Nick Galante and Devin Jones, driving the #81 BimmerWorld 328i, won the Street Tuner class in the two-hour Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Road America on Saturday, August 5, extending their points lead.
BimmerWorld’s James Clay and Tyler Cooke in the #82 M4 GT4 finished ninth overall and ninth in the Grand Sport class, just ahead of Greg Liefooghe and Ari Balogh in the #19 Stephen Cameron Racing M4 GT4. A third M4 GT4, the #88 Stephen Cameron Racing car driven by Henry Schmitt and Chris Miller, exited the race twenty laps before the end, and was classified twentieth in class.
Galante led the Street Tuner class from the drop of the green flag, chased by the #21 Porsche Cayman driven by Jason Rabe and Max Faulkner and the #73 Mini driven by Mat Pombo and Mike LaMarra. After pit stops the #73 Mini led, with Devin Jones in the #81 BMW second, the #21 Porsche third, and the #52 Mini driven by Mark Pombo and Colin Mullan fourth. The #73 Mini and the #81 BMW ran nose-to-tail, battling until the BMW got by with about 30 minutes remaining in the race. In the end the BMW led with a comfortable margin, the #73 Mini was second, and the #37 Mini, driven by Nate Norenberg and Derek Jones, finished third. The #21 Porsche finished fourth, while the #52 Mini exited the race with a mechanical problem after an off-course excursion.
There was a ten-minute yellow flag period for a contact incident just a few minutes into the race. The #88 BMW was hit during the incident, and had to pit for repairs. It would return to the track to run as high as second before exiting the race with additional damage from another incident. A second yellow flag came out about forty minutes into the race after a serious crash that took out the #9 Aston Martin driven by Craig Lyons and the #33 Mercedes-AMG driven by Russell Ward. The Aston went into the wall after contact with another car and rolled over several times. Then the #33 Mercedes went off course and hit the Aston; after the impact the Aston burst into flames. Both drivers got out of their cars. Lyons was taken to the hospital for observation, but was awake and alert. Cleanup took thirty minutes; several cars pitted as soon as the pits opened, while others waited until the caution period was almost over to pit. James Clay, who was running near the front of the pack, elected to make his stop late. The strategy was a bet that those who had pitted early would have to come in for a late fuel stop, while the late stoppers could stay out. Most, but not all, of the front runners did have to come in again, but some, including the winning Mustang driven by Trent Hindman and Alan Brynjolfsson, were able to stay out. Tyler Cooke moved up to finish ninth in the #82 M4 GT4 that he shared with Clay, while Liefooghe and Balogh finished tenth.
Kuno Wittmer and Rodrigo Sales won the TCR class in an Audi RS4 LMS TCR.
IMSA announced at Road America that the 2018 season is the last for the Street Tuner Class. Next year the series will run two classes, Grand Sport and TCR. The M4 GT4 will continue to run in Grand Sport, but BMW does not currently have a TCR car; either a Mini or a European-Spec BMW 1 Series could be a candidate for the class, which runs two-liter turbocharged front drive four or five door cars. BMW has made no official announcement regarding its TCR plans.
The 2018 season is also the last for Continental Tire; Michelin becomes title sponsor next year, when the series will be called the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.—Brian Morgan