BimmerWorld Scores Podium, Two Top 10s At Daytona To Kick Off 2012 GRAND-AM Season
February 2nd, 2012
BimmerWorld’s season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway last weekend – the team’s third year in the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series—had a familiar ring to it.
Back in 2010 when the Virginia-based BMW experts entered GRAND-AM’s Street Tuner class with a pair of BMW 328is, the team ran inside the top 10 and scored a podium on its Daytona debut. With the expansion to three ST cars for 2012, the same was true as the No. 81 BimmerWorld BMW of veteran Gregory Liefooghe and rookie David Levine placed third, and the No. 80 of team owner James Clay and star sophomore John Capestro-Dubets took eighth at the BMW Performance 200.
The third car in BimmerWorld’s fleet, the No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN® BMW 328i driven by race winner Seth Thomas and the experienced Dan Rogers, was on pace to join the No. 80 and 81 in the top 10 until a hard hit by a competitor forced them to the pits for lengthy repairs.
Although the incident that befell the No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN® entry left plenty of points on the table, Clay came away from the wet/dry Round 1 race feeling positive about what the team can achieve across the entire 10-race championship.
“Certainly we have very capable cars and we are seeing the results of a winter of hard work and development, but our competition is tough and has some highly impressive speed,” Clay said. “I had hoped to win the BMW Performance 200 for BMW and we certainly gave it our all. And while we didn’t win, we showed that we have the team to do it when the opportunity arises and it will be a good year for the BimmerWorld guys.”
As the top finishers for BimmerWorld, Liefooghe and Levine got a chance to lead the race and to engage in a thrilling drafting battle on the high-banked portion of the blended oval and road course circuit, with Liefooghe, who drove the final stint, settling for third in the No. 81 after leading with one lap to go.
“The race went well for us and we can never complain about being on the podium,” he said. “It’s a great way to rack up points for the championship. Daytona has always been a drafting track and I was expecting to have a lot of action, but the numerous full course cautions and traffic did not play in our favor. On the last restart, I made sure to create a gap, and I managed to get out reach for the Kia and the Mazda to get in my draft, only to have a GS car slow me down and make me vulnerable. That’s when my competitors passed me in a two-car draft like a NASCAR restrictor plate race.
“On the last lap I still was set up nicely to get a run out of the bus stop and draft to the finish line, but another GS backmarker thought otherwise and came in the middle of the fight. It’s hard to say if we would have won but it would have been a three-wide finish. It was frustrating, but I still feel good about our performance. It feels like we have a much more competitive car this year thanks to the hard work BimmerWorld put in the off-season and that we’ll be fighting for wins all season long.”
For Levine, standing on the podium in his pro racing debut was just one of many highlights during the event.
“I am very pleased with our result at Daytona,” Levine said. “It would have been great to bring BMW a win in their title race, but I am still pleased with third. Overall, I was surprised by how clean the racing was. There were several times where there could have been contact but there wasn’t any. I really enjoyed my fight with Mark Pombo and Andy Lally. The car was amazing in the rain which made racing for the lead very easy. It was a great weekend and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of the BimmerWorld program.”
Capestro-Dubets was originally scheduled to switch to the role of closing driver this season, but a setback just before the Daytona race meant he will have to wait until Round 2 to take the reins from Clay. With Clay closing out the race in the No. 80, he and “JCD” got their championship aspirations off to a proper start by placing inside the top 10.
“Coming to Daytona this year was a heart break for me because of an injury that happened only days before leaving that would keep me from closing,” said JCD. “I have been preparing and waiting patiently for my chance to show my abilities as a closing driver, and with this injury keeping me from that, the drive from within to put the No. 80 on top grows and grows.
“Daytona was challenging enough last year, being my first time to the track, my first Continental race and being only my ninth race weekend ever! Then, only a year later, to be returning with a broken hand, and running in the top three during my stint, then bringing home a clean car for James was a major result. Overcoming the physical and mental challenge of this race was a victory in itself.”
Finishing 31st in class was hardly a just reward for Thomas and Rogers in the No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN® BMW 328i, but the longstanding BimmerWorld driver felt the team as a whole gave him every reason to feel 2012 will be a good year for the entire program.
“Even with the lack of judgment by another driver that spoiled our race, I am pumped about what I saw with the BimmerWorld team this past weekend,” said Thomas. “Everyone performed at the top of their game – from the drivers to all the crew guys. This will help us as a team to be at the top in the points all season long fighting it out for team, manufacturer and driver Championships. Dan was solid in the CRC BRAKLEEN® BMW. He found speed when he needed it, keeping us in the fight from the start of the race. He was amazing on a wet track, having never driven the BMW E90 chassis platform on the Continental rain tires. With the speed he has shown so far, we will be fighting for wins and podiums this year.”
For Rogers, the sting of missing out on a top finish soured what should have been a strong debut with BimmerWorld.
“The weekend was good, however, the result was one of the most disappointing I’ve had,” he said frankly, showing his competitive fire. “Everyone in the BimmerWorld team expects success and in my short time with them, I do as well I guess. I just need to keep looking for a bit more speed to hang with our other drivers in the starting role, but with Seth as a teammate and Wayne Yawn handling our race strategy, we’ll be in the game. We have every reason to feel encouraged about the first race, and now we just need to get to the finish at the second race to show what we can achieve.”
Watch the BMW Performance 200 this Saturday, February 4th, at 12 p.m. ET on SPEED, and follow the team’s progress at www.BimmerWorldRacing.com as they prepare for the next race on March 30th at Barber Motorsports Park.
Courtesy: BimmerWorld Media Services
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