BimmerWorld BMW poised for big 2020 season

January 24, 2020

BimmerWorld BMW poised for big 2020 season

January 24, 2020

A return to two cars and a gain of two spots in the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge championship.

Those are solid goals and framework for James Clay’s BimmerWorld Racing’s 2020 season outlay, back with two BMW M4 GT4s on a regular basis.

SOLID 2019 SEASON

Clay and Devin Jones took their No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries/Veristor BMW M4 GT4 to third in the 2019 GS championship, a year when the team made a few changes and adjustments that proved positive.

Jones, a young driver who’d plied his trade in BimmerWorld’s ST program, stepped up into GS and quickly took to the new car like a duck to water. It impressed his co-driver and team principal who knew his potential in ST but avoided watching over him too closely.

“It’s been amazing with him actually,” Clay reflected. “I didn’t truly know what I was getting. He was ST in 2018… so even though he was in the same transporter, there were different engineers and a different car. I had minor oversight, but I don’t get into programs at that level.

“I knew he was capable and fast. It was a big question at ROAR 2019, and by the second session he was already up to speed and integrated into the GS car. It’s a fantastic fit.”

GS class podium. Photo: Michelin North America

The pair achieved its first podium second race out at Sebring, with second place behind eventual series champions CarBahn by Peregrine Racing.

Consistency positioned the No. 82 car in prime GS title contention all season, courtesy of seven top-nine finishes from the first seven races. A tough end to the season left the pairing third in points, but not for lack of competitive effort – just a lack of luck.

“We had multiple podium visits even though we didn’t stand on the top step, which you always want,” Clay notes. “But we constantly scored points and instantly got on a roll with a new co-driver.”

BACK TO TWO PROPER CARS

Jones’ old co-driver in the ST class, Nick Galante, has made a welcome return to the team for 2020 in a second BMW M4. The Racing to End Alzheimer’s program is one of the more positive charitable efforts within the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge paddock.

Galante is now in his third class in as many years. Galante won the ST class championship with Jones two years ago. Last year he won at VIR in a TCR Audi, and now steps up to GS in the No. 80 car with a past class champion and BMW veteran in Dillon Machavern.

The striking purple-and-white Racing to End Alzheimer’s BMW joins the BimmerWorld stable in 2020. Photo: Michelin North America

BimmerWorld has frequently run two cars, but only did so sporadically in 2019 as driver and funding availability allowed. Even so, Mike Skeen and Ari Balogh scored a podium at VIR in a one-off entry. Having two full-time cars provides Clay the framework for a more normal campaign.

“We’ll run the second car when it’s done right, and Nick and Dillon do that right,” he said. “Nick has been with us before and helped to bring the deal our direction. And Dillon’s super capable with a ton of BMW experience.”

Between the two MICHELIN® Pilot® Sport GT commercial racing slicks, Clay noted this team’s drivers can better “lean on” and “crank up the volume” more with the harder of the two compounds, the S9M.

A HAPPY BALANCE WITH THE BUSINESS

Clay, of course, balances his driving with his BimmerWorld business. When he’s not driving, he’s working closely with his team at its Dublin, Va. headquarters as a major BMW performance and parts dealer.

“To be in racing for a long time, you have to love it and have a big pile of money to spend… or have a big business reason to be here. And fortunately here, it’s the latter,” he laughed. “This is what we use on the cars every day and it’s a nice synergy with the race team.”

Lastly Clay’s driving pursuits don’t extend to just Pilot Challenge, even though that’s his full-time driving program. It includes special builds for trade shows and occasional outings to places like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, which he raced on the same weekend as the Pilot Challenge race at Watkins Glen last year.

Clay defers the personal glory, instead praising his team: “The real trick here is the team of people who work on the BimmerWorld Racing race team and back in the office. They just get better and execute. I sometimes get the credit, but it’s about the team, not me.”

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