This month, BimmerWorld Racing will return to the track in a big way with a pair of events on two of North America’s premier road courses: VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) and Sebring International Raceway. The races are slated for SRO America and the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge Series, respectively, and represent the first events for each since the COVID-19 pandemic brought the racing world to a halt in mid-March.
“When we suddenly stopped racing, all of my focus went to crisis management with our BimmerWorld parts business,” said company and team owner James Clay of Blacksburg, Virginia. “We are running a total of six pro cars in two teams this year on the racing side, which is no small undertaking. However, the parts side is an even larger business, with 30-plus people whom we are committed to keeping employed, and a customer base to which we are committed to providing parts and service. The business has certainly had its challenges, but we have an incredible team of people on all sides. That’s the core factor to overcoming and creating success, whether on the race team or our office team.”
First up is for the race team is the SRO America event at VIR on July 10-12. The 3.27-mile, 17-turn road course in Alton, Virginia, is just a short drive east from BimmerWorld’s Dublin base in the state and serves as a fitting facility for the team to make its return.
At VIR, BimmerWorld will continue to field a pair of BMW M240i Racing cars in the TC class of the TC America championship. Clay will pilot the No. 36 PÖRQ Snacks BMW M240iR entry (a car he won in during the 2020 opening round at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas), while the No. 94 TAC Energy car will be driven by Chandler Hull of Dallas. Meanwhile, the No. 82 Red Line Synthetic Oil BMW M4 GT4 will return in the Pirelli GT4 America SprintX Series. It will be piloted by Bill Auberlen, hailing from Lake Havasu, Arizona, and James Walker Jr. of The Woodlands, Texas. Each class will compete in one race on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, making up Rounds 3-5 of the SRO America season.
“The M4 GT4 is really great at that track,” Clay said. “We don’t complain about the Balance of Performance, but I am aware that we are BoP racing and there are some strong cars this year. We ran the fastest times at this race last year, so I hope for good things. The M240i Racing in TC is slightly different in that the field is 80-percent comprised of the same car. Versus the couple of other manufacturers though, the M240iR has a great cooling package and at VIR in July we will need every bit of it. We have rubbed on and tested our cars a bit there, and I think we are totally dialed in with the best cars in the field.”
The following week at Sebring, two BimmerWorld BMW M4 GT4 race cars will hit the track with IMSA for the first time since the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge Series’ opening round at Daytona in late January. The two-hour race is slated for Friday, July 17, with BimmerWorld resuming competition in the GS class.
The team has found plenty of success at the famed 3.74-mile, 17-turn road course in Florida, with Clay and teammate Devin Jones of Mooresville, North Carolina, taking a second-place finish during the most recent Sebring event in the spring of 2019. They will return to pilot the No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries/Veristor entry for the balance of the season. The duo will be joined by Nick Galante, originally from Greenfield, Massachusetts, and Dillon Machavern of Charlotte, Vermont, who will get back behind the wheel of the No. 80 Racing to End Alzheimer’s BMW M4 GT4 at Sebring.
The team feels its F82-based sedans are well-suited all around for the track’s notoriously bumpy and abrasive track surface.
“Unlike some of the true sportscars and exotics in the field, BMW has always raced their performance sedans,” Clay said. “The M4 is an incredible road car, and while our GT4 version is a bit lighter and pretty racy, it’s made to be a solid car that gets pounded on for a lot of miles. I think the robust platform is something that serves us well, especially at a track like Sebring that can be brutal on cars and components.”
Although schedules have been greatly adjusted due to the pandemic, BimmerWorld will race the balance of each series with all teams, drivers, and sponsor lineups planned for 2020 intact.
“I love our team,” Clay said. “We are back at 100 percent, or maybe even 110 percent from where we left off. We’ve made it through a lot of lingering development and worklist items, and our full driver lineup remains ready and focused on winning races and championships. Our staff is still complete, plus a few additions to help in the tighter schedules. We’re ready to rock.”
The SRO America races can be seen live throughout the weekend of July 10-12 on YouTube at youtube.com/GTWorld, while the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge event goes green at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, July 17, with live coverage provided by TrackPass.
BimmerWorld is the preeminent BMW racing/performance specialist in North America, racing professionally in the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge (BMW M4 GT4), World Challenge GT4 America (BMW M4 GT4), and World Challenge TC America series (BMW M240i Racing). The team also made its second entry in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 2019 with an M4 GT4. This year, it is scheduled to do so in a V8-powered BMW E36 M3. BimmerWorld also builds cars and supports racers in various BMW CCA, AER, NASA, and SCCA club series. Off the track, the business is the last, and only, independently-owned major BMW parts specialist in North America. The catalog at www.bimmerworld.com has everything from accessories and OEM replacement parts to highly specialized racing parts with knowledgeable staff, competitive pricing, and quick service.
TEAM VIR ADVANCE QUOTES:
No. 82 Red Line Synthetic Oil BMW M4 GT4
How did you spend your time during the unexpected break from racing?
“During my time off at first, I was hard at training, but thy gyms were closed so I did all my training outside in the hot, 100-degree temperature of Arizona. I did long runs and hikes of over 10 miles in duration. It was a new way of training, but super fun. Then as we got closer to the actual races, we were lucky to get the opportunity to get back in the race car and get back after it and make sure I was up to the task. At the same time, we were able to make some gains in the car so that was great.”
JAMES WALKER JR.:
As an automotive engineer, you have extensive knowledge of these cars. How are you able to apply that knowledge to get the most out of the BMW M4 GT4 at a technical track like VIR?
“Thinking like an engineer behind the wheel can sometimes get in the way of flow and rhythm, but I’d be lying if I told you that I don’t from time to time envision little friction circles in my head as I am sorting out a new track or evaluating a setup change. At the end of the day we all have a job to do, and mine is simply to effectively use all that the car has to offer.”
No. 94 TAC Energy BMW M240i
What are you most looking forward to in getting back to the track after the extended hiatus?
“Luckily, I was able to get into a race car a few times during our hiatus so I wasn’t completely deprived. However, actual racing is a completely different experience than testing, so I am very much looking forward to battling it out with the other guys.”
TEAM SEBRING ADVANCE QUOTES:
No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries/Veristor BMW M4 GT4
How did you keep yourself occupied during quarantine what do you see as the biggest challenge to overcome after not racing for six months?
“I’ve spent a lot of time on iRacing like a lot of drivers. I’ve also been spending time with family and my girlfriend, just trying to keep busy and stay safe. It’s going to be great to get back on track and go racing again. I’ve missed everything about racing that I’ve taken for granted in the past. I think the biggest challenge will be jumping back in and getting up to speed quickly while dialing the car in. However, I have all the confidence in the world in our team.”
No. 80 Racing to End Alzheimer’s BMW M4 GT4
You have won at Sebring in the past, what do you feel is the key to achieving a good result at the facility?
“Keeping your nose clean in traffic is a big key to winning here. The cars move around here more than other places, due to the bumps, sometimes unexpectedly, so running close with someone runs a lot of risk.”
How does racing at Sebring differ from all the other tracks you visit?
“Sebring is a very unique track because in almost every corner you encounter a different surface which creates very different track conditions corner to corner. Not only is the surface changing constantly, but there are some sections, especially Turns 1 and 17, that are extremely bumpy. That makes line choice even more important than most of the tracks we visit.”
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