BimmerWorld Rolls With The Punches At Watkins Glen

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BimmerWorld Racing went into last weekend’s GRAND-Am Continental Tire Series race at the historic Watkins Glen road course with high expectations, but after one of the wildest and most disjointed events in series history, the BMW experts were lucky to leave New York with all three cars intact.

A massive downpour fell shortly after the start of the race, followed by a dry period during the middle portion of the 2.5-hour event, which closed with another downpour that had cars skating off the track at speeds below 20 mph.

In between the rivers of water running across the track and extended caution periods to collect damaged cars, oddly-timed pit openings led to multiple instances where the entire 57-car field (rather than the usual procedure where the GS cars pit, followed by the ST field pitting one lap later), a traffic jam ensued in the shared pit spaces.

The parking lot of GS and ST cars caused many entries—including the trio of BimmerWorld BMW 328is—to lose numerous positions while simply waiting for room to pull in for service.

By the time the checkered flag waved, BimmerWorld’s fleet of cars had recovered to take 11th, 13th and 15th in ST, leaving team owner/driver James Clay to shake his head at the unpredictable race that unfolded.

“Weather was constantly changing and we were prepared to deal with it, but with almost 60 cars doing the same thing–and the officials making a bunch of unexpected choices, it was more of a luck-of-the-draw result than anything else,” he said.

“There was green racing in the middle, but if you were in the right place at the right time, and happened to have the pits open and could get in cleanly, you had an advantage. Our BimmerWorld crew did an amazing job to adapt to all the things that were thrown at them, and our drivers did an excellent job too, but you can’t really put the results down to the on-track racing that usually determines the finishing order. It was a strange day for everyone.”

The first car home from BimmerWorld’s trio of BMWs was the No. 81 driven by Gregory Liefooghe and Tyler Cooke. Cooke, a second-year pilot in the Continental Tire Series, put in another excellent drive, securing 11th despite the hurdles.

“It was a pretty intense event, and you had to exercise a lot of patience and really work within the limits of the grip that was available,” he said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that much standing water on a racetrack before, but we dealt with it as best as possible. The BimmerWorld crew was outstanding and all we can do now is move on to the next race and hope for something more normal.”

The No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN® BMW 328i driven by Seth Thomas and Dan Rogers followed the No. 80 home in 13th, and both cars, as Rogers describes, were on the right tires to finish the race but did not have enough time to capitalize on it.

“During my stint, we started dry and then went to wet conditions, which suits us well,” he said.  “The No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN® car handled well, and we moved up a number of spots, then Seth got in the car an hour into the race, and continued moving toward the front.  Towards the end of the race, the crew made a great call to bring Seth in and switch to wet tires as it started to rain.  We came out fueled, with the right tires, and good to go to the end.  We were ready to stand on the podium!

“Unfortunately, the outcome of the race was affected by an uncharacteristically long yellow that left only one green lap at the end of the race.  Rather than Seth being able to race to the front in a 15-minute green session on wet tires, we had to settle for a 13th place finish during a one-lap shootout.  Sometimes great pit calls work, and sometimes they don’t.  One thing’s for sure, though: the BimmerWorld crew makes more than their share of great decisions in the pits to put us in a position to win.”

Clay, who stepped in to drive the No. 80 entry with Greg Strelzoff when Strelzoff’s teammate Connor Bloum injured his leg prior to the event, had the opposite problem. Stuck on dry tires as the rain fell to close the race, he performed a number of small miracles to keep the BimmerWorld BMW on the tarmac to claim 15th.

“I am glad I was able to get in the car to work with Greg, and personally I enjoyed being back in the pro cars, but certainly I am hoping Connor’s leg heals quickly and we are able to get him back in the car as soon as possible,” he said.

“While I always love driving one of the BimmerWorld cars, this weekend dealt us very challenging track conditions to contend with.  I knew we would be terrifically fast in the rain and I was excited to have the opportunity of a wet race, but unfortunately we never got much of a chance to race in the wet conditions or at an opportune time. We’re headed to race at Indianapolis next, a place where we won last year, and hope things go a little more according to plan than they did at Watkins.”

Follow BimmerWorld’s progress as they prepare for Indy at www.BimmerworldRacing.com , and tune in to watch the Watkins Glen round on SPEED at 4 p.m. ET on July 7th.

BimmerWorld on the Prowl for Points at Watkins Glen

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The BimmerWorld Racing team heads to upstate New York this weekend with its usual high expectations for its three-car GRAND-AM Continental Tire Series team, but with the 2013 season now entering its second phase, big picture items are moving to the forefront at each race.

Coming off its most challenging event of the year at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the Virginia-based BMW tuning and aftermarket specialists want nothing more than to bank solid points and run at the front of the packed Street Tuner division—a ‘reset’ of sorts as the second half of the championship kicks into high gear.

“Certainly Watkins Glen is more the type of track that suits our car, especially with the current weight penalty we have to lug around,” said team owner/driver James Clay, referring to the fast and sprawling Watkins Glen road course.

“The flowing corners connect longer straights that allow us to reach our legs, both of which offset the tight corner performance and torque off the corner of the FWD and turbo cars.  We have done well in New York historically and I am hoping for the same this year.”

Clay, a race-winning driver in the Street Tuner class, has spent the season concentrating on managing the team and, in concert with his 2012 teammate John Capestro-Dubets (JCD), has been overseeing development of the brand-new BMW 3 Series (F30 chassis) BimmerWorld has in the pipeline for ST.

But with driver Connor Bloum, co-driver of the No. 80 BimmerWorld entry, suffering a leg injury between rounds, Clay will step into the cockpit with Bloum’s teammate, Greg Strelzoff, for the Watkins round.

“The new F30 that BimmerWorld is developing for JCD and I to drive is due to come out this summer and both of us are excited to be in the new machine,” said Clay. “I am not wild about the circumstances that find me in a car at Watkins, but I look forward to being back in the No. 80 and driving with Greg for this event.  It is unfortunate to not have Connor with us this weekend, but we are hoping for a speedy recovery that will have him back for the next round in Indy.”

Tyler Cooke, who shares the No. 81 BimmerWorld BMW 328i with Gregory Liefooghe, is looking to move up in the standings after Watkins Glen, but says that pure aggression alone won’t get the job done.

“I think it will take a little bit of both aggressiveness and being conservative, because both can be awarding,” he said. “Watkins is very fast, so you can be aggressive, but if you cross that line it can be very costly to damaging the car. Being conservative will make sure it’s a good points day, but you won’t always earn the finish you could have gotten if you’d pushed harder. If you can find the middle of both, you will have a good race.”

Seth Thomas, who pilots the No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN® BMW 328i with Dan Rogers, has been in the tin-top wars for years and knows plenty about championship pursuits. He’s also looking to the Watkins race to secure more points, but isn’t quite ready to play things conservatively.

“With six races still left on the schedule, there is a lot of time to think championships,” he explained. “We still have a shot at the drivers’ championship but in order to make this happen we need to push.  So at Watkins, we will be pushing hard to close the points gap to the cars in front of us.  This will make us more aggressive than if we were the points leaders.

“Watkins is a great track for us to drive aggressively and with the long green flag runs we have had the past few races I feel we will be gaining points. So from here until we are in the points lead we will be pushing, being as aggressive as we can to bring home solid points for No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN® BMW entry.”

Follow all the action with the BimmerWorld Racing team this weekend from Watkins Glen at www.BimmerworldRacing.com.

BimmerWorld Closes 3-Race Run With Another Podium, Pair Of Top 10s At Watkins Glen

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Coming off its third GRAND-AM Continental Tire Series race in a span of four weeks, the BMW experts at BimmerWorld closed the arduous string of events in impressive fashion at New York’s storied Watkins Glen circuit.

On the face of it, the numbers look good: another podium for team owner/driver James Clay and co-driver John Capestro-Dubets in the No. 80, an eighth-place finish for Gregory Liefooghe and David Levine in the No. 81 and a 15th-place result for Seth Thomas and Dan Rogers in the No. 82, but it doesn’t tell the full story of BimmerWorld’s achievement.

Utilizing the renowned BMW E90 platform, BimmerWorld’s trio of 328is rank among the most heavily restricted cars in GRAND-AM’s Street Tuner class, yet despite the massive amount of weight the cars carry, and the air restrictors that limit the power from the BMW’s six-cylinder engines, Clay’s team has continued to deliver performances that should be unattainable.

With their BMWs sanctioned to rather extreme levels, BimmerWorld’s focus for 2012 has been to perfect every other area within the program in an effort to compensate for the performance the rules have taken away. Drawing from an exceptional amount of talent from its crew and drivers, the Watkins Glen race showcased BimmerWorld’s formula of using speed, consistency and flawless execution to overcome most of the advantages held by the competition.

“The BimmerWorld guys are rock-solid, and even if we aren’t as gifted as other models in the regulations currently, our whole team has managed to make a lot happen with willpower alone,” said Clay. “The majority of our crew is full-time in the shop which I think is a big plus for our team when we have the crazy workload of a three-race stretch like the one we just completed. But beyond the standard prep work, these guys have been putting in long days at the track also to make sure everything is as perfect as it can be when we hit the track. Combine that with a driving staff that has put their heads down to make results happen, and with each car visiting the podium this year, I feel like we are maximizing what we have been given.”

After a humbling start to the season, Clay and Capestro-Dubets turned their fortunes around during June’s three-race run, taking a fifth at Mid-Ohio, a third at Elkhart Lake and another third last weekend.

“John and I are really starting to click as teammates,” Clay continued. “We had our car dialed in and ready to race very early in the weekend, leaving us time to test some other setups and practice the elements that are critical in the race. I am very happy with the progress we have made during the year as a team, and John is driving like a superstar which is helping the results.”

With BimmerWorld’s total team coaching process at his disposal, Capestro-Dubets has made great strides during his sophomore season in ST, and credits the support he’s received for his continual development as a pro driver.

“So much has changed since 2011 for me,” he said. “Greg and I watch last year’s in-car footage before each race, and the difference is shocking to me. James has really taken his time with me to settle me down and then build my confidence by giving me tools to refine myself. In 2011, I was still trying to find my place and make somewhat of a name for myself. This year, I have the confidence and the guidance, and I think some good results are now showing all the hard work that goes into making it in this sport. I really have to thank everyone involved with this race program for taking their time with me and developing me into the driver I am so far.”

As the leader of the No. 81 BimmerWorld BMW, Liefooghe receives plenty of accolades for his driving and coaching talents, and paired with ST rookie Levine, the two have formed one of the most effective driving combos in the series. In addition to their win at Round 2 this year, the intra-team highlights continue to grow and shift towards Levine as he makes the transition from being the new kid on the block to a seriously talented competitor alongside Liefooghe.

Plenty can be said about Levine’s drive at Watkins Glen, but the most impressive stat centers on the 27 positions he and Liefooghe managed to earn on their way to an eighth-place finish.

“I feel that I have progressed a lot since the pre-season test at Daytona,” said Levine. “I’ve really learned a lot from working with Greg in a short amount of time. Now that I have been in the car for several races, I feel that I am comfortable in the car which allows me to push myself and the car to the limit. My progression owes many thanks to Greg for his coaching this season. I’m looking forward to closing out the season in a strong way.”

If the No. 80 was the lightning rod for bad luck early in the year, the No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN® BMW 328i took its place recently. After dealing with mechanical gremlins and a rough-and-tumble race, Thomas and Rogers fought back to recover 14 spots to claim 15th in ST.

“Our weekend at WGI didn’t start out great—we had some issues that left us off track during the test day,” said Thomas. “But our crew kept fighting. Dan did an amazing job during the day to improve his lap times by five seconds between his first session at Watkins Glen in a BMW to when he qualified the car. During the race he continued to move forward and handed the car over to me after the BimmerWorld boys executed a perfect pit stop. Overall it was a great team effort from everyone involved. It’s how you recover from adversity that matters, and everyone should be proud of themselves after last weekend.”

In a sea of other manufacturers in the Street Tuner class, there’s one metric that stands out quite heavily this year—the Manufacturers’ Championship. As a privateer program, and despite heavy factory involvement in the class, BimmerWorld’s tenacity and consistency has BMW sitting atop the championship after seven rounds, which serves as a point of pride for Clay and his team.

“The Manufacturers’ Championship is the place we can hang our hat this year,” he said. “In six of the seven races this season, BimmerWorld has put the points on the board to move BMW to the front of this race. In a year where we have to leverage our luck significantly to provide race finishes, BimmerWorld’s approach of running three equal cars pays off and gives us a better chance of putting a BMW at the top on any given race weekend.”

Now that the team has a little bit of time to breathe before the series makes its debut at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway later in the month, Clay is also starting to plan ahead for next season.

“This is the time of year where we start to look at team developments and driver lineups for the upcoming season, and our goal is to finish as the top BMW program in ST and to take the next step with our cars in the off season. The rules tend to be cyclical, and we’d expect the 328is to have things evened out a bit for 2013, which should make our quest for a championship even stronger. But for now, we are focused on wrapping up a strong 2012 showing.”

Follow the BimmerWorld team atwww.BimmerWorldRacing.com, and watch the Watkins Glen race when it airs July 14th at 1 p.m. ET on SPEED