In terms of expectations, no GT300 team were a bigger disappointment, by their own admission, than BMW Team Studie.
#7 Studie BMW M6 GT3
Drivers: Jörg Müller / Seiji Ara / Augusto Farfus (Suzuka 1000km)
GT300 Drivers’ Championship: 15th Place (17 points)
GT300 Teams’ Championship: 14th Place (34 points)
Podiums: 1 (Okayama)
Best Finish: 3rd (Okayama)
Best Qualifying: 3rd (Okayama)
At the start of the season, thanks to a third-place podium finish at Okayama – the first race for the new BMW M6 GT3 – things were actually looking pretty awesome for BMW Team Studie, with more support from the factory in Munich on hand to upgrade them from “totally not a works team” to “actually, very much a works team”.
It was that added expectation, that great start, and the superb talents of the all-pro lineup of Müller and Ara that just made their subsequent tailspin that much worse.
Their races at Fuji, where the ARTA BMW finished second and third, were ruined by two separate mechanical failures. Then they had an engine issue that left them off the starting grid at Suzuka, costing them even more points. At Motegi, they were totally anonymous, but at least a sixth-place at Buriram kept the year from being a total loss.
BMW Team Studie may have a wealth of resources at their disposal compared to a lot of other teams, but nobody has visibly taken this year’s struggles harder than Yasuaki “Bob” Suzuki, on behalf of their supporters. He wears his pride on his sleeve, and the frustrations of 2016 were a lot to endure – he even ripped the spark plugs from his own road car to help their engine ailments at Suzuka.
It’s hard not to empathise with this team. It’s also hard to imagine how, in the three years since spinning off from Goodsmile Racing, that BMW Team Studie have yet to win a race, with the experienced driver pairing and depth of engineers and factory support that they boast. Ara, one of two Japanese drivers to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, and Müller, who’s won every big endurance race besides Le Mans, are both in their 40s, and their windows are closing.
Affectionately dubbed the “Teddy Bear BMW” by commentator Sam Collins, Studie felt like a neglected toy in 2016. They can afford one year like this, write it off as a fluke – but that will only reinforce 2017 as a “must win” season more than ever before.