BMW’s factory FIA WEC GTE Pro programme currently hangs in the balance after just one season. But the MTEK team behind the effort is eager to continue racing in the category and build on the progress it has made through its maiden sportscar racing season with the new M8 GTE.
Thus far during its 2018/19 ‘Super Season’ campaign, the team has managed just two podium finishes, and zero wins over the course of the six races. But MTEK team principal Ernest Knoors told DSC feels that it is now capable of winning reaching the top step of the podium at Spa and at Le Mans next month.
“Since the beginning of the season we’ve got the car in the ballpark of BoP, we’ve been quite competitive,” he explained. “We’ve learned quite a few lessons, Fuji and Sebring. There should be no excuse to not perform well here and at Le Mans, we’re actually quite confident.
“You try to go into a season convinced you can do better (than maybe you can), we had expectations but the reality is we’re racing against very competitive teams. The format of the racing is tough and the modifications that needed to be made to the car.
“Our car struggles in corners, more straights are better for our car, lots of in-line braking is what we like because of how the car is, it’s a big car. So Le Mans should be good for us. We’re not based on a, 458 or GT, it’s a proper road car adapted to race like a GT should be.”
But doubt is spreading through the WEC paddock concerning the future of both the BMW and Ford programmes in GTE Pro. There’s no certainty the category will remain 10 cars strong now, even with it having the strong foundation of long-standing teams Aston Martin Racing, Porsche and AF Corse, who are all expected to return for 2019/20.
Despite the uncertainty surrounding its WEC commitments, BMW’s IMSA programme with Team RLL (which won the Rolex 24 Hours back in January) isn’t up for the same level of review according to BMW Motorsport boss Jens Marquardt in conversation with DSC.
Should BMW pull the plug on its WEC programme, then there is a chance that MTEK could continue on as a private team. However, a decision must be made soon, as the deadline for WEC entries for next season is coming up later this month (May 21st). Knoors is fully aware of how tight the timing is, especially as the WEC is expected to have a capacity grid next season.
WEC CEO Gerard Neveu is confident that the WEC will have a maximum capacity grid in 2019/20, with growth in the LMP2 class in particular set to keep the entry list over 30 cars through the season.
Knoors stressed to DSC that MTEK is looking at alternatives, and is aiming to be back in some capacity next year.
“MTEK is a racing team, we don’t have any other businesses or interests,” he said. “We want to race. If we have the potential or chance to be back we will be back. That’s our goal for the team. If we want to be back, we want to be back competing and with a chance to win. I think with the car where it is now, it does have a chance to win.
“We’re hoping to be back next season. If you look at all the stuff that’s been put in place, you would assume that it makes sense to continue. The performance is there, the base is there, the motivation is there, to carry on, but like everything, motorsport and the automotive industry is challenging, it’s a tough time.
“Projects are being questioned, especially when the company is under pressure and that’s the reality we live in.
“There are official deadlines. Soon we will know. (But should BMW pull the plug) We would be well advised to look at alternatives (to stay in the WEC). We are focused on doing well here, doing well with BMW, that’s always been the relationship.
“The WEC is a very interesting form of motorsport. It’s been enjoyable working with the race director, with the other teams, manufacturers, working with this format.
“Being here has been a pleasure, we’ve worked in DTM, Formula One, and this is a challenge that suits us, we like it.”