GRAND-AM: BMW Evaluating Z4 GT3 For Rolex Series
German manufacturer, GRAND-AM in talks of bringing latest GT3 contender stateside for Rolex Series GT competition...

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While Audi’s R8 and the Ferrari F458 Italia made their GRAND-AM debuts at last month’s 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona, a third GT3-based car could be on its way to the Rolex Sports Car Series soon.

BMW has expressed interest in bringing its Z4 GT3 to the highly competitive GT ranks and is already in negotiations with GRAND-AM officials, its motorsport director Jens Marquardt confirmed to last month at Daytona.

The 4.4-liter V8-powered beast, which has earned a successful pedigree abroad, including overall victory at the 24 Hours of Dubai and a runner-up finish in the Spa 24 Hours, is being positioned as the car of choice for BMW’s customer sport programs worldwide.

"They approached us and other members of the BMW team probably a year ago, to begin that dialogue,” explained GRAND-AM managing director of manufacturer and series development Dave Spitzer said. “So far, it's been a good, open exchange.

“There has not been the time where we've actually collected ourselves around a car to go through line by line, but I understand from our friends at BMW of North America that it's important. In fact, I found out [last month] a little bit of the priority that BMW sees on that.”

The biggest hurdle, so far, appears to be in the original construction of the Z4, which was built to FIA safety standards. GRAND-AM mandates a sightly thicker roll cage for its GT cars because of the racing on high-speed, banked ovals such as Daytona and Homestead-Miami.

While Ferrari built all of its new 458 GT3 cars to GRAND-AM standards, series-specific Audi R8s were constructed in order to meet the increased safety requirements, a similar measure BMW may have to follow in order to get the Z4 homologated.

“There are a few differences when it comes to roll cage and side impact,” BMW’s Marquardt said of the FIA rules vs. GRAND-AM. “If you look at modern race cars nowadays, where they go to FIA standard or GRAND-AM or IMSA standard, I think they're [all] state-of-the-art race cars.

“Maybe some of these differences that might be coming from a historic point of view don't need to be there anymore. That's something between us as a manufacturer and the governing bodies need to discuss and maybe some to closer things that allow easier transfers.”

As far as other changes to make the Z4 GT3 GRAND-AM eligible, both Marquardt and Spitzer seemed confident that aerodynamic and power adjustments could easily be made to the existing cars.

“I'm sure we can get there,” Spitzer said. “FIA GT3 cars are incrementally more extreme as they go, but I believe the Z4 is still within range. It will require, most likely, some new components like the Audi had required from an aerodynamic point of view. I think that car is still within bounds if we apply some of the same logic to it as far as downforce and horsepower to get it into the Rolex GT class.”

Spitzer said BMW is one of a handful of manufacturers GRAND-AM is currently in discussions with to potentially bring new GT3-based cars to the Rolex Series. If plans materialize, the Z4s would join the Prep 2-built BMW M3s from Turner Motorsport on the GT grid.

How soon might that be? Marquardt has set a realistic target for the U.S. launch of the Z4 GT3, if everything goes to plan.

“If we are doing really well, it should be something maybe available for next year, so that we have this year to set everything up,” he said. “But that is really dependent on how well all the discussions go.”