This weekend, a non-homologated example of BMW’s new, second-generation M4 GT4 is competing in its maiden 24-hour endurance race at the Hankook 24H PORTIMAO. To see just how big a challenge this will be, CREVENTIC spoke with BMW’s Richard Wesselak about the BMW M Motorsport-entered ‘Concept.’
Images – Petr Frýba
“Well, the biggest thing for us are the tyres, actually. We have tested Hankook tyres before but not under race conditions, so this is one big goal for us. Making sure the car is working properly with Hankook tyres, including all the systems related to them.”
“Primarily ABS and traction control. There is not much in terms of tyre monitoring on this car, but we can do modifications on the setup to make sure we find a good balance for our drivers.
“So that’s the first point. The performance has to be there. Secondly, doing a 24-hour race is a challenge all on its own, and since we’re still in development, it’s a good opportunity to make sure everything is okay and perhaps do modifications as and when they are required at the track.”
“In all honesty, it’s the heat! Having the opportunity to run here in Portimão during the summer, it’s almost guaranteed that it’s going to be dry and hot. And that’s a thing that’s very important when you’re in development. On top of that, if we have the opportunity to run a 24-hour race as well, as we do this weekend, it’s the ideal scenario for us to tick a lot of boxes.”
“Primarily, it’s the cooling of the powertrain, cooling of the brakes, cooling the cockpit and making sure the AC is working fine, etc. And that’s quite important, obviously. These cars will be running all over the world [from 2023 onwards], and it’s important to make sure that they resist the heat. The biggest point you always have is running in traffic, which will become incidental very early this weekend. And that’s why it’s important to participate in a race, in the heat, to ensure everything is working.”
“Not really. That was a completely separate program and the plan was always to do this race. We were running a different car at the Nürburgring to the one we are running in Portimão, so we are completely on schedule.”
“All the electronics, all the [requisite] systems and the ECUs are based on the road car. The software is mainly road car too, but obviously with certain modifications to run it at a high-performance level in GT4 spec. This includes the ABS and the traction control. There will be two modes with some stability control in there as well, which is very normal on the production road cars, but not allowed at a certain performance level with the GT4 cars. But, certainly for a less-than-experienced driver, in wet conditions before he crashes the thing, it’s very useful!”
“Our first goal is to win races with the car but also to help the driver to race the car as well as he can. We are trying to setup the car so it is easily drivable for everyone from the word ‘go,’ so all of that comes down to the suspension setup, the layout of the cabin, and the effectiveness of the driver aids. And I think we have managed all of that quite successfully.”
“They have been involved in development programs since they started with us. They have been testing for a very long time, they have been involved in development for ever, and they know how it all works. They know the environment, they know what needs to be done, and they obviously also know the targets that BMW has.
“So it is not that difficult. By now, these drivers are at such a high professional level, they can perform but can also be focused on their job. Their target is to become works drivers and to become successful in motorsport. And development driving is a big part of that, especially if you are linked with a manufacturer.”
“Well, first of all, we need to finish the race. That is the biggest goal. In the end, in terms of classification, we’re going to struggle to keep up with the GTX cars.” – As a non-homologated entry, the BMW M4 GT4 ‘Concept’ is competing in the GTX class with the Leipert Motorsport and RD Signs – Siauliai racing team Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeos, and Vortex V8. – “Purely from a racing point of view, that would have been nice, but it’s not our main goal.
“The second target is to judge our performance in comparison to the older GT4 cars that are also running. Now obviously we are running at a different performance level, but we think we should be able to get a fairly good comparison in terms of pace. Afterwards, we can then judge how much we have ‘in our pocket’ and, ultimately, how good the car will be for customers.”
* Richard Wesselak was speaking with Casper de Kort at the 2022 Hankook 24H PORTIMAO