Devin Jones Finishes Daytona Opener in 4th

Devin Jones Finishes Daytona Opener in 4th

The BimmerWorld Veristor/Optima Batteries M4 GT4 Off to a Fast Start in 2019

January 2019

Championship-winning athletes stick to their game plan despite what the competition is doing, think independently when necessary, keep persevering, and pounce when opportunity knocks. BimmerWorld Racing’s James Clay and Devin Jones showed all of those attributes in Friday’s season opener for the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge series and came away with a solid fourth in the BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona International Raceway. The finish was a thriller, as their car advanced three positions in the last three minutes of the four-hour race.

James Clay, of Blacksburg, Va., started ninth. He stayed at the controls of his Dublin, Va.-based team’s No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries/Veristor BMW M4 GT4 for the entire first half of the race, despite watching his main rivals peel into the pits during three of the race’s nine caution flags in an attempt to gain an advantage with their teams’ strategies. He stuck to his guns and didn’t let them affect his team’s master plan, and he also dealt with an unusual power problem with the No. 82.

Clay made two pit stops under yellow flags on lap 18 and 30, had a tremendous battle with Austin Cindric, stayed out of trouble even when Fred Poordad spun in front of him, and was eighth when he pitted for Jones to take over under the fifth yellow with 2:01.40 remaining.

Devin Jones, of Mooresville, N.C., was unable to get a good rhythm going initially due to more caution flags. He also had to deal with the major disadvantage of no radio contact with the pits and its spotters through his entire stint. But the series’ 2018 Street Tuner co-champion responded like the champ he is, setting the car’s fastest lap of the race on lap 77 with a time of 1:53.792. Jones led laps 78 and 79 before the team requested a black flag be displayed to signal him to come in for his final pit stop for fuel and a set of fresh Michelin tires on lap 80.

The stop put Jones back in 19th place, and at one point he was a lap down, but once again the team stuck to its plans and kept digging. Jones was 15th with 30 minutes remaining, and he was 12th when the final full-course caution flew with 15:29 left. He had a great car under him, but with three minutes left, Jones was still in seventh place. He wasn’t done passing cars, though. In 6th with just 1:19 to go, Jones took advantage of the two cars battling ahead which gave him the massive Daytona two-car draft in the last turn of the last lap before taking the checker about a nose ahead of the other two, nailing 4th-place when the checkered flew on lap 101 for the thrilling finish.

A second BimmerWorld BMW M4 GT4 driven by Kaz Grala of Westborough, Mass. and Aurora Straus of Cold Spring, N.Y. started 16th but cut a tire very early in the race and had to spend a great deal of time in the pits and the garage for repairs. The team worked hard to get the car back into the action, and both drivers got some time behind the wheel. Their car, sponsored by Richard Mille watches and Straus’s Girls With Drive program, was credited with a 30th-place finish in the Grand Sport class. Straus set that car’s fastest lap of the race with a 1:54.847 on lap 57.

Friday’s race will be shown on NBCSN from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, Feb. 6.

This race supported the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The next event will be held March 13-16 at Sebring, Fla., as part of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring weekend.