SPEED TV TALKS BMW

SPORTSCAR: 5 Questions With BMW’s Jens Marquardt
BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt discusses GRAND-AM, DTM and future GT involvement…
John Dagys | Posted August 10, 2011 Chicago, IL

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Jens Marquardt joined BMW Motorsport at the beginning of the year before officially taking over as its motorsports director on July 1. (Photo: Chris Tedesco/BMW NA)

While BMW has been recently making a name for itself in the American Le Mans Series, the Bavarian manufacturer has also gained a strong presence in GRAND-AM, both with its Dinan-tuned engines in Daytona Prototype and customer support in the Rolex GT and Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge ranks.

READ: BMW Poised For ALMS 2012 Return

With new DP regulations on the horizon, a recent push for GT3-based cars into the GT category and continued talks of a U.S. DTM championship, SPEED.com caught up with new BMW’s Jens Marquardt to get his thoughts on a wide range of topics.

Marquardt took helm as BMW Motorsport director on July 1, following the retirement of Dr. Mario Theissen. The 44-year-old German is no stranger to U.S. motorsports, having worked for Illmor Engineering on development of its Formula One and CART engines in the late ‘90s before joining Toyota’s Formula One program in 2000.
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BMW’s GT3-spec Z4 car has become a popular choice for customer teams in Europe. Could it hit the U.S. shores soon? (Photo: John Dagys)

DAGYS: There has been a big push in GRAND-AM recently to adopt GT3-based cars into the series’ Rolex GT category. Do you see that as a possibility for the BMW Z4?

MARQUARDT: If that is done in a balanced way, so those cars can be competitive, I think there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be the case. It’s obviously something that we’d have to look how to properly support from Munich and from our people at BMW of North America.

It would be important to make the private teams running them gain a proper level of support. The Z4 is, from a racing car point of view, a car that’s on a very high level and not just an easy plug-and-play racecar. It needs some technical support from our side, which we’d be happy to give. But we would need to make sure we could organize it in an appropriate way.

I think we have a very good relationship with the people at GRAND-AM. We’re working on those things with them. I’m sure we’ll find a solution to bring those very exciting cars over. But as I said, we need to make sure they’re competitive and can win and at the same time provide the level of support that’s required.

DAGYS: Does GRAND-AM’s new DPG3 platform, which will allow for manufacturer-specific bodywork, interest BMW?

MARQUARDT: Honestly, if it’s a prototype, then the prototype is OK for us in the end. I think at the moment, it’s clear that the powerplant is a BMW and I think that the marketing message is coming across well. I feel that the product is stronger if you look at a car like the M3 GT2, which is based on the car you can have on the street. Therefore, I feel that is the better story to be told rather than a prototype resembling a street car.

I feel that with what Riley is producing and the way GRAND-AM is approaching the whole thing in that your aerodynamics will be balanced. So whatever shape you have, it won’t be an advantage or disadvantage one way or another. It will probably come down to a commercial view on the whole thing.

What’s been a clear message from the board of directors back in Munich is that whatever activities we have, it’s really something that should be production car-based. So [the focus is] our works efforts in the DTM as well as the GT program is based on M3s or Z4s. That’s the story we want to tell and was part of the reason why BMW decided to withdraw from Formula One.

DAGYS: What is your viewpoint on the proposed U.S. DTM championship?

MARQUARDT: From what I understand from [DTM organizers] ITR’s side, talks are really going well and there has been progress made. But where they exactly stand, I honestly don’t know. I think the plan will still be to find an agreement that those cars could be racing in the U.S. in 2013, which I think would be great.
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BMW took the wraps off its new M3 DTM challenger last month. The car will debut in next year’s European-based championship, alongside new-look cars from Audi and Mercedes-Benz. (Photo: BMW)

The cars are spectacular and the series is run quite well over in Europe. I feel that being able to attract a premium U.S. manufacturer into the championship, and maybe somebody from Japan, like Lexus, would make this whole thing a very good premium road car racing series. It’s something the race fans in the U.S. would appreciate very much.

DAGYS: Do you feel that the success of a U.S. DTM series could hinge on factory involvement from Audi and Mercedes-Benz in addition to BMW?

MARQUARDT: I think the American market is equally important to all three of us. In that respect, I think we’re all thinking in the same way about the series coming to the U.S. Audi has their LMP1 cars racing here every once in a while. Mercedes will have an American F1 Grand Prix in Austin next year. But those are essentially one-off races for both of them.

I think the brand awareness with a product like DTM… is just much stronger if you have a season-long series in a market like the U.S. Sebring is big event for Audi, but for the rest of the year they disappear. I think the awareness you get from a series that’s run here and hopefully in the end run with the likes of Cadillac and Lexus, overall makes it a much better and stronger package.

DAGYS: Could a BMW U.S. DTM program run in parallel with a GT effort in America?

MARQUARDT: Depending if we had the M3 showcased in DTM and a GT program more based on the Z4, then it probably could be an option. Having privateers and customer-based teams running in GT, where we’d have a more works-supported on the DTM side [is an option]. I think the overall brand awareness is what counts. In the end, what we all want to achieve is to make the brand and dynamics of BMW brought to the fans.

John Dagys is SPEED.com’s Sportscar Racing Reporter, focusing on all major domestic and international championships. You can follow him on Twitter askdagys

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