For race car drivers in any discipline, the excitement of competing at Daytona never goes away.
You can count the BimmerWorld Racing competitors among those enamored with Daytona International Speedway. But when the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge series kicks off its 2020 campaign there on the afternoon of Friday, January 24, they will be all business.
The two-car BimmerWorld team from Dublin, Va., will hit the track in the Grand Sport (GS) class with a pair of F82 chassis-based BMW M4 GT4s looking to add to the operation’s success at the World Center of Racing during the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge.
James Clay of Blacksburg, Va., team principal and co-driver of the No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries/Veristor-livered car, finished second in the GS class at the Florida track in 2018, and came home fourth last season.
“We have been successful in GS at Daytona, and really I think on average we’ve been quite good at any track since the start of our M4 GT4 program because the base BMW car is quite good,” Clay said. “Plus, we have years of engineering experience with the cars we have built and developed in-house, which also apply to rubbing on this car and making it even better. We have a solid team and driver squad that have been core to the success as well.”
The all-around prowess of the M4 GT4 does indeed make it a formidable option for both the drafting zones and flat-out big banks of Daytona, as well as its tight turns and braking zones.
(L-R) Devin Jones and James Clay, drivers of the No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries/Veristor
BMW M4 GT4 celebrating a podium finish last year at Sebring, team up again in 2020.
Clay’s co-driver in the No. 82, Devin Jones of Mooresville, N.C, won at Daytona for BimmerWorld in the Street Tuner (ST) class in 2018 and campaigned alongside Clay for the full season in GS last year. He returns to the team for his third consecutive season in 2020. He’s raced at Daytona since he was a youngster in karts and turned in BimmerWorld’s fastest lap during the “Roar Before the Rolex 24″ test earlier this month.
“Any kid who grows up in racing wants to someday have a chance to race at Daytona,” Jones said. “I first went there in 2004 for a karting event and that’s when I really started to fall in love with the sport and everything it entails. Daytona will always be a special place for that reason, driving through the tunnel and coming into the track for the start of a new season never gets old and I still get just as excited as I did when I was a kid.”
The other full-season GS entry for BimmerWorld, the No. 80 Racing to End Alzheimer’s M4 GT4, also features plenty of Daytona success behind the wheel. Nick Galante of Greenfield, Mass., returns to BimmerWorld for the first time since 2018 when he competed in the ST class and won at Daytona paired with Jones. That year the duo won the season championship as well. In 2020, young but veteran racer Dillon Machavern from Charlotte, Vt., will handle driving duties with Galante in the No. 80, whose livery is designed to raise awareness and funds for an Alzheimer’s disease cure. Jones and Machavern have been teammates in the past, allowing them to enter the season with some chemistry.
According to Galante, the length of the four-hour race on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile track adds another element of strategy for MICHELIN Pilot Challenge competitors, as it is one of the longest on the schedule.
“We’ll definitely change the plan of attack for a four-hour race,” he said. “Not to give anything away, but we tone down things a bit with our driving so we have some car and rubber remaining in the final moments allowing us to fight with some all-around strength.”
Dillon Machavern, driver of the No. 80 Racing to End Alzheimer’s BMW M4 GT4.
Machavern meanwhile may be a newcomer to BimmerWorld and the No. 80 team, but he has had plenty of experience and success across a variety of classes and series. He’s been getting acclimated to the BimmerWorld team quickly thanks in large part to testing earlier this month.
“The Roar was really valuable for me to get familiar with the team and the way they operate and communicate, as well as to get accustomed to the driving dynamics of the M4 GT4,” he said. “Having some laps in the car and understanding its unique driving characteristics will pay dividends this weekend because we already have a solid baseline setup established. That means we can spend the sessions more effectively fine-tuning the setup for the race.”
The BMW Endurance Challenge will also provide a special opportunity for BimmerWorld, with the brand serving as the title sponsor of the event.
“We certainly want to win the BMW race for BMW and having some of the core Motorsport guys over from Germany for the week makes us want to shine even brighter,” Clay said. “But of course, we always want to win, so this just makes success feel that much better when we can share it with the BMW brand as a whole.”
The BMW Endurance Challenge can be seen live on TrackPass at 1 p.m. ET on Friday, January 24. Television coverage will air on NBCSN from 1-3 p.m. on Thursday, February 6.
The BMW M4 GT4
GT4 is a global racing class for mid-sized sports and GT cars. The unified set of rules allows manufacturers to offer a single racing car for multiple series around the world. BimmerWorld is one of the premier customers for BMW GT4 racing in North America, having competed continuously with the M4 in multiple series since the car was introduced. The race car is based on the F82 M4 street car, using the same S55 twin-turbo inline-6, 7-speed DCT transmission, and suspension layout. Only minor changes are made to make the M4 into a highly competitive race car. The M4 competes with more purpose-built sports cars like the McLaren 570S, Audi R8, and AMG Mercedes GT, along with other GT cars like the Ford Mustang.
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 third entry in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in 2019 with 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 a knowledgeable staff, competitive pricing, and quick service.
DAYTONA ADVANCE QUOTES:
NO. 82 OPTIMA BATTERIES/VERISTOR BMW M4 GT4
What is the best part of racing at Daytona?
“Daytona was new for me when we moved into GRAND-AM (now IMSA) racing in 2010, and it is as amazing as any NASCAR diehard can imagine-and more amazing than our ‘it’s just a roval’ road racing friends would ever believe. The moment that trumps all is the first time, or actually every time, you are the tail of a three-car draft and the front two cars fan out-it’s like a video game boost button and you suddenly go from 165 mph to 175 almost like you got shoved there. The draft and the aero is certainly the essence of this track.”
How do you feel the Roar testing helped get the drivers and team dialed in for this week’s start to the 2020 race season?
“More than anything, the Roar is our dress rehearsal before the season goes live. We took the opportunity to train some of our new team members and work out the kinks in our processes, and we come to Daytona for the race week ready to execute.”
You’ve finished in the top four in the past two races at Daytona in the GS class, do you have any thoughts regarding the reason for that recent success? Is there any place the BMW M4 GT4 excels at the track?
“We have been successful in GS at Daytona, and really I think on average we’ve been quite good at any track since the start of our M4 GT4 program because the base BMW car is quite good. Plus, we have years of engineering experience with the cars we have built and developed in-house, which also apply to rubbing on this car and making it even better. We have a solid team and driver squad that have been core to the success as well.”
With this being a BMW-sponsored race, does it add any additional pressure or change your perspective in any way?
“We certainly want to win the BMW race for BMW, and having some of the core Motorsport guys over from Germany for the week makes us want to shine even brighter. But of course, we always want to win, so this just makes success feel that much better when we can share it with the BMW brand as a whole.”
You first raced here when you were a young boy (as a 10-year-old in a go-kart). Do you still get chills when you come to Daytona to compete?
“Any kid who grows up in racing wants to someday have a chance to race at Daytona. I first went there in 2004 for a karting event and that’s when I really started to fall in love with the sport and everything it entails. Daytona will always be a special place for that reason, driving through the tunnel and coming into the track for the start of a new season never gets old and I still get just as excited as I did when I was a kid.”
What stands out about racing at Daytona?
“Daytona is a unique track for our series. It’s a marquee event and with it being the opening race of the season everyone from the teams to the drivers digs a little deeper and really pushes to perform well here to start the season off on a high note.”
Do you approach or prepare for a four-hour race differently than others?
“I prepare for the longer races just like I normally would. Obviously more can happen in a four-hour race so that’s something we all think about especially from a strategy aspect.”
This is your third consecutive year with BimmerWorld, how does that familiarity help your confidence heading into Daytona and another season?
“It’s a huge confidence booster to be back with the BimmerWorld team again this year. These guys are the best in the paddock and I’m really lucky to be driving for this team. We have big goals for 2020.”
(L-R) BimmerWorld drivers Devin Jones and Nick Galante celebrating their 2018 ST Championship in 2018 at the Road Atlanta series finale. Galante is back for 2020 in the No. 80 Racing to End Alzheimer’s BMW M4 GT4
NO. 80 RACING TO END ALZHEIMER’S BMW M4 GT4
What is your favorite aspect of racing at Daytona?
“You can’t beat the atmosphere and the historic feeling of racing at Daytona. I also love the aero battle that is unlike another track. The drafting and planning you have to do way in advance is a fun challenge.”
You won Daytona with Devin Jones in the ST class in 2018. Is there a knowledge from that win you can transfer to this race?
“There is. I think we learned a lot from that race about thinking long term and thinking ahead about our plan to be there at the end of this four-hour race.”
This is a long race for the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge, how do you approach a four-hour race differently from a shorter sprint race?
“We definitely change the plan of attack for a four-hour race. Not to give anything away, but we tone things down a bit with our driving so we have some car and rubber remaining in the final moments so we can fight with some all-around strength.”
How has the chemistry developed between you and Dillon in advance of your first race together for BimmerWorld?
“We had a pretty good relationship before this pairing ever came about. We’ve learned a lot about each other while being teammates in the past. Dillon is a tremendous driver. I think we’ll be a force that’ll be hard not to notice. I’m excited to run this season with a fellow New Englander as well.”
How did coming here for testing during the Roar help you get acclimated to the team, the car and the track?
“The Roar was really valuable for me to get familiar with the team and the way they operate and communicate, as well as to get accustomed to the driving dynamics of the M4 GT4. Having some laps in the car and understanding its unique driving characteristics will pay dividends this weekend because we already have a solid baseline setup established. That means we can spend the sessions more effectively fine-tuning the setup for the race.”
What are your goals and expectations for your first race with BimmerWorld?
“It’s never too early to start thinking championship so I want to focus on maximizing points. If we have a car to win, I definitely want to go after it, but most importantly I want to focus on clean results.”
What do you think you can bring to the team based on your experience and success in a variety of cars across diverse series?
“GT4 is a class that I really enjoy competing in so I’m really excited to be back. I had two very successful seasons and learned a lot about the discipline and strategy it takes to win a championship. My experience in many different cars and classes over the past few years will definitely help me adapt to the M4 chassis quickly. We have a really talented group this season who have all celebrated success before, so I’m looking forward to combining everyone’s knowledge as we fight for a championship.”
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