BMW Motorsport introduced its 2013 American Le Mans Series car, the Z4 GTE, in an event at Daytona International Speedway on February 12. BMW Team RLL will run two Z4 GTEs in the competitive ALMS GT class; the car replaces the M3s that Team RLL raced in the series for four seasons.
The 4,395-pound car is powered by a 4.4-liter V8 that BMW says has 480 horsepower running with an ALMS-imposed air restrictor. Power is delivered through a six-speed sequential gearbox. The cars will run on Michelin tires; BMW has switched from Dunlop to Michelin for ALMS competition. The European Z4 GT3s at the 24 Hour race at the Nürburgring will also run Michelins.
BMW had already announced its ALMS driver lineup; at Daytona it announced the driver pairings for the two Z4 GTEs. Bill Auberlen and Maxime Martin will share car #55, while Dirk Müller will share car #56 with Joey Hand when he runs and with John Edwards when Hand is in Europe driving the M3 DTM. For the long enduros at Sebring and Petit Le Mans, Jörg Müller will be added to the lineup in #55, and Uwe Alzen will co-drive #56.
Both BMW Motorsport Director Jens Marquardt and RLL team principal Bobby Rahal are optimistic about the car, although both emphasize that 2013 will be a development year.
At a dinner the evening before the Daytona launch Marquardt said, “As we approach the start of the ALMS season in mid-March, so the anticipation is gradually rising. All of us at BMW Motorsport and BMW Team RLL are very curious to see how the first few races pan out with the new BMW Z4 GTE. We are setting out on a development year, but are very confident we have once again developed a car that has the potential to win races and titles in the form of the BMW Z4 GTE.”
Rahal said, “Obviously I am very excited to enter this new year with the BMW Z4 GTE. There is a lot of enthusiasm in the team for the new car. Certainly there will be a development period involved but ultimately I see no reason why we can’t be competitive with the great competition that exists in the GT category in the ALMS. Although this might be a development year in many respects, with the level of driver talent we have on the team – including the two new exciting additions with Maxime Martin and John Edwards – I think that ultimately we can have success and do much as we did in 2009, the first year of the BMW M3 GT, and work hard toward achieving maximum results in its first year. One aspect of the launch that is very exciting is not just the introduction of the BMW Z4 GTE and our drivers, but also the collection of historic cars that were the cars that began the success story of BMW in North American racing.”
The ALMS season opens with the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 16.—Brian S. Morgan
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