BMW has confirmed it will return to participate in next year's FIA World Touring Car Championship, with the Munich marque determined to wrest the two series titles back from rival SEAT.

Having been out-performed by SEAT and their controversial diesel-engined Leon in 2008, BMW had refused to commit to their continuation in the series, while their imminent return to the American Le Mans Series had also raised speculation of a withdrawal.

Nonetheless, the announcement was made on Saturday night, in Munich, as BMW celebrated its traditional end-of-season Sport Pokal party, with the WTCC and F1 squads joining other employees to reflect on the year.

"We're proud that we achieved our goals once again in the third year of our Formula One team," motorsport director Mario Theissen commented, "We were aiming to record our maiden victory, and we did so with a 1-2. Plus, we collected our first pole position and two fastest race laps.

"In the WTCC, we took six victories, but had to concede the title to our rivals for the first time, and Formula BMW Europe enjoyed a good debut season with its races on the Formula One support programme.

"This event gives us the opportunity to thank our partners, drivers and associates for their commitment during the 2008 season although, for some of us, the season is not yet over. The Formula BMW World Final will take place in Mexico City this coming weekend, plus the F1 team will have little in the way of a winter break, with further testing in Jerez scheduled for December. Preparations for 2009, meanwhile, are already in full swing at the factories."

Although Andy Priaulx guided BMW to three consecutive WTCC drivers' and manufacturers' championships between 2005-07, this year, despite six race victories, the German marque had to settle for second place in the manufacturers' championship, and only fourth in the drivers' championship as Priaulx trailed Yvan Muller, Gabriele Tarquini and Rob Huff.

Despite the setback, however, Theissen insists that the WTCC would continue to form a crucial part of the marque's motorsport activities, particularly with a new method of balancing performance between the teams being put in place for 2009 which should end the diesel versus petrol and front-wheel drive versus rear-wheel drive debates.

"Touring cars have traditionally been very important to BMW," Theissen said, "I am pleased that a compromise was reached regarding the 2009 rules. This balances out the different engine concepts and should allow for fair and even competition between the manufacturers.

"We are absolutely determined to be back at the top of the WTCC at the 2009 season finale in Macau. We shall announce our team and driver line-up at a later date."



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