BimmerWorld Returns With Three-Car GRAND-AM ST Assault, Adds New BMW F30 ST Development Program

BimmerWorld Returns With Three-Car GRAND-AM ST Assault, Adds New BMW F30 ST Development Program

Dan Fitzgerald

Virginia-based BMW experts are ready for new racing season with revised three-car ST lineup and an exciting ST racing and testing development program with the brand-new F30 platform.

Coming off another successful season of GRAND-AM Continental Tire Series competition, the BMW experts at BimmerWorld are expanding for their fourth season in the wildly popular production-based racing series.

The BMW aftermarket and racing specialists from Dublin, Virginia have spent the off-season making more improvements to their trio of proven 328i E90 chassis cars, and with an eye on the future, have added a fourth car to the program using the F30 platform, the latest evolution of the renowned BMW 3-Series.

Like its blended E90/F30 program, BimmerWorld will also see a mix of familiar, race-winning drivers returning to the team in 2013, along with a number of new and promising drivers that are capable of adding more hardware to the team's trophy case.

“I think we had a solid team in 2012, with solid cars, and we were a force at all of the tracks last year," said BimmerWorld team owner/driver James Clay. “With 10 years of pro racing under our belts, our success is developed by improving each year, and 2013 will follow that trend. The vast majority of our people are back, both in our talented crew and our driving staff, and I feel that our people are the foundation of our team.

“We'll continue to develop the E90 platform, which continues to show gains the more we massage it. But I think the majority of our improvements over the winter come from having better equipment and protocols for handling the adversity that racing typically deals out. The ability to start with a well-developed team and dig down to perfect these smaller points will be what puts our name on a Championship trophy at the end of the year."

With a number of BimmerWorld veterans set to race with those who are either new to the series, the team, or both, Clay's outfit will be working hard to develop its driving squad into a consistent and productive unit.

“BimmerWorld functions as a team of cars and drivers, not a group of individual entries," said Clay. “We have experienced and talented drivers returning for 2013, and our drivers that are new to the team have all been carefully selected to integrate well and be capable of producing results immediately. I plan to see our team visit the podium frequently this year."

Outside of the familiar Nos. 80, 81 and 82 BMW 328i entries, Clay will be partnered once again with John Capestro-Dubets (JCD), one of GRAND-AM's rising stars, in the new No. 84.

Tasked with preparing BimmerWorld's next wave of F30 ST chassis and aftermarket performance parts, they will lead an intensive program that will have the No. 84 entry splitting its time between a partial season in ST and an active private testing schedule.

“Developing a new car model is certainly a challenge, but being on the front of the learning curve is important both from a racing perspective, as well as developing parts and platform knowledge for our BimmerWorld customers," said Clay. “Certainly the F30 will be important for the future of BimmerWorld Racing and JCD and I developed a strong working relationship last year, and he is the perfect partner in this challenging effort."

Clay and JCD will step out of the No. 80 entry they drove to fifth in the 2012 Championship, handing it over to team newcomers Greg Strelzoff and Connor Bloum.

Strelzoff, who brings a mix of open-wheel and tin-top experience, will partner with Bloum, who cut his teeth with BimmerWorld's Club Racing program, as the duo contest their first season of professional competition in GRAND-AM.

“I feel like I'm part of a team that supports me like family," said Bloum. “The Club Racing experience with BimmerWorld was better than anything I had expected and I'm sure the GRAND-AM program will be even better! I anticipate an exciting and challenging season."

With results that placed all three of its driving tandems in the top 10 in 2012′s final standings, Strelzoff says BimmerWorld's proven success in GRAND-AM is what drew him to the team.

“I chose BimmerWorld because of its commitment to world class racing, driver development and the reputation of the team," he said. “Also, I know some of the drivers and they all have had a great experience. I am looking forward to expanding on the successes I have had in my previous forms of racing and am looking forward to the challenge of the step up in racing with Connor and the entire team."

The No. 81 will feature BimmerWorld ace Gregory Liefooghe and new teammate Tyler Cooke. Liefooghe, who scored the win at Round 2 in Alabama with 2012 partner David Levine, is confident that the teenaged Cooke, who comes to the team after showing great promise on his ST debut last season, will be right on the pace when the season opens later this month at Daytona.

“With Tyler coming in with a strong GRAND-AM background and showing enormous speed and potential during last season, I am feeling good about our chances to start the season with a podium right away," he said. “The No. 81 has finished on the podium at Daytona for the last three years now and I am hoping to keep this momentum going, hopefully to finish on the top step this time."

Presented with the chance to drive with one of GRAND-AM's best drivers and teams, Cooke expects to turn the promise he showed in 2012 into bonafide results with Liefooghe.

“I feel like Greg and I can earn podiums and race wins very quickly," he said. “Last year Greg was fighting for the lead at Daytona so we are definitely capable of a great finish to start. I also feel with one year of GRAND-AM experience, I can use that knowledge so Greg and I can move BimmerWorld up front and stay there all season."

For all of the changes in the No. 80 and 81 entries, the No. 82 328i is untouched for 2013 as Seth Thomas and Dan Rogers march into the new season at full speed.

As the winners of the ST class at GRAND-AM's historic first race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the teammates know what it's like to earn the biggest individual accolades the series has to offer, but now the two, like the rest of the BimmerWorld drivers, will be focused on earning the 2013 ST Championship.

“Dan and I worked great together last year and keeping the momentum going for us this year is important," said Thomas. “We had some highs and lows during our 2012 season but we've both worked heavily on improving in the areas we highlighted. 2013 will be a test to this as we look forward to continuing our driving partnership while experiencing more success on the track. We look forward to seeing the No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN car at the front of the field far more often."

Rogers also sees the chemistry inside the cockpit of the No. 82 as being key to their increased success.

“Seth and I learned last year how we can best work together to get positive results from our pairing," he said. “Whether it's travelling in advance of a race to learn a new track, pouring through data at the track, or trying to figure out some mental aspect of driving, we are comfortable working through that together. We are looking forward to improving on our results in every way possible."

Racing in a part-time supporting role will be tough for diehard drivers like Clay and JCD, but after closing out 2012 as the strongest driver combination in the category–and playing a central role in delivering BMW the Manufacturers' Championship, the pair will push their teammates towards immediate success while readying the F30 for what should become BimmerWorld's 2014 challengers.

“The E90 cars are our team's focus for a Championship this year, but the F30 development is critical to our team's future," said Clay. “We have a lot of depth in both our crew and driver staff, and we should be able to achieve both goals simultaneously."

There's certainly nothing stopping Clay and JCD from winning this year, but as the young gun says, keeping his target locked on 2014 is what will help the team in the long run.

“Development of this F30 is the most important in my eyes for this year, but I also look forward to playing the role of 'tail gunner' for the E90s," JCD said. “It's going to be a busy year, and one where we're doing a lot of work behind the scenes with the F30, but that development experience will be invaluable for me in my career. It's kind of a 'pay it forward' year James and I have ahead of us."

Follow BimmerWorld's progress at this week's “Roar Before The 24″ test at Daytona International Raceway at