BMW Readies for IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Return with M4 GT4
Thursday, July 13, 2017

The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge has seen a resurgence in the Grand Sport (GS) class car count in 2017, led by the introduction of GT4-spec race cars.

The cars, built to Stephane Ratel Organization (SRO) GT4 technical specifications used in a variety of championships throughout the world, are competing in GS this season against “production-conversion” cars, which have been grandfathered into the class for 2017. Next year, the GS class will use GT4 cars exclusively.

The Continental Tire Challenge has already seen a number of new GS cars break through for their first victory this year. The new Ford Mustang won in its second appearance, March’s race at Sebring International Raceway in the hands of Scott Maxwell and Jade Buford. The McLaren GT4 earned its first win in May at Circuit of The Americas courtesy of co-drivers Matt Plumb and Paul Holton with C360R.

Last Saturday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the new Chevrolet Camaro GT4.R – which made its series debut at Circuit of The Americas – claimed its first GS win with Stevenson Motorsports and co-drivers Robin Liddell and Matt Bell.

There’s more where that came from.

The new BMW M4 GT4 race car was unveiled to North America during the event weekend at Watkins Glen International earlier this month. Based on BMW’s history in the GS class, it would come as no surprise for this car – which will begin racing at Daytona International Speedway at the beginning of the 2018 season – to experience the same type of success as the other new cars.

After all, BMW has quite a winning history in the Continental Tire Challenge with 72 victories, trailing only Porsche with 92 wins in the series. And while BMW has competed the last several years in the Street Tuner (ST) class, it hasn’t been in the GS class since the M3 was retired from competition at the end of 2015.

“We were hoping that we could return to that class, and the adoption by IMSA of SRO GT4 specs for the GS class opened that door for us again,” said BMW of North America Motorsport Manager Victor Leleu. “It was unrealistic for us to develop a car specifically for local rules, whether in America or anywhere else, and being able to rely on a global set of rules like GT4 is a great opportunity for us.

“To us, the M4 GT4 will allow us to return to the GS class, the top class of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and we’re just excited to be back there, be able to make a big return to the series and continue this long tradition in the future.”

Leleu knows he and his colleagues at BMW will have their hands full next season competing against the GT4 cars already racing in the Continental Tire Challenge, let alone any others that may join before the green flag drops in 2018.

“I can’t comment on what other manufacturers do, but it seems they’ve seen the same opportunities we have through GT4 and this notion of global specs that you can run, basically, worldwide,” he said. “We’ve seen it in GT3 before, so many manufacturers are now present in it, and so are we, but to the point that maybe that market’s a little saturated now. There seems to be an interest for something a little under, a little less costly, for sure.”

With at least seven or eight manufacturers building GT4 cars, one might wonder if there are enough customers to go around. That doesn’t seem like a problem for BMW.

“I’m proud to report that we’ve had a ton of interest from the word, ‘Go,’” Leleu said. “Ever since BMW Motorsport first communicated about the car towards the end of last year, we’ve had a lot of people knock on our door.

“We’re only getting a small allocation of cars here in the U.S., so once we’re really ready to start selling the cars here, we’ll see who’s really interested. But the level of interest, the number of requests that we’ve had, put simply, is far superior to how many cars we’ll have at the end of the day.”

Leleu expects the first M4 GT4s to be delivered to American teams in the fourth quarter of this year and be ready to go in time for the season-opening race at Daytona.

“The goal would be, obviously, to give the teams the chance to test and familiarize themselves with the car before they have to hit Daytona for the (annual) Roar (Before the Rolex 24 test), which comes super quickly after the holidays in December,” he said. “It will be late October, early November for the very first units.”