With the 2011 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge championship winding down, Dublin, Virginia’s BimmerWorld Racing continues to make progress with its expanded four-car operation.
Driven by two additional goals this season–to develop brand-new Grand Sport-class BMW M3 V8s during the 10-round GRAND-AM championship and to shape those M3 V8s into contenders–BimmerWorld met its objectives once again at New Jersey Motorsports Park, site of Round 9.
BimmerWorld team owner/driver James Clay and co-driver Seth Thomas demonstrated the growth of the team’s GS program once again, climbing from a starting spot of 15th to run as high as second during the 2.5-hour race.
In the sister No. 78 BimmerWorld BMW M3 V8, Gregory Liefooghe stepped up from the team’s No. 81 Street Tuner-class BMW 328i for the second time in 2011 and put on drive with new teammate Chris Ronson that was nothing short of amazing.
Temperatures over 100 degrees during the race made conditions miserable for the drivers and crew, caused tires to overheat and created general mayhem, yet Clay and Thomas traded positions inside the top 10 before ending the day in seventh, their best finish of the season and the top result for BimmerWorld on the day.
Coming off of a 10th at the previous round in Monterey, Clay says he’s feeling positive about the direction the GS program is headed.
“Certainly I am very happy with the momentum we have, and seeing the program progress so that we have the equipment to be consistently in the hunt is important. I knew going into our 2011 GS program that it would be a development year, and it would certainly be frustrating at times as we have become accustomed to being at the front in every series we race in, but the affirmation and results for the effort at this point of the game are rewarding. Greg and Chris did an awesome job in New Jersey in the No. 78 running up front, and Seth and I pulled out another top 10 finish for the team. We are getting geared up for a strong 2012.”
Amidst the many responsibilities Clay carries–from running his four-car team to developing BimmerWorld’s expanding base of corporate sponsors, serving as one-half of the No. 79’s driving team also falls on his shoulders. As he shares, being able to don his helmet and get down to business behind the wheel is also a rewarding part of the job.
“First and foremost, the BimmerWorld team did an exceptional job at New Jersey, so that made me proud,” he said. “The temperatures and conditions were brutal and as a driver, I had to leave my team owner hat at home to perform at the level required on-track. But the crew had a more demanding job than the drivers in the car this weekend – the workload was relentless. They distinguished themselves once again on pit lane with more incredible pit stops. The knowledge that they are 100 percent on it and driven to succeed gave me the ability to do my job behind the wheel and enjoy the results of our collective effort.”
Race strategy also played a crucial role during an event where managing heat exhaustion, caution periods and avoiding contact weighed into the team’s plans. The regular practice of changing drivers at the one-third mark of the race was replaced with splitting the time in the car equally to keep from wearing out the finishing driver. The team also made bold moves to pit toward the end of a yellow flag, which helped the GS cars to gain positions as the race played out.
Beyond the race itself, and as part of an expanded relationship with CRC Industries to promote its Brakleen brand, BimmerWorld hosted its partners from CRC during the weekend, providing first-rate hospitality and giving their ardent supporters plenty to root for during the race.
“CRC/Brakleen was there en masse from their Pennsylvania headquarters to support the team this weekend,” Clay continued. “The company brought out over 150 employees, family members and guests and it was very rewarding to race around the track seeing so may Brakleen banners and knowing we were carrying the flag for them.”
The guests from CRC also witnessed a stirring performance from BimmerWorld’s second GS entry. Showing his versatility in the GRAND-AM ranks, Liefooghe got up to speed immediately in the No. 78 BimmerWorld BMW M3 V8, motoring his way from 17th to third before handing off to Ronson. After jostling for positions and dealing with yellow flags, Ronson impressed on his way to finish 12th on his pro racing debut.
Running deep inside the top 10 and working closely with Ronson were highlights of the event, according to Liefooghe.
“BimmerWorld always gives me a great race car. In this case, with the extreme temperatures, we only had one lap to qualify after which the tires would drop off by at least a full second. I missed the opportunity on that lap, but the car stayed very consistent, so even though I started mid-pack, I knew I had a lot more performance available. During the race, our car was great in the long runs. After fighting my way up from 17th, it felt great to challenge for the top spots just like we usually do in the ST cars, and Chris should also be proud of the job he did in his first GRAND-AM race.”
While BimmerWorld’s GS cars enjoyed good runs at New Jersey, its ST cars found mixed fortunes in the race.
2010 Rookie of the Year Bill Heumann and his teammate, two-time ST pole winner David White who finished on the podium at the 2010 NJMP event, pushed themselves in the heat in the No. 80 BimmerWorld BMW 328i to finish 14th in class. “Given the extreme heat we made the decision to split the driving more evenly and didn’t take advantage of an early driver change” explained White. “That turned out to be the wrong call with all the caution laps and we could never make back the track position lost in the pits.”
In the No. 81 car, John Capestro-Dubets was thrust into a similar position as Liefooghe, leading the charge for the second time this season when his regular teammate stepped up to BimmerWorld’s GS team.
Partnered with Jason Briedis, who was making his return to the series, the two mounted a solid run but saw their race slowed by suspension damage after being hit by a competitor.
BimmerWorld’s crew leapt into action to repair the car, but with extensive damage to overcome, the No. 81 went down three laps and fell from contention. Despite losing the possibility of earning a strong finish, Capestro-Dubets returned to the track determined to reward his team’s efforts, recovering to finish 23rd in class.
Giving up, as he explains, was never an option.
“Unfortunately, our results were limited by a racing incident but I always give a 100 percent whenever I get in the car. I believe that even with the circumstances we were dealt, I was able to show that determination is part of what’s required as a professional. You can’t quit or relax, no matter how much of a challenge you have. New Jersey was tough on everyone, but it gave me another chance to show how I’ve grown as a driver, thanks to my coach, Gregory Liefooghe, and to BimmerWorld for giving me the tools to deliver in a great car.
“When I got in my BMW we were three laps down with a tweaked alignment and yet I was able to run a fast pace the entire time. If I take anything from the weekend it is the ability to know that things don’t always go the way you plan, and that you just have to keep pushing hard no matter what happens.”
Follow BimmerWorld’s progress at www.BimmerWorldRacing.com as they prepare for the season finale at Mid-Ohio the weekend of September 16-17, and be sure to tune-in to watch the New Jersey race broadcast on SPEED this Saturday, July 30th at 3 p.m. ET.
Courtesy: BimmerWorld Media Services
More information about the team, cars, and drivers can be found at www.bimmerworldracing.com
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