FINAL ROUND: SRO Championship – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
October 7th, 2020
After the previously successful set of races at COTA, James Clay was still leading the TC America Driver’s Championship points while the team rolled into Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a long week full of racing. These final two races would seal the fate for the overall season championship, so the pressure was on for James to finish close to the podium to be awarded enough points to clinch the championship.
Right off the bat, things were looking great as James qualified his PÖRQ/OPTIMA Batteries No. 36 BMW M240iR on the pole for the first race of the weekend. Chandler Hull qualified his TAC Energy No. 94 M240iR close behind in P4— there was less than a second between the top eight cars!
The numbers were being crunched in the pits before the race started to figure out where James needed to finish to clinch the championship, and that magic number was P4. If he could finish in P4 or better, the championship would be his, but James isn’t one to sit back and let everyone else have the fun. Throughout the race, James diced it up with the top four cars nonstop, running in second for most of the race. While dealing with lapped traffic going into T2, a rookie TCR driver made a fairly unpredictable move which forced contact with James, sending him spinning and dropping to the back of the field. With less than half the race left, James fought hard to get back up through the field, but when the checkers flew, it was P8 for him and P10 for Chandler.
Obviously very disappointed with this outcome, James knew that the final race of the season would be the deciding factor for the entire championship. Finishing in P8 didn’t net him enough points to clinch it, so now it would all come down to Race 2. Starting near the middle of the pack, James knew it would be important to not only get close to the front for those crucial points, but he’d also have to stay out of trouble and keep the car in one piece all the way to the finish.
Dicing through the field right from the start, the BimmerWorld Racing team was pulling their hair out behind the pit wall watching every second of the race and reacting with gasps or yells each time they saw Clay driving hard to gain positions. Teammate Chandler Hull stuck right with him, and both drivers managed to navigate through the field of M240iRs cleanly, with James finishing P4 and Chandler in P7.
The final finishing position in the last race of the season gave James enough points to be locked in as the 2020 SRO TC America Driver’s Champion! It came right down to the wire, but when things mattered most, he got the job done.
Switching over to our Red Line Oil BMW M4 GT4 America Sprint X car, Bill Auberlen and James Walker, Jr. also had their final pair of races to end the season. Race 1 had James Walker, Jr. behind the wheel first starting in P12. Walker, Jr. managed to move the car up through the field a bit before handing it over to Bill who finished out the race strong in P6.
The second race was almost the same, with the BimmerWorld M4 GT4 rolling off in P13 and the dynamic duo working the car up to P8, which was also enough to lock them into a podium finish for the overall season points in their very first year of driving the car together. It was a huge accomplishment and a testament to the consistency of these two drivers behind the wheel of this BMW.
After the dust had settled and the awards were given out, everyone could breathe easy knowing they were done for the year, and the stress of bringing home a championship or a podium position was finally gone for the season…
But wait, there’s more!
That’s right, the boys at BimmerWorld thought the only way to cap off a brutal season with an insanely compressed schedule — sometimes with three back-to-back race weekends — would be to race even more. We aren’t talking about another Sprint race. Oh, no… James, Chandler, and Bill were going to tackle the SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge Indianapolis 8-Hour Endurance Race. That’s right, as soon as the BimmerWorld Red Line Oil M4 GT4 was done with its regular season, the BWR crew went to work preparing it for its next mission of tackling an 8-hour-long endurance race with competitors from all over the globe.
Prepping the car with fresh PFC brake pads, topping off the OPTIMA Battery, checking the Red Line Oil fluids, along with the normal level of inspection that’s usually done back at the shop post-race over a couple of days was done in a matter of hours at the track. The very next day, the RLO M4 GT4 rolled onto the Brickyard once again to qualify for the 8-hour race.
While Bill Auberlen was busy putting down fast laps, a wheel stud failed. This caused him to come in early, and not being able to fix the car while on pit lane meant no other drivers could get in the car to complete their qualifying sessions. In this series, your starting position is based on an average of the 3 driver’s qualifying times; therefore, we were forced to start at the back of the field since we couldn’t post a qualifying time. This failure — which was a BMW Motorsport part — was quickly remedied back in the garage with a full set of wheel studs that BimmerWorld regularly sells to their customers and installs on their own builds.
On to Sunday morning and Bill Auberlen was suited up and ready to take the green. The weather was on everyone’s mind while the cloud cover started to look threatening, and the radar showed a line of heavy rain quickly approaching. The big decision to stick with slicks or change to rains was something every team was struggling with down to the very last moment. Everyone was watching what their competition was doing to see what call would give them the biggest advantage. Everyone stuck to slicks, and as the green flag waved to start eight hours of racing, the rain started falling.
Taking the green on the very first lap, Auberlen didn’t waste any time rushing to the front, picking up four positions in Turn 1. As the rain got heavier, everyone started getting nervous about their tire choices, and when it eventually got to be too much to handle, the Red Line Oil M4 GT4 came to pit lane for a fresh set of rains. With his confidence restored, Bill continued to push to the front, quickly landing himself in P2 while still battling in extremely rainy conditions.
The second driver to get behind the wheel was James Clay who managed to push the BimmerWorld car to the lead during his stint on a now-drying track. Handing the car off to Chandler mid-race resulted in even more flawless pit stops from the BWR crew, allowing the car to remain in P1 for several hours.
While we approached the final hours of the race, the BimmerWorld Red Line Oil M4 GT4 remained out front due to the perfect strategy of Dave Wagener and Wayne Yawn. Decisions made on the fly at the perfect time always landed the BimmerWorld M4 GT4 back in P1 after pit cycles and driver changes. In endurance racing, the strategy behind pit wall is just as important as the talent behind the wheel. If those two don’t work perfectly in concert, you stand no chance of winning.
In BimmerWorld’s case, everything did work perfectly together, and eight hours after taking the green flag in last place, the team was taking the checkered flag in first.
James, Bill, and Chandler got some well-deserved champagne on the top step of the podium, putting the best possible cap on an already extremely successful 2020 SRO season.
HUGE thanks to our technical sponsors:
OPTIMA Batteries – Red Line Oil – PFC Brakes – Diffsonline – Lifeline Fire Systems – BMW Motorsport
This season would not have been possible without the amazing work from the entire BimmerWorld racing team.
Bill Auberlen – Driver – No. 82 Red Line Oil M4 GT4 – Sprint X Pro/Am
James Walker Jr. – Driver – No. 82 Red Line Oil M4 GT4 – SprintX Pro/AM
James Clay – Driver – No. 36 PORQ / OPTIMA Batteries – TC America
Chandler Hull – Driver – No. 94 TAC Energy M240iR – TC America
David Wagener – Team Manager/Engineer
Wayne Yawn – Engineer
Dave Simpkins – Crew Chief
Jordan Allen – Car Chief No. 82
Bryce Allen – Lead Tech No. 82
Tommy Gallant – Tire Engineer
Zach Lovingood – Lead Tech No. 36
Matt Berg – Car Chief No. 94
Theo Bialk – Car Chief No. 36
Rod Owens – Hauler Driver
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