BimmerWorld Goes Three-in-a-Row at VIR 13 Hour After securing the overall win at the 2010 edition of the VIR 13 Hour, held at the daunting 3.2-mile in the Virginia countryside, the Va.-based BimmerWorld Racing team had plenty of reasons to ...
BimmerWorld Goes Three-in-a-Row at VIR 13 Hour
After securing the overall win at the 2010 edition of the VIR 13 Hour, held at the daunting 3.2-mile in the Virginia countryside, the Va.-based BimmerWorld Racing team had plenty of reasons to celebrate.
BimmerWorld's latest VIR 13 Hour win marked their third straight overall win at the event, and not only did they achieve the impossible by winning three-in-a-row, they've done it with a nearly identical car, crew, and driver lineup that started the streak in 2008.
With the growing popularity of the event and bigger teams joining every year, taking their battle worn 1992 BMW 325i back to contest the race this year was a risk. But after 13 hours of racing - nearly half a season's worth of GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car challenge series action - the trusty BMW that started life as a $1000 donor car delivered the BimmerWorld team to Victory Circle once again.
In what the team has described as an annual reunion of friends, the close-knit BimmerWorld Racing outfit returned with a familiar driving combo - team owner/driver James Clay, Clay's GRAND-AM teammate David White, BimmerWorld crew chief Jason Marks, BimmerWorld crew member Lance Boicelli, and 13 Hour veteran Tim Smith.
The only new addition to the driving ranks came with Nathaniel Sparks, and as Clay shared, entrusting his young new co-driver with the keys to the 325i was not a concern.
"This race is won with consistency and smart driving and I was both comfortable with Nate in the car and happy to have him join us. Otherwise, the other five spots were filled by the same perennial cast of characters, and they all know how to win."
The team's BMW 325i was also largely unchanged, with Performance Friction, Red Line Oils, GearWrench, Hank Thomas Fuels/Sunoco, and ATL all playing integral roles in the performance of the car. The only major difference to note was a switch to Hoosier Race Tires, and as the team soon found, that move alone was worth a few seconds per lap while delivering incredibly consistent grip.
BimmerWorld's 13 Hour event was preceded by the team's first test of their new-for-2011 GRAND-AM BMW E92 M3 that is destined to race in the Grand Sport class alongside their BMW E90 Street Tuner cars. After a successful shakedown test at VIR with the E92, Clay stepped into the 18-year-old 325i and qualified third overall.
With qualifying out of the way, Clay handed the car over to his teammates for the rest of Friday and the BimmerWorld crew prepared for a long Saturday filled with racing.
David White, who used his experience from the 2009 13 Hour to prepare for his first season of GRAND-AM racing, took the start of the race for the team and settled into BimmerWorld's game plan of fast but consistent laps. While six-figure racing cars streaked out into the lead, White fell into a rhythm that allowed the 325i to stretch its fuel tank farther than the leaders.
In a classic case of the Tortoise and the Hare, White was promoted to the lead as the high-powered cars were forced to pit for fuel. The BMW's combination of great handling, incredible braking and a fuel-sipping engine might not sound like the perfect endurance racing tool when compared to Porsches, American V-8s, and other exotic machinery, but with the competition spending so much time in the pits to top up their tanks, BimmerWorld's classic 325i began to overwhelm the field.
With White handing over to Sparks, the same "efficiency beats brute horsepower" scenario played out once again, and Boicelli continued to execute the plan when he took over for the third stint. Running in second place when he pulled out of the pits, Boicelli - also a BMWCCA road racing champion - swapped the lead with a rather persistent Porsche, and completed his run in first before handing Clay the controls.
With a one-lap lead over the Porsche, Clay continued the follow the script by preserving the car, avoiding contacts and handing over the BMW to Tim Smith to carry the baton. The workman-like performance by the BimmerWorld drivers allowed the team to start dreaming of another 13 Hour win just past the halfway mark.
Problems with mechanical reliability is the most common reason for a team to suffer a poor result in endurance racing, and as they found in 2008 and 2009, the choice of a simple, proven car like the 325i paid huge dividends as the race moved towards the final chapter. Smith logged his usual flawless performance, but BimmerWorld's main challenger - the Porsche - began to suffer some form of mechanical malady, losing a number of laps as a result.
As time wound down in the 13-hour event, the car's owner, Jason Marks, got his first taste of racing as the sun fell and held the lead before pitting to give one driver a special treat. After years of dedicating his free time to flying out from the west coast and crewing for BimmerWorld, the team chose to put Boicelli back in the car to take the sturdy BMW to the checkered flag.
With the Californian crossing the start/finish line to secure BimmerWorld's amazing run of wins at the VIR 13 Hour, the team also celebrated a third-place finish by their sister car, making for an all-BMW podium.
The art of winning an endurance race is hard to perfect, but as Clay explained after the race, having the right people within the program makes all the difference.
"When we won the first two times here we were learning a lot about endurance racing. We took what we learned into pro racing with GRAND-AM this season and almost won the championship, but coming back to the 13 Hour really showed me how much BimmerWorld Racing has grown in this sport. We worked like a unit, and had a lot of fun while doing so. Now we'll go back to preparing for our assault on the 2011 GRAND-AM ST and GS championships and this win is the perfect springboard to get there."
The first GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car challenge race of 2011 takes place at Daytona International Speedway on January 28th.