There’s no other car event in the US like One Lap of America. Participants spend around ten days traveling to various competitive events around the country, which in 2023 included stops at nine different venues, starting and ending at Tire Rack headquarters in Indiana. James Clay and Evan Levine shared one of several BMWs that were in the field and ended up as the top-placed BMW in eighth position overall and first in the Luxury Class.
It may seem like a fun road trip to drive around the country competing in various auto events, and it is, but it’s also very challenging. The competition is fierce, with high-horsepower cars from a variety of marques in various classes competing at everything from skid pad and autocross courses to lapping road courses and drag racing. Participants also have to drive from event to event in the car they’re competing in. In 2023, the transit stages added up to 3,500 miles. You also have to do it all on one set of tires, though teams are allowed to bring a spare in each tire size.
Both James Clay and Evan Levine know their way around a race track. Clay is the owner of BimmerWorld and is the defending champion in the SRO GT4 America championship. Levine competes in club racing in the Spec E46 class. The car they shared was the BimmerWorld “GTMore” car, which is an F82-generation M4 that’s heavily modified with a lot of inspiration from the Motorsport-built M4 GT4 race car. It has serious aero on it, along with big horsepower, Alcon brakes, an upgraded suspension and additional cooling. It also has the back seat removed and racing seats installed, but still retained its original A/C and radio, which were a big benefit on the long transit stages.
Clay and Levine started off well, with a fifth-overall, first-in-class finish at the Tire Rack wet skidpad event, then traveled to Grissom Air Force Base in Indiana for an autocross event. They struggled there and found out that the car wasn’t all that suited for some of the venues that One Lap competed at. “One Lap has a lot of tight little tracks, and we built the GTMore as something that would get out there and shine at the kind of tracks that we race on with the M4 GT4,” said Clay. “We didn’t get to stretch its legs much. We have a built motor in the car with big turbos and the ability to run 800-plus horsepower at the wheels, but we were running in the 600-horsepower range. We had none of the power of the big turbos and all of the lag and lack of bottom end torque. When you’re in lower end third gear tracks like we had on most of One Lap, the big turbos just weren’t the right call.”
After Grissom Air Force Base, participants traveled to the Nelson Ledges Road Course in Ohio, where the GTMore placed twelfth overall and second in the Luxury class behind the BMW M5 of Karl Troy and Sean Troy. Another road course was on the menu after Nelson Ledges, as the event moved to Road Atlanta, which is more the type of track the GTMore was built for. In the two timed events there, the GTMore finished in fifth and sixth overall and second and first in the Luxury Class. The M5 driven by the Troy duo finished first overall in the first heat.
Clay and Levine ran into some trouble on the way from Road Atlanta to Nashville Super Speedway, as the car suffered a clutch failure when a prototype part that BimmerWorld was testing failed. Thankfully, friend and BimmerWorld customer Mike Akard opened up his shop in Knoxville (Akard Commuter of Tennessee) to give them space to work, and along with help from other BimmerWorld personnel, they got the car back up and running in time to make it to Nashville, where they finished third and second in the Luxury class.
After Nashville, One Lap headed to Eagles Canyon outside of Dallas, where Clay and Levine finished second and first in class. The drag races that were on the schedule at Thunder Valley Raceway in Oklahoma were canceled due to heavy rain, so the event headed to Hallet Motor Racing Circuit in Oklahoma next, where the GTMore finished first in class in both heats on the road course. Next stop was the National Corvette Museum track in Kentucky, where they finished third in class in both events behind the Troy-driven M5 (which was first in class in the first heat) and a Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing.
One Lap for 2023 finished where it started, at the Tire Rack headquarters in Indiana for the last dry skidpad event, where Clay and Levine finished second in class behind the 2011 M3 of Mike and Monique Forsythe. Even though the car wasn’t ideally set up for every event they competed at and there were challenges with weather and the clutch issue, Clay and Levine finished first in the Luxury class and eighth overall. The 2022 M5 of Karl and Sean Troy finished second in the Luxury class and ninth overall. Other BMWs in the Luxury class included Mike and Monique Forsyth in a 2011 M3 (fourth), Steven and Christopher Moody in a 2015 M3 (sixth), and Kevin McMahon and Matt Chabot in a 2019 M2 (eighth). The overall win went to a 2019 Porsche 911 GT3.
Clay found out as the event progressed that they were getting more out of their Continental ExtremeContact Sport 02 tires than they expected, which he believes also cost them some time at events early in One Lap. “The tires were awesome,” he said. “We should have tested more seriously with them and looked to maximize them more. I mistakenly thought at the beginning that ‘Hey, it’s a street tire and that we needed to be careful how much load we threw at them.’ We didn’t load them hard enough, and as a result we didn’t maximize their performance.” Clay said that a smaller turbo which would generate more low-end torque would have also helped them compete.
Despite the hardships, long hours at the wheel and lack of sleep, Clay and Levine want to come back and do it all again. “I love this event, it’s amazing,” says Clay. “It’s a big investment, because you’re gone for ten or eleven days, but it’s an epic road trip. As Evan said, it’s also a tremendous competition. You can’t take anything for granted and you have to battle it out. I love the camaraderie and the competition. It’s just a great car event. We want to come back and win it, and I think we’re pretty clear on what it takes to do that.”
Clay and Levine were also racing in One Lap of America to support Racing to End Alzheimer’s, which is an organization they’ve supported for years with the BimmerWorld racing efforts. You can watch video blogs from all of the One Lap events on the BimmerWorld YouTube channel. —David Haueter
[Photos courtesy BimmerWorld and driftpointMEDIA/One Lap of America]Tags: Bimmerworld bmw One Lap of America