Some time this summer, a move that would have been unthinkable even a ten years ago will be complete and BMW’s motorsports division will have a full-time and fully-equipped base at the heart of Britain’s motorsport industry.
For Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, the German manufacturer’s boss of marketing and also managing director of BMW Motorsport, this shouldn’t be regarded as anything out of the ordinary, more an attempt to ‘take the best out of both worlds.’
For him a British-based BMW Motorsport is about ‘combining the best of made in Germany with the best of made in Britain.’
Made in Germany means engines of course and Kalbfell is at pains to point out that ‘responsibility for this will never move from Munich’. But all other elements of BMW’s motorsport activity in the future, he says, will be masterminded from a new factory under construction next door to Williams’s Formula 1 facility at Grove in Oxfordshire.
‘We want to benefit from the competence of Williams and set down ties close to them,’ explains Kaibfell, who took the first steps down the road to establishing a British-based BMW Motorsports in 1994 and subsequently forged a link with McLaren Cars, builder of the BMW-engined Fl GTR. ‘The plan now is to do all our non-Fl projects close to Williams.’
For the moment BMW Motorsport is based in Williams’s old F1 factory down the road in Didcot. But the structure of the new purpose-built facility at Grove started to go up within the past two weeks, and Christoph Schuastberger, technical head of BMW Motorsport and the man who will be in day-to-day charge of the British operation, says that the facility will be ready to move into by the summer. ‘The only problem is,’ he explains, ‘that we will have to be careful that we do not disrupt our Le Mans programme.’.