David Pittard has never made a secret of his dream to one day join BMW Motorsport as a factory driver – it’s the reason why he came to the Nürburgring in the first place. This year has brought the two-time Nürburgring race winner one step closer as he plans for an Intercontinental GT Challenge campaign with Walkenhorst Motorsport surrounded by BMW works drivers.
Starting with the Spa 24 Hours, the Brit will share his BMW M6 GT3 with Martin Tomczyk and Nick Yelloly and continue the season racing whatever will be left on the Intercontinental GT Challenge calendar, while Nick Catsburg, Augusto Farfus and Chaz Mostert already had their first outing at the Bathurst 12 Hour last February.
“When it comes to [Martin Tomczyk and Nick Yelloly], drawing on their experience and seeing how they act, that’s where I’m really going to benefit most coming off the track” David Pittard says. “And from what I learn off the track I will then be able to add to my ability on track where I know I will be able to do the job when it comes to these major endurance races.
“It’s what I learned most when I went to the Bathurst race at the beginning of this season – unfortunately not driving but since everything was booked, I knew it would be a great experience anyway. That was really good to hang out for a week with Chaz Mostert – from a completely different career path, being Australian and being in the whole V8 Supercars career and ladder and obviously a Bathurst expert. It was great to learn sort of the local things and tips and tricks from Bathurst from someone like himself, there’s probably no one better.
“I was literally shadowing the drivers for a whole week whilst out in Australia and it really changed my perspective on how a works driver acts and how he draws on the team and his experience to get the most out of everything. That was a really good experience at the beginning of the year.
“Having this amazing opportunity to be in basically a factory-backed Intercontinental GT team with five other BMW works drivers around me, it’s only going to be incredible beneficial – I can’t wait for that to start, it’s going to be an amazing opportunity. I get goose bumps thinking about the opportunity I have and I can’t wait to give it my best and do my job.”
Ending up with a drive that many of his colleagues would envy him for is all down to Pittard’s determination and sociability.
“Being one of Walkenhorst’s sort of ‘academy drivers’ – I went to them at the beginning of 2018 stating my ambitions to become a factory driver and starting off in the BMW M235i Racing Cup class in VLN and progressing all the way through the multiple pole and race winners at the Nürburgring – Walkenhorst had introduced me to all the key members at BMW Motorsport.
“On the customer racing side Jonas Krauss heads up the sales and customer racing programs and Mike Krack who is the BMW Motorsport director looking after DTM, IMSA and such programs. I’ve been down to Munich on a number of occasions to meet with these guys and introduce myself so I’m not just a name on a piece of paper; they know who David Pittard is. They can see from the pieces of paper my performances but I know, like anything in life, it’s not about your performance; you should build relationships, make the effort, and I’ve done that over the past two years. And having met all of the key guys in Munich I now feel confident to approach these guys at race meeting and when our paths cross and exchange emails, discussing ideas and things like that.
“The opportunity came about in which I was effectively offered it as almost like a customer racing ambassador. In no way am I described as a works driver or anything like that; it’s almost a way of saying from a customer racing point of view – and Jonas had an influence on this decision with the likes of Mike Krack who are almost integrating BMW Motorsport and customer racing together in this project – that if you can perform well in customer racing there are opportunities available to you within BMW Motorsport itself.
“I was very fortunate that I was able to show my ability and I believe I make the most out of every opportunity that I have available and through that I am able to create the opportunities that I wish. And this is the ideal way to put myself in the shop front and go towards my main end-goal of becoming a factory driver. I’m effectively in a factory team with five factory drivers so there’s nowhere to hide in all of that, it’s purely down to performing on and off the track to do the job for the brand which is absolutely amazing. Hopefully, I can do a lot more in the future.”
In his shot to fame at the Nürburgring, Pittard has caught the eye of teams up and down the pitlane. However, he is going all in on BMW as the German car manufacturer has a proven track record of loyalty to its drivers and racing in general.
“A lot of people I’ve grown up with from the British motorsport scene have joined BMW,” Pittard continues, explaining why he’s set his sights on BMW and not any other brand. “The likes of Andy Priaulx, being a longtime BMW works driver, I used to follow the World Touring Car Championship in the mid-2000s and remember watching Andy driving and being involved in BMW and then swapping to endurance with the BMW at the Nürburgring 24 Hours. Later, Alexander Sims was another British driver to join BMW. He had started his professional GT career at McLaren and then quite quickly moved to BMW after that.
“And you can’t question BMW’s commitment to motorsport throughout an extended period of time. There are some manufacturers that have come in and out of motorsport, and when you look at the four major German brands involved in endurance racing, some of them have gone, gotten back involved again, but if you look at BMW’s commitment from since forever, they’re fully committed to their racing programs.
“And I also think they make awesome road cars. They’re driver-orientated road cars which all stems from the motorsports side of things as well.
“That’s where I feel I fit, really, and where the opportunities are available. Motorsport can be a fickle industry where one minute you’re employed and on top of the world and the next minute someone doesn’t allocate the budget required and you’re out of it. Going forward, job security is a quite high things on my priority list and looking at BMW’s commitment to motorsport over those years, that gives me confidences that if were to be involved with these guys I would be with them for a long time. Another great example is Augusto Farfus: I remember he was teammates to Priaulx way back in the day and he is still a very key member to the BMW Motorsport family so it shows that they value loyalty and good guys and that’s what I aspire to be.”
The world has found itself in strange and uncertain times. With races cancelled and a global recession looming, finding a drive with a manufacturer will be harder than ever.
“Everything was looking so good for this year but with what’s happening, a global recession is potentially very imminent, and this is now an instance where budget may be cut for what seems unnecessary things like motorsport, et cetera.
“I am very worried, to be fair, because I don’t know what BMW’s situation is going to be going in the short to medium terms which is when I hope to be with those guys. With the M4 coming in I hope that will have a larger customer racing presence in GT racing so that will give me more opportunities to drive BMW cars.
“But, yeah, it is very much at the front of my mind. I believe that I am still at the very early point of my racing career, my endurance racing career, so if I were to be brought on by the manufacturer, I know that I can be and will be competitive for a long time. My main argument is that I will be a fantastic investment over the years if they can take me on in the short to medium term future.”
But for now, Pittard stays the course.
“I’m still sticking to my goals for this year and the short term – after that we’ll see what happens. I know I’m good at making things happen for myself so whatever will be, I’m sure I will give my best and try and get the best result possible whatever that may end up being.”