It’s hard to believe it, but 2022 is BimmerWorld’s 25th year of being in business, and it promises to be a big year for the organization. Not only are they moving into a new 150,000-square-foot facility, they’re also taking a big step up to top-level GT3 racing for the first time in the SRO GT World Challenge America championship, while continuing to run the M4 GT4 in SRO GT4 America.
As if that weren’t enough, they will also compete once again in the Pikes Peak Hillclimb with their “Bergsteiger” E36 M3, which is getting some significant modifications before that event. As BimmerWorld owner and driver James Clay says, 2022 may be like “drinking from a fire hose.”
I recently caught up with the busy Clay at the BimmerWorld shop in Virginia to talk about the transition to the M4 GT3, among other things.
BimmerLife: How’s it going with preparing for the GT World Challenge season with the M4 GT3?
Clay: “We’re starting our season at the first race in April, at Sonoma Raceway. We got our first car in the middle of February and if everything goes smoothly, we’ll get our second car at the end of March or early April. We’re really not where we would choose to be as far as getting cars and we’re definitely not where we’d like to be with getting parts, including basic parts to test with. It’s a very difficult year with supply-chain issues with BMW but also across the industry and across the world, really.”
BimmerLife: You went testing with the car at VIR already, right?
Clay: “We’ve had the car at VIR for a couple of days which is close and gives us the ability to be near the shop, and it went very well. We’re kind of back to our roots on some things. Back in the old days of World Challenge we built our own cars from the ground up and we’ve made some of our own test parts for the M4 GT3, which are not the parts from BMW and not the parts we need to run, but we can accomplish some things in testing by doing that.”
BimmerLife: What’s been the biggest challenge in moving up into a GT3 program?
Clay: “We’re coming from GT4 cars, which are very series-car based, to the GT3 cars, which are true race cars. It’s interesting because, in many ways, it’s easier with the GT3 cars. You can take the whole car apart with about four tools, which is pretty cool. There are so many more things you can do with the car and the level of precision is at a much higher level. One of the biggest challenges is that the economy has been good for racing, with more people fielding race cars. The challenge with that is you only have so many experienced people in North America or in the world that are capable of fielding race cars. The move to GT3 required some additional staff and coming up with that staff when everybody else was looking to expand was kind of difficult, but we’ve gotten some key guys and I’m pretty happy with where we are. I just wish we had more test time!”
BimmerLife: What else do you have going on this year?
Clay: “We’ll be running the M4 GT4 again as well, which is our last year with that car (before the new G82 M4 GT4 debuts in 2023) and our last chance to win a championship with the F82. We’re excited to have Devin Jones back with us. He’s recovered and ready to go. This year will be the 100th running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb and that’s super exciting but also daunting because we can’t leave well enough alone. We also aspire to be at the Ultimate Track Car Challenge at VIR in May with both our F82 project car and the Pikes Peak car, and I’m working on getting a drive in an M4 GT4 at this year’s Nürburgring 24 Hour race.”
BimmerLife: What modifications have you made to the Pikes Peak car for this year?
Clay: “That car is getting a suspension redesign with a full pushrod suspension and also a carbon body, so we’re hoping to drop about 200–250 pounds. We didn’t run a rear swaybar last year, and we felt like that was a good move because of the oddities of that track, with the articulation required in the tight hairpin and the bumps. We’ve gone to a rocker suspension with a third spring in the rear for this year, so that should be even better in the bumps. We’ll see.”
BimmerLife: It sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate this year!
Clay: “This is our 25th year in business. You’d think you’d kind of level off and get to where you’re going to be, but we’re still aggressively going after a bunch of things, which seems to be our comfort zone.”
Just a few days after our visit, BimmerWorld’s M4 GT3 was crashed heavily while testing at VIR with Chandler Hull driving. Hull was thankfully okay, but the car was not repairable and new M4 GT3s are not readily available, which led to a change in plans. Instead of having two M4 GT3s start the season in GT World Challenge, the team will now field one M4 GT3 for Bill Auberlen and Chandler Hull. Clay, who was originally supposed to be driving an M4 GT3 with Ari Balogh, will team up with Charlie Postins (who he’s raced with in the Nürburgring 24 Hour) in an M4 GT4 in the SRO GT4 America SprintX series alongside Devin Jones and James Walker, Jr.—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy BimmerWorld Racing/Kevin Adolf.]