BMW has committed to returning to endurance racing, but it won’t be headed back to Formula 1.
That’s despite its big rival at Mercedes-Benz cementing itself as a fixture on the grid, and Audi gearing up to join in 2026 alongside automotive giants such as Ford and Honda.
Rather than Formula 1, BMW has set its sights on World Endurance Championship (WEC) and International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) endurance glory.
That includes a tilt at the Le Mans crown with its M Hybrid V8, 25 years after winning the event with the V12 LMR.
“The reason for doing WEC and IMSA is, we already drive with hybrid drivetrains,” BMW M boss Frank van Meel told CarExpert.
The M Hybrid V8 pictured above packs a fire-breathing V8 engine, but is also capable of driving at pit speeds on electric power alone. Formula 1 cars, on the other hand, use their electric motors in a very different way.
“Formula 1 is planning that I think from 2026 or 2027 on, but they’re still working on the regulations, so that is for us much too late,” he said.
The M Hybrid V8 is powered by a V8 engine, which paired with a hybrid system is allowed to output a total of 500kW, although that may change based on how regulators want to balance performance between competitors.
Per class regulations, hybrid prototypes have a minimum weight of 1030kg, use a 50kW Bosch hybrid system and Williams Advanced Engineering battery pack, and an Xtrac transmission. Under the skin, the M Hybrid is built in partnership with motorsports specialist Dallara.
Under IMSA GTP rules, the M Hybrid will be rear-wheel drive. The cars it’d compete with at Le Mans, were BMW to confirm an entry, have been built using a different interpretation of the same rules.
This hybrid hypercar racing class was jointly conceived by IMSA, FIA and ACO so hybrid hypercar prototypes can enter the North American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship.
This means that the racers can not only enter and race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the USA, but can also race in the iconic 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Along with Formula 1’s hybrid regulations, Mr van Meel pointed to the category’s lack of road relevance as an impediment.
“With the V8 hybrid, we try and use things in motorsports that we can also bring into series production cars. With Formula 1 that’s almost impossible,” he said.
“We come from touring car racing, 3.0 CSL and M1, so our history and heritage is to take things from racing and put them in series production cars. With Formula 1 it’s too far away, and it’s too slow.”
BMW was last part of the Formula 1 grid during 2009 in partnership with Sauber.