The adventure lasted 13 years between the WRT team, founded in 2009 by Yves Weerts, Vincent Vosse and René Verbist (who has since left the structure), and the Volkswagen group. But all stories have an end and this one will come to an end in 2022. A new book will be written with BMW from 2023 for Baudour’s training, which will field BMW M4 GT3s and prepare for its arrival in the Hypercar category of the WEC – championship of the Endurance World – in 2024 with the BMW M Hybrid V8 in order to aim for the world title and victory in the general classification of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
From the announcement of the abandonment of the LMDh program made by Audi, it became clear that WRT would seek another partner to join the queen category of Endurance and aim for victory at Le Mans. And if the Belgian team had a choice, BMW very quickly proved to be the best solution, as confirmed by Vincent Vosse, team boss: « Of course, we discussed with other manufacturers, but very quickly the BMW option became obvious to us. Not only did their philosophy and their love of racing match ours, but contact with the management structure of BMW Motorsport was facilitated by the presence there of people with whom we had collaborated during our Audi era, in particular in the DTM. »
A page is turned, rich in memorable memories and an eloquent track record since the WRT-Audi pair will have won a good fifty titles in 13 years and can boast of prestigious victories with two bouquets of winners at the 24 Hours of Spa ( 2011 and 2014) and one at the 24 Hours of Nürburgring (2015) or even the 12 Hours of Bathurst (2018) and the 10 Hours of Suzuka (2019). But the pair no longer count the titles won in the SRO, Sprint, Endurance, European and international championships.
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Which program ?
This new association will start with certainty in 2023, but could already experience one or more first episodes as early as 2022, as Vincent Vosse told us: « as things stand, our GT season ends after the Barcelona final in GT World Challenge Europe. But nothing excludes that we participate in one or the other international event after that. Whether with Audi or BMW. Everything is open, we will see in due time. We still have titles to try to win with Audi. »
However, if WRT will be present with BMW M4 GT3s in 2023, we do not know in which championships – GTWC, DTM, Nürburgring Endurance Series – and with how many cars. WRT has always distinguished itself by entering between 4 and 5 cars a year during its Audi period. Will this always be the case with BMW? « Nothing has been decided on this yet. The same goes for pilots. Of course, this is an area to which I am very attached, but the choice of drivers will depend on what BMW wants. Both in GT3 and in LMDh. “, adds the boss.
The LMDh, precisely, is for 2024 and not before. BMW first wants to start in 2023 in the American IMSA championship with its long-standing partner across the Atlantic: BMW Team RLL. The manufacturer will only return to the World Endurance Championship and therefore to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2024, with WRT. And it is not expected that the Belgian team will lend a hand to its American counterpart at the 24 Hours of Daytona in 2024, even if « the door is of course open to such an opportunity » specifies Vincent Vosse. As for the 12 Hours of Sebring, participation is excluded since the two Belgian M Hybrid V8s will already be entered in the WEC on the same weekend on the same circuit.
What should we think ?
WRT’s departure from the Audi fold is completely understandable. On the one hand, entering the R8 in GT3 no longer brought much to the team, the homologation of the car still being frozen for 2 years with the virtual certainty that it would not be replaced. Starting a relationship with a new brand was therefore logical. Especially since the team of Yves Weerts and Vincent Vosse has acquired a much larger dimension by shining in LMP2 with a European title, a world title and a class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in its first season in 2021.
A commitment to the « small » prototype category which is justified by the desire to prepare for the arrival of WRT in Hypercar. So it was a question of taking the leap with Audi, of course. But the brand with the four rings having turned around, a new partner had to be found. Although the Alpine, Lamborghini or Acura/Honda or even Cadillac options could have held up, the package offered by BMW (GT3 + LMDh) was the best. All the more so with certain key men from the Audi seraglio and with whom WRT had already worked.
On the other hand, the versatility of BMW in competition is established and imagining such a long collaboration between WRT and the Bavarian manufacturer seems less likely to us. We should rather see this on the scale of the “hypercar” commitment which is based on a fixed homologation for 5 years, which brings us to the horizon of 2027. We bet that by then many things will still have.
NB: Our journalist Hans Dierckx participated in the 2022 24 Hours of Spa as a member of the WRT team, find his exclusive report in the Automobile Monitor #1782 of August 31, 2022.