Having already shelved its Formula One operation ahead of the 2010 campaign, BMW has confirmed speculation that it is to reduce its commitment to the World Touring Car Championship from six cars to two.
With the Schnitzer team turning its attention to sportscar racing and the ROAL operation moving to pastures as yet undefined, the championship-winning RBM will spearhead Munich's bid for future titles by expanding to a two-car squad for Andy Priaulx and Augusto Farfus.
Bart Mampaey's outfit will be responsible for the two BMW 320si WTCCs, with triple world champion Priaulx being joined by the most successful BMW driver of last season, as Farfus claimed six victories and third place overall. The two drivers have a combined total of 27 victories so far in the World Touring Car Championship and look set to be taking on a reduced works SEAT presence in 2010.
Despite the reduction, however, motorsport director Mario Theissen - who recently turned down overtures from Sauber to remain in F1 - insists that BMW's commitment to racing remains undimmed.
“I am pleased that we are able to offer our fans an attractive motorsport programme in the first year since our withdrawal from F1," he claimed, "In production car racing, BMW has enjoyed countless triumphs throughout the course of its long racing history – whether with close-to-production touring cars or imposing GT sportscars. We want to follow on from this success in 2010, in both the World Touring Car Championship and the ALMS. In addition, our programme will include works entries at 24-hour classics for the first time since 2005.
"Promoting junior racing drivers remains an important pillar of our activities: Formula BMW Europe is once again a permanent feature in the general F1 programme, and we will also be supporting talented youngsters in Formula BMW Pacific as they take their first steps in single-seater racing. Furthermore, we will also expand our customer racing programme, and will be offering a new car in the form of a BMW Z4 that complies with GT3 regulations. In general, we are well positioned to demonstrate the performance of our cars to our customers around the world in 2010.”
The German company released details of its 2010 motorsport programme at the BMW Sports Trophy Award Ceremony in Munich over the weekend, revealing that the BMW M3 GT2 will see action in selected GT races, primarily the 24-hour classics, while also featuring in the American Le Mans Series. Priaulx will compete in both the WTCC and selected endurance sportscar races.
"This will be another busy year for me, but to do both touring cars and sportscars for BMW is a great prospect," the Guernseyman admitted, "You need very different skills, and I shall relish the challenges. In my opinion, the WTCC is the ultimate competition. I think this is one of the hardest championships in the world, but I have always enjoyed competing in endurance races."
BMW will be represented at numerous GT events by long-term test and development team Schnitzer, with the focus falling on the classic 24-hour races at the Nürburgring, Le Mans and Spa-Francorchamps. BMW Motorsport is currently in what it terms 'positive discussions' with organisers and governing bodies regarding the approval of the car.
In addition to, and as preparation for, the classics, the sportscar programme also includes starts in the VLN Endurance Championship at the Nürburgring and in the European-based Le Mans Series. Jörg Müller and Dirk Werner, who joins the 2010 BMW works drivers line-up, will be the regular drivers for the GT races, while Priaulx, Farfus and Dirk Müller will also be involved with the programme. Uwe Alzen and Dirk Adorf complete the strong squad for the 24-hour race at the Nürburgring.
As last year, BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team, racing under the flag of BMW of North America, will field two BMW M3 GT2s in the GT2 class of the ALMS. This season, Bobby Rahal's team celebrated a one-two result at Road America and finished on the podium seven times, and the 2010 driving strength will once again consist of Dirk Müller, Tommy Milner, Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand.