James Clay and Devin Jones in the #82 BimmerWorld M4 GT4, in sixth place at the end of the race, were the best BMW finishers in the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona, the Michelin Pilot Series season opener run the day before the Rolex 24. BimmerWorld’s second M4 GT4, the #80 car driven by Nick Galante and Dillon Machevern, was the second-best BMW finisher in the 33-car Grand Sport class, coming in nineteenth.
Clay started the #82 car sixteenth on the grid and moved into the top ten by the end of the first hour. He ran as high as sixth, and was in the top ten when he handed off to Jones during the second caution period in the race. Jones drove the final 1¾ hours of the race, coming out of the pits in twelfth and moving through traffic to finish sixth. The #82 BimmerWorld car also ran competitive times, but a slow second pit stop set it back in the end.
Dylan Murry, Jim Cox, and Jeroen Bleekemolen in the #35 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT4 led a Mercedes podium sweep. The race ended under yellow after Scott Maxwell had a significant crash with about fifteen minutes remaining; he was extracted, and was fine, but the tire wall could not be rebuilt in time to resume the race.
BimmerWorld’s Jones said, “For the start of the stint, I was able to gain a few positions. The car was pretty good right out of the gate so that was encouraging. Our car is not as good in the infield, but through the ‘bus stop,’ it’s really good. So, we were able to kind of set people up and get big runs coming out of the bus stop, which works well here to pass cars. Our car is pretty good through the high-speed sections of the track. We struggle a little bit in the infield trying to put the power down compared to some of the other cars, but we were pretty competitive.”
There were three other M4 GT4s in the race; each had it share of problems, with tire punctures affecting all three cars. The #26 Classic BMW/Fast Track Racing M4 GT4 shared by BMW works driver and former BMW Junior Beitske Visser, Robbie Dalgleish, winner of the Sunoco 240 Challenge, and Classic BMW team regular Stevan McAleer finished 22nd. Neither of the Turner Motorsport M4 GT4s were running at the end of the race; the #95 car driven by Connor Bloum, Aurora Straus, and Billy Johnson, plagued with the most tire punctures, was classified 28th; and the #96 Turner Motorsport M4 GT4 driven by Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley, and Vin Barletta was classified 31st. The Turner team and Michelin are investigating to determine the reason for the punctures.
BMW CCA Executive VP Eddy Funahashi was Grand Marshall of the race.
The Michelin Pilot Series runs again at Sebring on March 19.—Brian Morgan
[Photos courtesy BMW AG.]