BimmerWorld Racing will be moving up to the SRO World Challenge GT series next year with the new M4 GT3, and team owner/driver James Clay had his first experience with the car as one of the drivers in the 24H series race at Sebring on November 20–21. We caught up with James after the race to talk about his experience.
BimmerLife: How did it go in your first outing with the M4 GT3?
Clay: “Sebring was my first time in that car and my first time in a GT3 car as well. The Junior drivers had already had a bunch of laps in the car and Bill [Auberlen] doesn’t need a lot of laps, so they gave Robby [Foley] and I extra laps to settle into the car. There’s a lot of systems in that car and button combinations you have to know, but the car just felt like a fast BMW honestly, which is cool. There was nothing too hard to wrap your head around from a driving perspective and it was super quick to learn everything. To some degree that speaks to the integration of all the electronics. They really are extremely well done. Through the weekend, we had a couple of things that we were able to dig into deeper, and you see how clever they were with designing the car.”
BimmerLife: What are some examples of those clever things that are done with the car?
Clay: “One of the things we have in that series [24H Series] is that we have to turn the engine off when the car gets into the box [pit stall]. On your way in, you can pull a paddle and it puts the car in a shut-off mode so that as soon as it drops under five kph, it kills the engine. There’s also a combination of buttons that you press so that when the car drops on the ground it immediately refires. It’s stuff like that that you can tell the car is made for how we race these days, and it takes some of the error out of it.”
BimmerLife: Were there any issues with the car during the race?
Clay: “We had an issue with an O2 sensor where water got in [it rained heavily during parts of race]. Somebody also rear-ended us, and we had a suspension issue that was likely caused from contact with another car.”
BimmerLife: How did you like driving with the BMW Junior drivers?
Clay: “I like those guys. They were immediately quick, and I really like how BMW is now approaching that with the Junior team. It’s not the Junior drivers, it’s the Junior team. Those guys are always together, and it’s cool to see that they’re getting back to that. I think that BMW Motorsport is headed in a better direction now that they’re under the M umbrella, instead of the broad car sales in Germany. I think we’re on a good path for the future.”
BimmerLife: You must be looking forward to driving the car next season.
Clay: “It’s going to be awesome. Sometimes the things that you struggle with the most are from the street car DNA and there are problems that exist in the race car from that which you have to solve, but the M4 GT3 is a real race car. It’s going to be cool to be in something that is so focused.”
BimmerWorld Racing will be competing with two M4 GT3s in the SRO World Challenge America series in 2022.—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy Jon van Woerden and 24H Series.]