Clay Leads the BimmerWorld BMW Team Home at Autobahn Clay Leads the BimmerWorld BMW Team Home at AutobahnAfter teammates Seth Thomas and Nick Esayian had wildly successful days at Watkins Glen, team owner/driver James Clay took his turn to lead...
Clay Leads the BimmerWorld BMW Team Home at Autobahn
Clay Leads the BimmerWorld BMW Team Home at AutobahnAfter teammates Seth Thomas and Nick Esayian had wildly successful days at Watkins Glen, team owner/driver James Clay took his turn to lead the trio of BimmerWorld/GearWrench BMWs home at Autobahn
7.30.09 - Dublin, VA - With the BimmerWorld/GearWrench team fresh off a win at Watkins Glen and the best team results so far this season, team owner/driver James Clay knew that it was going to be a tough act to follow.
"With Seth's win and Nick's 4th place at the last round, we knew we'd have to have a perfect weekend to repeat those results, but we've gained valuable information about the new Autobahn track and just what it will take to succeed here in the future," said Clay. "Of course we wanted more -- winning is what we strive for every time we unload our cars -- but we've been in this business long enough to know that isn't always possible in a field this competitive."
The new track, located just outside of Chicago, presented more than its fair share of obstacles to overcome. While the team of BMW E90s expected better results, the BimmerWorld/GearWrench technicians fought to master the tricky handling requirements of the 18-turn, 3.56-mile circuit throughout the weekend.
"We worked hard to find grip all weekend -- we were pulling about 25% less lateral Gs than at Watkins Glen and that took a big setup change to compensate for" said Clay. "It's still a very new track, and the grip level increased through practice as more rubber was laid down. We were on pace to qualify well after all the changes we'd made to suit the improving track."
Despite the progress made by Clay's team in practice, the BMW team awoke to find the skies had a surprise awaiting them. "A hard rain fell overnight and washed all the rubber off the track, which reset the track conditions before qualifying and left us back where we started. We worked hard to earn 8th, 9th and 10th in qualifying thanks to excellent teamwork, but we definitely weren't satisfied with that result."
BimmerWorld/GearWrench race engineer Wayne Yawn went to work after qualifying to tailor the handling of the E90s for race conditions and made great progress, but with so many cars to pass, Clay, Esayian and Thomas would have a busy day ahead of them.
"Wayne made changes in the cars that helped quite a bit and that left us with capable cars for the race, but we faced a big challenge to move forward in this talented field," said Clay. "It doesn't matter where you qualify in this series; earning every single spot is incredibly hard."
Teamwork would see all three drivers make fast starts, with Seth Thomas pressuring Charles Espenlaub in the early going. Thomas' BMW E90 made contact with the back of Espenlaub's exceptionally wide Mazda6, knocking an engine intake boot loose. While a call to the pit for a quick repair was made, the car was unable to return to pit lane under its own power and was therefore not allowed to rejoin the race.
Thomas was left to reflect on what could have been. "I don't know where we would have ultimately finished, but the "never say die" attitude in the team and amongst the drivers is a big part of who we are. We had a lot of cars to pass to get to the front, but those are the kinds of challenges we love. We'll be ready to take the fight to everyone at Mid-Ohio."
For Clay and Esayian, the race at Autobahn was one of steady improvement. "Starting in 10th meant I had some work to do," said Esayian, "and with James in 9th, we knew the race would come to us. Going out and making banzai passes from the beginning was never the plan, so we settled in and picked out spots to pass."
Working in tandem after Thomas' departure, Clay and Esayian capitalized on the one caution period to make a final leap forward. "After we lost Seth, Nick and I used the wild double-file restart to grab our finishing positions in 5th and 7th," said Clay. "Fans will love watching the broadcast because it was a hair-raising restart, to say the least."
Clay would earn the Sunoco Hard Charger award for his efforts, having improved his starting position four positions from 9th to 5th. Clay and Esayian were able to hold their positions in the driver's championship after Autobahn, and despite an 11th place finish, Thomas slipped just one spot from 3rd to 4th in the standings.
BimmerWorld's first Autobahn adventure left the team with yards of data and plenty of newfound circuit knowledge. Although the Jason Marks-led crew persevered through a weekend of trying conditions, everyone looked back on the event with high praise for the track and the fans.
"I really enjoyed seeing all the enthusiastic fans from the Chicago area come out for the weekend. I think we put on a great show and I hope we made them fans of World Challenge for life!" said Thomas.
Esayian echoed Seth's sentiments, "This is a great metro for us to race in and the folks at Autobahn have done a wonderful job with the facilities. I think they have a good thing going here and we put on a whale of a show today."
With four rounds left to go, the BimmerWorld/GearWrench team will be working feverishly to move their three drivers up in the championship standings. Mid-Ohio, the site of BimmerWorld's first win in 2007, is next on the horizon and everyone will be focused on returning the trio of BMW E90s to the front of the field.