MAURICE HAMILTON

BMW: 'The Crap Job'


Those of us living in the UK are preparing to be maxed out with London 2012 Olympics publicity as the British sporting summer reaches its height. As always, some adverts will better than others.

For those of us involved in motor sport, it should be no surprise that BMW has already put its name to one of the most crass pieces of promotional material I have ever seen. I say 'no surprise' because, although BMW hardware is of the highest quality, the publicity department - if one exists, and I sometimes doubt that - has got its head stuck up its own exhaust.

'The Britalian Job' is a promotional film based on the 1969 classic, 'The Italian Job' which featured the ubiquitous Mini in a spectacular car chase. BMW, having become custodian of the Mini name, has introduced three of the latest versions - painted red, white and blue, of course - in a toe-curlingly awful sequence as they give chase to a motorbike thief making off with Olympic medals. I'll spare you the detail, save to say that the wooden acting by real-life British Olympic heroes matches a story-line that appears to have been written by a five-year-old having a bad day.

This is BMW's choice, of course, and I'm sure some well-paid executive can justify the marketing rationale. But the point we, as motor sport fans, need to know about is the huge cost involved in producing this five-minute...er, epic. Why should that bother us? Because BMW Motorsport, claiming budget restrictions, has squandered a golden opportunity with its WRC Mini.

I refer specifically to this year's Monte Carlo Rally and the total waste of one of the best motor sport stories of recent times when the marque returned to the scene of its greatest triumph in mid-Sixties.

Worse than that, they ditched a gifted British driver, Kris Meeke, who comes from the same Northern Ireland background as Paddy Hopkirk, the winner for Mini in 1964. I know for a fact that Paddy would have been busting a gut to rekindle the memories with a very promising fellow countryman as they presented a story that even the most blasé sports editor would have found difficult to ignore. Certainly, the 'Return of the Mini to Monte' with another Northern Irish driver would have gained more recognition than anything 'The Britalian Job' is ever likely to generate.

Then there's BMW's arrival in the DTM. Much as I love the sight and sound of these cars, it is nothing more than a domestic championship that occasionally moves beyond the German border. That would be entirely BMW's choice and not worthy of comment - except, in the light of the aforementioned hand-wringing pleas of rallying poverty, word is that BMW is spending £40 million on DTM. Just on hospitality! Surely this can't be true?

I also hear through similar impeccable sources that BMW are paying large sums buying up grandstand seats just to make the DTM races look good - although I do find that difficult to believe of a firm that is struggling financially to do a decent job with a rally car that has such huge WRC potential.

Then again, as I said before, nothing should surprise us when it comes to BMW's logic. This is the same firm, when linked with Sauber, that had a typically Germanic plan to conquer F1. It went along the lines of score points one year, gain a podium within 12 months, win a Grand Prix the following year and then conquer the world the next.

The plan went amazingly well with points in 2006, a podium in 2007 and a superb win for Robert Kubica in the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix. But this was too much in every sense. When Kubica found himself heading the points table after Montreal, the poor misguided boy believed with good reason he was in with a shout of the championship.

Nein! The computer programme said the championship was scheduled for 2009. Serious development stopped on the BMW-Sauber F1.08 for the rest of the season. And then they totally screwed it up. Having finished second in the championship in 2007 and allowed a slide from three points behind eventual winner Ferrari to third in 2008, they crashed backwards to sixth in 2009 with a quarter of the points gained in the year they preferred not to win the title. Talk about chucking away the opportunity of a life-time.

It's such a shame. I'm on my third BMW 330/325 Cd and love it just as much as my first. What a pity the publicity department appears to have half the wit of the people making such fabulous motor cars.

Maurice Hamilton , a freelance motor sport writer and broadcaster since 1977, is the author of more than twenty books and contributes to websites and magazines worldwide.

His weekly column for Grandprix.com was Highly Commended in the 2011 Newspress New Media Awards.

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