tailored it to how it’s going to suit our purpose and the customer.

“Australian GT is made up of essentially Pro and Am (professional and amateur).

In most cases the amateur drivers own the cars and they bring in a pro to help them. I see it as a great opportunity to work it round the other way. A professional driver that’s a team owner to provide a service to suit those particular drivers when they buy an M6 GT3.”

Mr Werner said that the first pair of M6 GT3s will arrive in February 2016, but a second batch size would be dictated by worldwide demand including the Australian reception.

“Munich is building the initial 20 cars,” he said. “We are getting two of them but we are in discussion with the factory at the moment because we expect there will be numerous requests for this vehicle.

“The next batch is a question of demand.”

The M6 GT3 was unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show in September this year and is loosely based on the $292,600 road-going M6 Coupe.

The racing version uses an essentially unchanged version of the twin turbo 4.4-litre V8 engine, but adds a host of weight-saving technology, racing telemetry and circuit safety gear.

BMW has not been involved with four-wheeled motorsport on Australian tracks since the Sauber Formula One team lost its BMW partnership in 2009.

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