BMW Australia has linked with Steven Richards Motorsport for its factory backed entry into the Australian GT Championship next season.
Company CEO Marc Werner announced plans in Melbourne today that will see Richards lead a customer-focussed program utilising the manufacturer’s new M6 GT3.
Two cars from BMW’s initial batch of 20 built have been earmarked for Australia, with Richards to pilot the first car in selected AGTC rounds.
Arriving next month, the car is set to debut at Albert Park in March and has also been confirmed for the four Australian Endurance Championship events later in the season.
A customer is currently being sought for the second car, which BMW hopes will be one of a number of privately funded M6s on the grid in future.
BMW has appointed Steven Richards Motorsport as the official on-track support team and parts outlet for the M6s in Australia.
Werner stressed that next season will be a ‘ramp up’ year for the program before more cars and, most likely, a Bathurst 12 Hour effort are added in 2017.
The M6 is among a fleet of new GT3 vehicles not eligible for this year’s 12 Hour due to the timing of its homologation.
Werner says that four-time Bathurst 1000 winner Richards is the perfect spearhead for the new operation.
“We were considering a couple of options but it was evident at a very early stage that if we wanted to do something here locally it should be through an authentic Australian team,” Werner told Speedcafe.com.
“Steve naturally became the first choice. He’s Australian, he’s successful and has a very good reputation in the market. He fulfils all the requirements for being a BMW brand ambassador.”
Richards will meanwhile continue to race and drive his own Carrera Cup entry from the same Dandenong workshop that houses the BMW effort.
Having also committed to a return to the V8 Supercars Pirtek Enduro Cup alongside Craig Lowndes, Richards is set for a hectic schedule in 2016.
The 43-year-old says that the structure of the BMW program will be a step ahead of other customer support efforts currently seen in Australian GT.
Audi currently has the most comprehensive customer support service, channeling its support through Troy Russell’s Melbourne Performance Centre.
“As an owner of the team and a driver I can bring something different that perhaps isn’t available to other customer programs,” said Richards.
“In most cases in Australian GT the amateur owns the car and they bring in a professional driver.
“I see this as a great opportunity to work it around the other way, where you’ve got a professional driver who is a team owner that provides a service that we can tailor to the customer.”
Richards’ father Jim won two Australian Touring Car Championships aboard BMWs in the 1980s and is also expected to be utilised as an ambassador for the program.