BimmerWorld Keeps Endurance Racing Streak Alive After Winning All of the drivers were able to handle the wet weather without concern. The Halloween weekend race turned out to be a "treat" for BimmerWorld. 'White Lightning' did the impossible by...
BimmerWorld Keeps Endurance Racing Streak Alive After Winning
All of the drivers were able to handle the wet weather without concern.
The Halloween weekend race turned out to be a "treat" for BimmerWorld.
'White Lightning' did the impossible by claiming overall honors once again
In what is now becoming a tradition for the Dublin, Va.-based BimmerWorld SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Car team, once the 2009 professional racing season concluded in early October at Laguna Seca, all efforts were focused on their favorite end of season endeavor: The 13 Hours of VIR.
BimmerWorld crew chief Jason Marks began preparing his personal 1992 BMW 325i, winner of both the 2008 13 Hours of VIR and 2009 12 Hours of Summit Point, immediately after resting up from the Laguna race. This car that started its track life as a $1000 bullet-ridden donor saved from a hard life on the streets has compiled an impressive history in a short period. Not to be outdone by BimmerWorld's three wins in World Challenge this year, Marks, with support from BimmerWorld's World Challenge technicians, set their sights on earning their third consecutive endurance racing win.
Akin to rescuing a dog from the pound to later win 'Best In Show,' the 325i, lovingly named 'White Lightning,' did the impossible by claiming overall honors once again at the 13 Hours of VIR. With two wins at VIR and one at Summit Point, 'White Lightning' has accumulated 38 consecutive hours of endurance racing success.
"It's a testament to the strength of the BMW platform, the products contributed by all of our sponsors, phenomenal work by our crew to prepare and run the car, and by our drivers," said Marks. "I'd like to think that we've proven that you don't need to spend a fortune to be successful in club racing events. It's all about the right people and the right parts."
"We have broken a lot of parts and run into a lot of problems in our 10+ years of racing" jokes BimmerWorld owner James Clay. "But there is nothing in this car that can't be found in our normal customer offerings; it is important to me that we sell parts that we know are capable and race proven. Additionally, the knowledge of how to make it all work together effectively and reliably is just as readily available for our customers. If this means they need to talk to our pro crew chief or the owner of the company to answer a question or solve a problem, we make time."
While 'White Lightning' has been an after hours project for the past two seasons, the 325i allows Marks to reverse roles with BimmerWorld team owner/driver James Clay. As owner/driver of the 325i, events like the 13 Hours of VIR present an opportunity for him to step away from his role as crew chief and focus on the pleasure of driving.
"That's one of the best parts for me," he said. "Normally, I'm buckling our World Challenge drivers into the car; when we roll out the 325i, it's my turn to put on the helmet and enjoy the other side of the sport."
With a familiar endurance racing driver lineup of Marks, Dave White, Tim Smith, James Clay and team newcomer Lance Boicelli, the BimmerWorld team opened their account for the 2009 13 Hours of VIR when White qualified the car 3rd for the race.
Race day was met by varying amounts of rain, but with tire partner Nitto on board again, all of the drivers were able to handle the wet weather without concern. Deft driving by James Clay, the starting driver, and the Nitto NT-01s gave the team an early advantage they'd never relinquish.
"Race day started with a light sprinkle that gave us a wet track," said Clay. "I managed to pull away from the factory Honda teams on our full-tread Nitto NT-01s while the other cars that got around us were on full wet weather tires. Once the track dried and their tires started going off, I passed for the lead at about the one hour mark. We were the only three cars in the lead lap, and due to our tuning and fuel strategy, we were able to run about forty minutes longer than the other frontrunners. At the end of my stint, this put us a lap up, where we stayed for the rest of the race"
Tim Smith took over for Clay and with the team's strategy already paying off; setting clean, consistent laps was his major task.
"The beginning of my stint was still a little wet although a dry line was starting to form," said Smith. "There weren't many eye opening moments in the car for me -- two hours in, Ryan Kuhn radioed and told me I had about fifteen minutes of gas before my stint was going to end. That was a surprise; the car was fast and easy to drive, and I was just settling into a good rhythm when I came in to hand the controls to Lance."
Boicelli, a winning BMWCCA driver and frequent fly-in BimmerWorld crew member, enjoyed his opportunity to pilot a BimmerWorld car at VIR.
"I've been crewing for James [Clay] for a while now, but we also race together, He came out and shared driving my BMW last year at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, so now I've had a chance to drive with Jason, James, and the rest of the guys. This was a blast!"
Under Clay's tutelage, Boicelli maintained the lead. "I took James' instructions close to heart, and worked on ticking off consistent quick lap times but not push so hard as to risk damaging the car. VIR is a stunning track, so between driving during the day, doing my first stint at night, and the overall fun and camaraderie within the team, it was a fantastic experience."
Boicelli turned the car over to the anxious team owner, whose first stint opened with laps behind the pace car during a yellow flag period. Like the first three drivers in the car, Marks was met with a trouble-free run.
"The old saying that the best kind of race is a boring one is how I'd describe things. There wasn't any drama; nothing went wrong, and we maintained our lead. That's the sign of a good race!"
Dave White took over from Marks, and after the competitors had grown to enjoy a dry track, the clouds opened up requiring a quick dash to the pits.
"I got in the car before dusk and settled into a comfortable pace," said White. "Towards the end of my stint, it started raining lightly on one end of the track, then on the other. Then it started pouring rain and the track conditions deteriorated very quickly. I held on as best as I could with a full dry setup in the heavy rain and standing water conditions until the team called me in for a pit stop, where we changed to a full wet setup, refueled the car, and changed drivers."
With Clay back in the car to close out the race, managing the changing conditions while maintaining a fast pace was his priority.
"When you combine racing in the dry, in the wet, and going from light to dark, there are a lot of opportunities for mistakes or to have other drivers involve you in their errors. We were fortunate to have good luck, but more than that, we had good planning and a solid strategy to make it to the end without suffering any mishaps. Taking our second consecutive 13 Hours of VIR win is well deserved by Jason, our drivers, our crew, and especially our sponsors."
After spraying champagne once again at VIR, Marks was quick to thank those that were instrumental in helping 'White Lightning' find its way to victory circle.
"Our Nitto NT-01 tires gave us a huge advantage - we could go almost seven hours on a set of tires while other teams lost time in the pits a lot more often replacing whatever they were running. That was the key. Our Performance Friction braking system and brake pads were perfectly suited for the changing conditions, and let us push as hard as we needed at all times.
"Another big part of endurance racing is the wear and tear inside the engine and transmission, and Red Line Oil kept everything in top shape. After 38 hours of racing, everything is fresh and ready to go again tomorrow. Hank Thomas Performance has been a great supporter of ours with the Sunoco fuel we keep winning with, and finally, it was nice to know we had the full line of GearWrench tools sitting in the pits if we needed them, and thankfully, we didn't need to use them much this year."
As he's seen so many times before, Clay credited the crew with executing a near flawless race. "They got us in and out of the pits as fast as I've ever seen. We had one or two bumps along the way and they tended to them immediately. When the downpour hit Dave [White] near the end, they got four rain tires on the car without losing a lap. If you're looking for people to thank for the win, you can start with the crew."
With three wins under his belt, Marks, still just two years into his role as a racecar driver admits the success they've had has been hard to grasp.
"I always expect BimmerWorld to win when we go pro racing, but that's not what our endurance team is about - this is not an official pro-level effort and we aren't on a big budget. This is a bunch of good friends teaming up and pitching in to do something out of the ordinary for us. We all change roles from our normal routines, we stay late and work weekends to prepare for a race like the 13 Hours of VIR, and there's a spirit of wanting to enjoy the entire experience. From having a barbeque to harassing and ribbing each other throughout the event, this is what racing is all about. If you told me we'd win our first three races with the 325i, I wouldn't have believed you, but now that we've done it, we'll go after a few more."