Heady drive to sixth by James Clay and John Capestro-Dubets in the No. 80 BMW 328i secures the 2012 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Series Street Tuner Manufacturers' Championship for BMW
The road racing veterans at Virginia-based BimmerWorld Racing closed out their 10-race GRAND-AM Continental Tire Series championship in style last weekend at Lime Rock, achieving a comprehensive set of goals established heading into the event.
With his trio of BMW 328is serving as some of the fastest and most consistent cars in GRAND-AM's Street Tuner class, Clay's team entered Lime Rock with all of his drivers and cars inside the top 10 in their respective championships—an impressive feat in the hotly contested category.
Moving BimmerWorld as a whole further up in the Drivers' and Teams' Championships was of great importance to everyone involved with the program, but the greatest challenge would come in the fight to earn the 2012 Manufacturers' Championship for BMW.
Rival manufacturers Mazda and Honda flooded the ST class with cars at Lime Rock to improve their odds of wresting the title away from BMW, but even with the numbers tipped in favor of the Japanese marques, the sixth-place finish by Clay and teammate John Capestro-Dubets in the No. 80 BimmerWorld BMW earned enough points to deliver the Manufacturers' crown to the BMW brand BimmerWorld also supports through aftermarket sales and tuning.
After landing on the podium in seven out of the first nine races, the only thing lacking from BimmerWorld's run at the rainy season finale was an eighth podium visit, but looking back at the overall championship, Clay closed the books on 2012 with plenty to be happy about.
“Certainly I prefer to see the BimmerWorld cars on the podium, and after appearing there almost every race this year, I have started to expect it to a degree," he said. “But even though we didn't break into the top 3 in this wild weather race, we had a list of goals laid before the green flag dropped as to what we could do this race to wrap up our season accomplishments, and we hit every one of them. Clinching the Manufacturers' Championship for BMW, having the top BMW in the Team and Driver Championships, and putting all three team cars in the top 10 for the season are massive accomplishments and I am proud of what we have done this year."
The combination of pro driver Clay and sophomore understudy Capestro-Dubets flourished this season in ST, with the duo scoring three podiums and six consecutive top 6 finishes to round out the championship. And with Clay handing over the duties of finishing each race to Capestro-Dubets, the promising Californian more than proved his mettle under pressure.
“John and I were both in roles new to us this year and it took a little time to work out all the dynamics, but as we settled in, the results started coming in rapid succession," Clay explained. “We were challenged at some points through the year with the rules package, but even in the races that we didn't have the strongest platform, our BMW was rock solid and that led to our consistently good results. John grew into his role as the closing driver for our car and pulled of several solid results with pure determination. We had a strong car and a strong BimmerWorld team behind us, and I am very happy with the last half of our season."
For “JCD," Lime Rock was a perfect bookend to his breakout season with BimmerWorld in the No. 80 where he and Clay took fifth in the final standings.
“This year was amazing," he said. “I got the chance to drive with a great team with great equipment. At Lime Rock we had a really strong car in the rain, but when the two sister cars had some bad luck, I had to step back and look at the bigger picture. So to make sure we finished where we needed to secure the Manufacturers' title, we played it a little safer than normal."
The No. 81 duo of Round 2 race winners Gregory Liefooghe and David Levine had a race to forget, ending the season with a damaged car after taking a major hit by an entry that had several additional altercations in the challenging conditions. As one of the fastest driver pairings in ST, the tandem was extremely effective in 2012, but hoped for more from the final race.
“When taking a step back to look at the 2012 season I think we can be happy of all the achievements we have accomplished," said the respected Liefooghe, who crossed the finish line in 15th.“A driver needs to be surrounded by a great team, have a fast car, put down strong drives, and have a good amount of luck to win a championship in a series as competitive as this. As far as I'm concerned, we have checked all boxes except for the one that we cannot control: luck.
“Lime Rock was a great representation of that, as we had a podium car once again, but got taken out early by a lapped car and went a lap down with car that was damaged enough to barely stay on track after the incident. It is hard to end a season on a note like that, and the start of the new season in January can't come soon enough."
Levine, who made his pro racing debut this year with BimmerWorld, echoed his teammates' feelings on the race and the season. With their win at Barber Motorsports Park and two other podium trips, the Liefooghe and Levine partnership claimed sixth in the Drivers' Championship.
“The result at Lime Rock stings especially because it was mostly avoidable," he said. “It's hard to sit in the pits for the rest of the race thinking about what could have been. Looking back at the season, though, it is hard to complain. Being able to look at three trophies sitting in my room is quite an awesome feeling; I can't thank Greg enough for that! The season was much better than I had expected. The crew is one of the best crews out there. The car was consistently fast even and I can't thank everyone at BimmerWorld enough for everything this season!"
The No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN® BMW 328i piloted by Seth Thomas and Dan Rogers pulled off BimmerWorld's greatest triumph of 2012, leading home a 1-2 finish in wet-dry conditions at the first-ever GRAND-AM race at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but the mojo didn't carry over to Lime Rock.
An early spin dropped the car down a lap, and with poor visibility making a comeback drive even more challenging, Thomas and the team worked miracles to claw their way back to 14th at the finish.
“We were close to getting the lap back thanks to great strategy by Wayne Yawn and the fastest pit stop of the year by the crew," said Thomas. “We were able to run with top 10 cars and were making a little bit of ground on them during the race, I think we nailed the rain setup on the No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN® BMW as it was very easy to drive at the limit in the most severe conditions we have seen this season.
“Dan and I worked hard to keep the car competitive during his inaugural season in ST. This work will continue in the off season and hopefully we will have the chance to start next season on a better note than we finished this one."
Despite the tough day at Lime Rock, Thomas and Rogers held onto 10th in the Drivers' Championship.
Reviewing BimmerWorld's accomplishments this season, Clay was encouraged by what his team of BMW experts achieved and has clear plans on how to take the next step forward with the premier ST program in 2013.
“Our 2012 season was excellent as a team in many ways," he said. “Our approach of running all three of our cars as true Championship efforts with equal equipment and opportunities undoubtedly proved to be a solid strategy, placing all three cars and driver pairings in the top 10 for the Team and Driver Championships. And clinching the Manufacturers' title for BMW with all three of our cars contributing to the points our BimmerWorld team scored in 9 of 10 races this year is a strong statement.
“If I had one regret looking back on 2012, it is that with all of our good fortune, no one car stayed clear of bad luck to be at the front of the Driver and Team Championships. We have our 2013 season mapped out with a majority of blanks filled in, but a couple of openings still to be filled. I am very excited as to what next year will bring. I was happy with BimmerWorld's showing in 2012, and 2013 will blow it away."
Catch the Lime Rock race when it's broadcast on October 13th at 2 p.m. ET on SPEED, and be sure to follow BimmerWorld's progress during the off-season or to submit inquiries at www.BimmerWorldRacing.com