BimmerWorld’s BMWs Dominant at Sebring But Settle for Less

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BimmerWorld Racing team owner/driver James Clay led every lap of the first half of Friday’s IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge race at Sebring International Raceway in the Street Tuner division after qualifying second, just 0.182 off the pole. He was able to stretch his lead to over three seconds at one point. Unfortunately, a problem adding fuel to the No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW 328i (F30 chassis) around the halfway point caused the entry to have an extended pit stop, taking 2:01.695, and Clay’s co-driver, Tyler Cooke, started his stint from 13th place. Cooke then produced a drive that was equally as amazing as Clay’s had been, as he had battled back to sixth place when the checkered dropped at the end of two hours, just 0.035 out of a top-five finish.

The drivers of the No. 84’s sister car, Ari Balogh and Greg Liefooghe, had a totally different approach but they were also left wondering about what could have been with their No. 81 Powerflex BMW 328i. Balogh started 14th in class and kept the car out of trouble during his stint, advancing into the top 10. Their car’s pit stop at the halfway point only took 1:28.595 seconds, and Liefooghe started his stint in seventh place.

With 51 minutes to go he cracked the top five on lap 25, and one lap later he passed a Porsche for fourth. Liefooghe stayed in fourth place for the next 14 laps until he was passed on a restart with only 15 minutes remaining. Unfortunately, the top-five finish disappeared with just four minutes remaining when the car ran out of fuel, dropping to 15th at the checkered.

The race will be shown on FOX Sports 1 at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time on Sunday, March 26.

The series takes a month off and then travels to the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, for Round 3 on May 4-6.

James Clay, team owner and driver, No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW 328i (F30 chassis):
“Today’s race was awesome for me. Being at the back of the GS field on the start, I passed about three of the GS cars and that was enough to provide a buffer for me with the other cars behind me, so I was able to maintain a gap. I felt really good about that, and I felt really good about the car we had under us today.

We had an issue with a pit stop and our fueling; something with the dry break nozzle. We haven’t figured it out yet, but the fuel stop was terrible.

We sat there for extra time, and we were fairly confident we got a full load of fuel. The other car had a similar issue. We’re baffled and very frustrated that we had one car that ran out of gas.

I don’t know if that was related to the fueling issue because we know that we’re really short on fuel this year with the fuel tank change and our fuel economy, which seems to have gotten worse. But at least our car finished, and I have to feel good about that.”

Tyler Cooke, driver, No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW 328i (F30 chassis):
“We had a really strong car. James led a lot of the race, which is a big confidence booster.

There was a lot of hard driving out there. That’s why we race; we race for the intensity, and there was a lot of intense driving out there. It wasn’t easy to come through the pack, but they gave us a great car, and we moved up seven positions, which was stellar. You can’t ask a team for more than that.

It’s really unfortunate for the No. 81 car, because we could have had two very strong finishes, and the team would have had big smiles all around. But now we have to do some homework and get them at COTA. It’s going to be a tough race because it’ll be hot, and it’s really going to test these cars.”

Greg Liefooghe, driver, No. 81 Powerflex BMW 328i (F30 chassis):
“I thought we had a really good pit stop. I think we may have been a little short-filled [with fuel], which is why we had a little lower pit stop time than the other guys.

We moved up at that point. The car was super-strong all race long — super consistent. We didn’t really use the tires. The motor felt good all stint long.

I’m just really disappointed because we were right there. The other guys were super-strong too, but we were definitely able to mix it up with them.

I think we had a podium car. Whether or not we would’ve finished on the podium, I don’t know, but I think we had a fighting chance.”

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ABOUT: BimmerWorld is renowned as a leader in BMW aftermarket and tuning expertise and competes in the Continental Tire Series with a pair of BMW 328is (F30) where the Virginia-based outfit has become a routine winner and Championship contender.

BimmerWorld Has a Myriad of Reasons to Look Forward to Sebring, Including The Fact Its BMWs Are Well Suited for the Track

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BimmerWorld Racing considers the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge series’ annual visit to Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida, one of the highlights of the season for five main reasons.

First is the opportunity to compete on a historic track during a historic race weekend, as the series’ two-hour race on Friday afternoon, March 17 supports the following day’s 65th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida.

The second is that historically the team’s BMWs are well suited for the 3.74-mile road course, taking its long, fast turns and bumpy surface in stride.

The third is that the team has had a great deal of success there, including a pole and a podium finish last year for the entry of team owner James Clay and Tyler Cooke, Greg Liefooghe’s victory and fastest race lap in 2015 in a Porsche, and the fact that Sebring was the site of Cooke’s first victory ever in car racing. Hopes are high that they’ll be able to add to those accomplishments next week.

Fourth, it’s old-home week for several of the team’s drivers, as Cooke grew up in Cooper City, FL; Liefooghe is usually at Sebring ten or more times a year between racing and coaching, and Clay has been racing at Sebring for nearly 20 years.

Finally, the event is a one-of-a-kind spring break party, and the BimmerWorld team enjoys the fact that the fans are definitely part of the show.

The Dublin, VA-based team will field two turbocharged BMW 328is (F30 chassis) in the Street Tuner (ST) class for Friday’s race, which starts at 3:40 p.m. Clay, of Blacksburg, VA, and Cooke, of Matthews, NC, share BimmerWorld’s No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW 328i. Two Californians, Ari Balogh of Menlo Park and Liefooghe, of San Francisco, have switched from the Porsche Cayman they drove in the series last year to the No. 84’s sister car, the No. 81 Powerflex BMW 328i.

There are two practice sessions on the schedule on Thursday, March 16 at 9:50 a.m. and 2:10 p.m. before the following jam-packed day. The action starts early on Friday, March 17 with a 20-minute practice session at 8 a.m. followed by ST qualifying at 8:30 a.m. and Grand Sport qualifying 15 minutes later. The anticipation builds with the open-grid fan walk from 2:50 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. before the green flag drops 10 minutes later.

Live video streaming and live timing and scoring will be available on imsa.com and imsa.tv. The television broadcast will be on FOX Sports 1 on a tape-delayed basis on Sunday, March 26 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. All times are EDT.

James Clay, team owner and driver, No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW 328i (F30 chassis):
Sebring has a vast history of many great drivers from yesteryear. What’s it like racing at such a historic and renown track like Sebring? How many times have you raced at Sebring before?

“I have been racing at Sebring for almost 20 years now. It was one of the tracks I made the long trip for early in my career. We’ve run the 12-Hour weekend on and off since 2003 and being part of that weekend on this incredible, historic track is one of the highlights of my season.”

Hot temperatures can make Sebring a challenge for a turbo engine. You’ve worked hard to improve your cars’ cooling system. Can you speak about some of the steps you’ve taken in this area?
“This turbo BMW just produces so much heat! It’s a constant battle, but one we seem to be winning. We ran successfully for a podium at a very hot Sebring last year, and our cooling package has been tweaked and improved more since then. One day, we’ll detail all the work we have done in this system because it’s been an engineering exercise that was insanely challenging and probably quite interesting if one wasn’t living through the process. But for now, we reap the rewards.”

In a similar vein, brakes are very important at Sebring. Can you speak about your cars’ brake package?
“Performance Friction has been instrumental in helping us continue to develop our brake package. We have one of the heaviest cars in the series, but we have had arguably the best brakes in the field fairly consistently. We’ve been working hard with PFC in this area, and I think they have made us even better now!”

In general, Sebring seems to suit BMWs. In what ways is this true?
“Certainly Sebring has been good for many of our BMWs in years past, and hopefully that holds! I think there are enough longer, fast turns that are our forte, as well as the notorious bumpy surface that the BMW platform handles well. And with some critical braking zones, I think this track flexes BMW’s all-around, good-at-everything muscle.”

Although you didn’t get the results we were looking for, both cars ran very well at the season opener at Daytona. One car led, and the other was in contention for a podium finish until the very end of the race. Does this give you a feeling of confidence heading into Sebring, and/or added determination to get results that are more reflective of your performance?
“Without a doubt, the four-hour opener was a challenge for us, and I didn’t know how we would shake out. We’ve been working on durability, and for both cars to be fully on pace and to finish without an issue, except for a water pump belt, was a success, so we’re excited for the rest of the season.”

At four hours, the race at Daytona was longer than it’s been in the past. Now Sebring begins a string of races that are two hours long rather than the typical 2.5 hours the series has staged in the past. Although it’s the same for everyone, how do you think the loss of that extra 30 minutes will affect the race strategy, if at all?
“I’m hoping these shorter races bode well for our BMWs. We are, due to the rules, the heavier cars in the field, which is brutal on tires and makes us struggle a little at the end. I’m hoping with a shorter race we can use more tire early to keep pace and still have plenty for a strong finish.”

Do you have any favorite memory of Sebring?
“My favorite memory of Sebring was post-race, back in the days that the camping area was wide open with all sorts of vehicles running around with fans cruising. This event is a party, and I love being here.”

Tyler Cooke, driver, No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW 328i (F30 chassis):
Sebring has a vast history of many great drivers from yesteryear. What’s it like racing at such a historic and renown track like Sebring? How many times have you raced at Sebring before?

“Racing at Sebring is a dream come true. When you first walk to pit road and you see all the years and manufacturers on the roof of the garages and read the stories that follow them, you know you’ve walked into a track that has made legends. I’ve raced there many times since 2010 because I grew up in Fort Lauderdale. I set a track record at Sebring with the Skip Barber series and have also scored a few wins there. It’s a track that has a lot of history for me.”

You and James finished third in this race last year. In what ways does that previous success play into the way you prepare for this event?
“We walk into this event with a little confidence, but James and I know there’s a lot of work to be done. It’s a new year with new challenges.”

The fans are definitely part of the show at Sebring. Do you have any interesting stories about this event that you can share?
“The monks [fans dressed in monk costumes] are usually a funny part of the weekend. The fans at Sebring are passionate to come to that race and meet the drivers. That’s what makes it a great race.”

There were only three full-course cautions in this race in 2015 and only one in 2016. Do you think this year’s race will be similar? Why or why not?
“I think it may be more with the GS field growing and Sebring being as tight as it is. Whether a lot of cautions or hardly any, it will be a good race.”

Will you make time to do anything else in the Sebring area when you’re there for the race? If so, what?
“I like to go visit the town a grew up in (Cooper City) and see old friends.”

Where does Sebring International Raceway stand in your list of race tracks, and why?
“It’s in the top five. Yes, it’s flat, but it’s a great challenge because of the bumps and the uneven pavement that really move the car around.”

Do you have any favorite memory of Sebring?
“My first-ever win in a car was there, and Michael Cooper, Tristan Nunez, Luis Rodriguez, and Jonathan Jorge dumped cold water on me to celebrate.”

Greg Liefooghe, driver, No. 81 Powerflex BMW 328i (F30 chassis):
Sebring has a vast history of many great drivers from yesteryear. What’s it like racing at such a historic and renown track like Sebring? How many times have you raced at Sebring before?

“When you walk down to the pits and you look up at the banners on the walls of all the winning team names and manufacturers, you just can’t help but feel the history of the place. Between racing and coaching, I’m usually at Sebring ten or more times a year. It’s a great place for winter training.”

You won this event in 2015 in a Next Level European Porsche Cayman and also set the fastest lap of the race for the ST class. What are the primary differences between the BMW and the Porsche here, and how did that victory affect you?
“One of the feelings that comes from winning at the pro level is validation. It validates that your thoughts on lines, techniques, and driving around that particular track work. The BMWs should be great around Sebring. With the very coarse pavement and the heat, Sebring is very hard on tires, and it’s no secret that we were struggling mainly with extreme tire wear on our Caymans, so I’m really looking forward to going back to Sebring with the more stable BMW platform.”

Although you didn’t get the results you were looking for, both cars ran very well at the season opener at Daytona. One car led, and the other was in contention for a podium finish until the very end of the race. Does this give you a feeling of confidence heading into Sebring, and/or added determination to get results that are more reflective of your performance?
“Absolutely! Although Daytona is a very specific track, it felt like we had a good car in the infield and it bodes well for the rest of the season. We were running at the front of the pack and had a shot at a podium until the last lap. I feel like we can put ourselves in the same position for this race and shoot for a podium position.”

Where does Sebring International Raceway stand in your list of race tracks, and why?
“Sebring is in the top 10 on my list of favorite tracks. Although it’s a very flat track, the flow of the layout just works. It has a great rhythm.”

Do you have any favorite memory of Sebring?
“That’s an easy question! Yes, our win at Sebring was the highlight of all my trips to that place. Everything clicked together. You don’t get to have many perfect weekends during a career, but that was one of them.”

If you were a fan camping there, at what turn would you set up camp, and why?
“I usually like to set up in front of T15 because that’s the place where you can see the most. You can see T1 all the way to T5, and then T13 all the way to T16. It allows you to see the cars’ balance and attitude around the track, and follow a race very well.”

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ABOUT: BimmerWorld is renowned as a leader in BMW aftermarket and tuning expertise and competes in the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge series with a pair of BMW 328is (F30), where the Virginia-based outfit has become a routine winner and championship contender.

BimmerWorld Makes History With BMW F30 Pole And Podium At Sebring IMSA Race

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Three seasons of intense development with BMW’s turbocharged F30 (328i) platform by Virginia-based BMW tuning and aftermarket experts BimmerWorld paid off with a thrilling drive to third place in Sebring last weekend.

The accomplishment by BimmerWorld team owner/driver James Clay and his teammate Tyler Cooke, who earned pole position at the legendary Florida road course, marked the first pole and podium for the four-cylinder turbo BMW F30 in worldwide pro racing competition. Those firsts were only made possible by BimmerWorld’s incredible staff of technicians who overcame adversity on two occasions to help make history.

A broken fuel injector triggered a fire during testing on Tuesday with Clay behind the wheel of the No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW 328i, which necessitated a significant amount of repair work before Cooke was able to earn the F30’s maiden pole position.

“I was pulling into pit lane after doing an installation lap and as I lifted off the gas, a lick of flame came out from the hood and I deployed our Lifeline fire system as I pulled it into our pit box to get things under control, and our crew made sure we ended the fire. While I was fine and safe, the car was damaged,” Clay said. “It took a lot of hours to get back to the place where Tyler could go out and show the BimmerWorld F30’s capabilities.”

More drama would emerge after qualifying when it was determined the No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW would require an engine change. Per the rules in IMSA’s Continental Tire Series, the change meant BimmerWorld would surrender its first-place starting position. Cooke faced the incredible challenge of starting last in a field of 36 cars—26 belonging to the Street Tuner class where the 328is compete.

Rewarding the BimmerWorld crew’s tireless efforts was a clear motivation for Cooke who charged from the back of the field to a high of second place in ST before handing the car over to Clay, who fought among the leaders and secured an amazing third to thrust the OPTIMA Batteries BMW onto the podium.

“BimmerWorld has been committed to developing the F30 from the beginning and it was fantastic to have that work rewarded with Tyler’s pole and finishing the race on the podium,” Clay added. “I’m even more proud of our team and everything they did to make this possible. And there’s more to come. We know winning is on the horizon.”

The Sebring event ranks among Cooke’s finest overall performances as a young professional racecar driver on the rise.

“The fire put us behind, but I can’t say enough how proud I am of the team for putting in a lot of hours and a late night to get the car rebuilt,” said Cooke. “Qualifying came on Thursday and it was great to see the team so happy after receiving the pole. It was very unfortunate to have the engine changed, but James and I knew we had a pace to get through the field.

“On the start I looked for any and every gap to make passes, but without putting the car in danger. James got in and had an excellent stint to bring the car home third. The best part about the weekend was the history we made. This platform has never sat on the pole nor gotten a podium in the world and I’m happy James and I could do it. I’m proud of the team for all the hard hours over the years to get us there.”

The sister No. 81 BimmerWorld BMW driven by impressive rookie Jerry Kaufman and Kyle Tilley was also gripped by misfortune in the days leading up to the race. For Kaufman, a rookie in the series, the pre-race problems were mitigated by a strong qualifying performance and a combined effort in the race that saw the car finish 13th.

“I did surprisingly well in qualifying, but it was a very hot race,” Kaufman said. “The heat took some power out of the turbocharged engine and I worked the rear tires too hard early in the race.  Once they got hot there was no way to get the tire temps back down, and it became a fight to keep the car on track.  Congrats to the 84 car; those guys did an excellent job managing their car, and they got a great result because of it.  The BimmerWorld team did an amazing job despite problems thrown at them.  This team continues to impress me.”

Added Tilley: “It was a tough week for us in the 81, and Jerry’s effort in qualifying was fantastic giving the challenging circumstances. I was able to drive the car from 23rd to 13th, the crew did a great job of turning our weekend around, and we were able to get some solid points in the bag. Onwards and upwards!”

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ABOUT: BimmerWorld is renowned as a leader in BMW aftermarket and tuning expertise, and competes in the Continental Tire Series with a pair of BMW 328is (F30) where the Virginia-based outfit has become a routine winner and Championship contender.

BimmerWorld Prepped For Sebring Race With Updated Turbo BMWs

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The BMW aftermarket and tuning experts at BimmerWorld have a new opportunity to show the pace and progress of their turbocharged 328i models this weekend at the historic Sebring Raceway circuit.

Coming off the season-opening IMSA Continental Tire Series event at Daytona International Speedway where the sister Nos. 81 and 84 BimmerWorld BMWs demonstrated front-running speed, team owner/driver James Clay and his staff of technicians have found more gains with the F30 platform for Round 2 in central Florida.

“The No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW was awesome at Daytona, and it felt great to come out of the box with such a great machine and continue that pace moving deeper into the season,” Clay said. “Last year, hot ambient temps made Sebring a challenge for our turbo engine, and conditions are looking similar for this year’s race. The BimmerWorld team did a lot of work focused on cooling over the off-season, and hopefully the additional work since Daytona is the icing on the cake to give us a strong run.”

Teamed with Tyler Cooke in the No. 84, Clay expects the OPTIMA Batteries F30 to be fast throughout the 3.7-mile road course, and to show the BimmerWorld-built BMW’s natural capabilities in vital areas around the 17-turn facility.

“Tyler and I are both strong at the tracks we visit this season, which really opens up some options on running the car,” Clay continued. “Sebring is good to a BMW, and BimmerWorld has won there multiple times. We showed tremendous braking potential at Daytona with our Performance Friction brake package, and that will be even more important at Sebring where a couple of key braking zones are the best places to make hard-fought passes. It’s a track that suits us, and I just can’t wait to get racing!”

Clay and BimmerWorld veteran Cooke will share the track with team newcomers Jerry Kaufman and Kyle Tilley in the sister No. 81 BMW F30. The duo impressed on their debut at Daytona, although their race was somewhat short-lived after a clash between Kaufman and another car ended their day. And with Kaufman’s unexpected marriage proposal made moments before the race (his girlfriend accepted), could he have more fireworks in store for Sebring?

“The biggest lesson learned from Daytona is knowing when to go for a pass and when not to,” Kaufman said. “Jumping up from 12th to fourth as quickly as I did probably gave me too much confidence in my ability to pass going into fast corners. Sometimes there is room to go two wide, and sometimes there isn’t.

“Sebring is another unique track. It isn’t very forgiving, so it will be even more important to get the pass done early. I don’t necessarily have another proposal in mind, but if we win Sebring, don’t be surprised if you see me driving to Disney World!”

FOLLOW BIMMERWORLD AT: https://www.facebook.com/bimmerworld

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ABOUT: BimmerWorld is renowned as a leader in BMW aftermarket and tuning expertise, and competes in the Continental Tire Series with a pair of BMW 328is (F30) where the Virginia-based outfit has become a routine winner and Championship contender.

BimmerWorld Leaves Sebring With Another Top-10 Performance

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BMW aftermarket and tuning specialists BimmerWorld experienced two distinct outcomes during their visit to the legendary Sebring circuit in Central Florida for Round 2 of IMSA’s Continental Tire Series.

Fast in the relatively short qualifying session, the high ambient temperature was less kind when it came time to go racing with the team’s turbocharged BMW 328i platform built on F30 architecture. Team owner/driver James Clay and Jason Briedis placed the No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries-sponsored F30 seventh on the grid, and despite running as high as third, sweltering conditions meant the tandem had to settle for ninth at the checkered flag.

The No. 81 BimmerWorld F30 driven by team veteran Tyler Cooke and newcomer Andrie Hartanto lined up 13th and was running strong until being spun by a rival. With time lost as Hartanto sat stationary, the duo was left with an unrepresentative finish of 20th.

“Sebring was a tough race for our turbo cars,” said Clay. “We have been battling high inlet temps since last season, which resulted in some engine failures last year. Looking at the weather forecast going into this race, we knew we were going to have issues if we pushed the power, so we played it safe. It is a real testament to the strength of our BimmerWorld team to take a car that was mid-pack at best over the course of the 2.5-hour race and finish inside the top-10. It was a challenging weekend, but I am proud of the result.”

With BimmerWorld’s on-track efforts paying back to its clients in the form of improved BMW performance parts and services, Clay says even a tough and hot weekend like Sebring will help the company optimize its offerings for F30 owners.

“Turbo cars are tough and very temperature dependent,” he explained. “Both cars executed well in qualifying and gave us our best time of the weekend in the couple of laps we could run before heat soak took over. We are going to take a big swing at cooling these F30 cars off before the next round – that is the solution, and then we can race with pace, consistency, and durability.”

QUOTEBOARD: Sebring Race

No. 81 BMW 328i: Tyler Cooke and Andrie Hartanto

Cooke: The race didn’t go how we wanted it to; Andrie did a great job running in the top-10 until getting taken out and we learned a lot during the race to help us in the races to come.

Hartanto: It was an uphill battle for me, but I’ve learned that we have an amazing team. In spite of the intense heat which forced us to sacrifice power in order to go the distance, the BimmerWorld crew still delivered a car capable of a top-10 finish. I also discovered that the night before my first CTSC race is not the ideal time to showcase my marginal basketball skills; especially not with a group of highly competitive drivers and definitely not when you end up with a bruised bum, a torn-up elbow and a trip to the ER for some stitches! I realized that our race pace is very strong as we made up a lot of ground after starting from 13th on the grid. I also experienced how quickly those places can be lost when you get hit and spun around. Tyler did a great job closing out the race and ensuring that we obtained some valuable data. It was a great first race and I’m really looking forward to my home race at Monterey!

No. 84 OPTIMA BMW 328i: James Clay and Jason Briedis

Briedis: Considering we were 22nd and 23rd in average fast lap analysis during the race, gutting out a ninth-place finish shows the determination and depth of our team. The heat didn’t help our cause, but we learned a lot and hope to remedy some things before our next race in Monterey.

Clay: Jason did an awesome job with qualifying and in his opening laps before heat soak set in. I was proud of my drive even though we didn’t have the power or pace to do much. Wayne’s pit call was perfect and team execution was spot on. I am super excited to take this strength of team into a weekend with more normal temperatures where we can produce the deserved result!

FOLLOW BIMMERWORLD AT: https://www.facebook.com/bimmerworld

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ABOUT: BimmerWorld is renowned as a leader in BMW aftermarket and tuning expertise, and competes in the Continental Tire Series with a pair of BMW 328is (F30) where the Virginia-based outfit has become a routine winner and Championship contender.