BMW M Customer Racing teams should actually have been in action around the world for a number of weeks already. However, the global coronavirus pandemic has meant a longer winter break than anticipated. In a new series, we report on how the BMW M Customer Racing teams have spent this enforced break and how they have prepared for the start of their racing series in these unusual times. First up is Borusan Otomotiv Motorsport from Istanbul (TUR).
The team was founded in 2008 by Borusan Otomotiv, the distributor of BMW in Turkey, with the aim to contribute to the development of motorsports in Turkey and to represent Turkey abroad. It is headed by Project Manager Hakan Tiftik, Team Director İbrahim Okyay, Team Manager Ahmet Köseleci and Team Coordinator Elif Tanca. Borusan Otomotiv Motorsport competes in the GT4 European Series and will enter two BMW M4 GT4s in the series in 2020. İbrahim Okyay, Levent Kocabıyık and Fatih Ayhan (all TUR) will be racing in the Amateur category, while Yağız Gedik and Cem Bölükbaşı (both TUR) will be team-mates in the Pro-Am category. The team will also be present in the Turkish Circuit Championship. In an interview, Team Manager Ahmet Köseleci discusses the past few weeks, preparations, and the goals for this season.
Mr Köseleci, first and most important question: how are you and the team doing in these times?
Ahmet Köseleci: “Borusan Otomotiv Motorsport, founded in 2008, has many branches as BOM Akademi for sharing our team’s experience with participants, BOM Karting for discovering and supporting young talents, and BOM E-Team to, again, discover talents and represent our country abroad, also in sim racing. In this period, while our preparations for the new season were going on, of course with some difficulties caused by the pandemic, for the first three organisations, BOM E-Team was surely going on restless. Beside our 2020 championship, we organised many online events as races and hotlaps. As a team we participated in championships and races, especially with the aim of fund raising for Covid-19 research.”
What effect, apart from the fact that you could not go racing, did the corona pandemic and according restrictions have on your preparation work over the past months?
Köseleci: “We were lucky enough to have problems only for international product deliveries. We also are thankful that no member of our team was infected by the virus, also thanks to the very severe restrictions dictated by the Turkish Government, as otherwise it would be impossible to get under control a city like İstanbul with almost 20 million citizens.”
In what areas have you been able to work on over the past months?
Köseleci: “Our team, in our carefully prepared and controlled workshop, continued to work on our cars, of course in restricted hours. All the members of our team, very busy racing since 13 years, have never had so much rest and never had time to get so bored!”
The GT4 European Series will start on 25th July in Imola: How much are you looking forward to finally go racing?
Köseleci: “We are used to start our season in March or April, so we really are looking forward to be on track again. Imola is one of our favourite tracks and we will be racing there for the seventh time, and we are very happy because it will be the first race of the season.”
What is on your preparation schedule for the next weeks until then?
Köseleci: “As the tracks in Turkey are not opened yet for the tests, we still were not able to go on track. In the workshop side we are ready.”
You race the BMW M4 GT4 – what are the strong points of this BMW M Customer Racing car?
Köseleci: “Until today we had and have raced with the BMW 320i, the BMW 320Si, the BMW 320TC, the BMW M3 GT4, the BMW Z4 GT3 and the BMW M4 GT4. The common point of all these cars is that they are all flawless, resistant and fast to win under every circumstance.”
And let’s speak about your driver line-up: what are the strong points of your drivers?
Köseleci: “Starting with the new driver of our team, Cem Bölükbaşı, 22 years old, who is a world ranked sim racer: he was able to be on the podium in his second real race in Misano last year and has been source of high enthusiasm and expectation. Then we have one of the youngest drivers of the team, Yağız Gedik, 26 years old: he competed in the 3 Hour Endurance Champions Cup in Italy in 2017, in the GT4 European Series in 2018 and in 2019, he was back to Turkish Championship and won the title. This year he is very willing and ready to race again in the GT4 European Series. Levent Kocabıyık is 35 years old and won the Turkish title twice. In 2016, he was one of the drivers of the team which won the 3 Hour Endurance Champions Cup in Italy, with the BMW Z4 GT3. He is one of the most experienced drivers of the team. Fatih Ayhan, 43 years, started his career in the USA with karting and was also one of the drivers of the team which won the 2016 3 Hour Endurance Champions Cup. He has been on the podium in many international races and is known as someone who always keeps a cool head. İbrahim Okyay, 50 years, is starting the 29th year of his driving career. He has raced and been on the podium in the FIA WTCC, the FIA ETCC, the 3 Hour Endurance Champions Cup and the GT4 European Series. In 2019, he was crowned Turkish Champion for the tenth time and he is the most experienced driver of the team.”
What makes the GT4 European Series a special, attracting championship to compete in?
Köseleci: “Borusan Otomotiv Motorsport is the only ‘all Turkish’ team participating in international races. We always prefer to be in competitive environments which give our team members more experience.”
So what are your goals for the season?
Köseleci: “We are following the full GT4 European Series for the third year in a row, and this will be the first time we will be competing with two cars. We want to be more competitive in the overall teams’ ranking.”