On the Friday before the Rolex 24 BimmerWorld’s #82 M4 GT4 driven by James Clay and Devin Jones finished fourth in the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona, the inaugural race in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series. Their car, coming off a win in the last race of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge last October at Road Atlanta, was the best finishing M4 GT4 of the five entered in the race.
The BMWs did not have the pace of the race-winning McLaren; #82’s fastest race lap was over a second off the pace of the McLaren GT4 driven to victory by Paul Holton and Kuno Wittmer. Race craft and staying out of the trouble were the keys to #82’s finish. The car rose through the pack over the course of the race. It was leading when the track went green after the eighth of nine caution periods that plagued the four-hour enduro. But then it came in under a mechanical black flag for fuel and tires; the flag was called by the team because the car had lost radio communications. The car recovered, running strong in eighth place with just four laps remaining, and moving up to fourth as Jones passed several cars near the end, finishing with a draft in the last turn that left him a nose ahead of the fifth and sixth place cars.
All four of the other M4 GT4s in the race were set back by incidents. With just over a half-hour left in the race, Greg Liefooghe was running third in the #88 Stephen Cameron Racing M4 GT4 that he shared with Henry Schmitt. But then he was hit hard by another car and spun off; Liefooghe said afterward that he thought he was going to go into the wall. But he was able to recover and return to the fray, finishing fourteenth overall, still on the lead lap. The #26 Classic BMW/Fast Rack Racing M4 GT4 driven by Toby Grahovec, Jason Clunie, and Kyle Reid, led after two hours, but suffered front-end damage when it was hit during hour three. It returned to the track to finish twenty-fifth in class, seven laps down from the winning McLaren. The #96 Turner Motorsport M4 GT4, driven by Robby Foley along with the father/daughter team of Bruce McKee and Sydney McKee, was damaged by contact early in the race, and had to serve a pair of stop-and-go penalties. It finished twentieth, one lap down from the leaders. The fifth M4 GT4, the #80 BimmerWorld car decked out in retro M1-livery, driven by Kaz Grala and Aurora Straus, limped back to the pits after suffering a cut tire early n the race. It returned to the race after a long stop for repairs, eventually finishing thirtieth in class.
IMSA competition in the Michelin Pilot Challenge resumes at Sebring in March.—Brian Morgan
[Photo courtesy Brian Morgan.]