BimmerWorld and Jones Impress with 2nd Place Finish at Watkins Glen
The Tioga Downs Casino Resort 240 at The Glen race for the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge series at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, N.Y. on Saturday was one of the most thrilling races the series has seen in recent years. Thirty-seven cars in two classes competed during changing weather and numerous cautions from spins galore while teams were chasing victory.
BimmerWorld Racing’s James Clay, of Blacksburg, Va., and Devin Jones, of Mooresville, N.C., drove their No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries/Veristor BMW M4 GT4 to a second-place finish in the Grand Sport (GS) class in the four-hour enduro, just 1.946 seconds down from the winning No. 35 Mercedes Benz-AMG.
Qualifying driver Clay started from the fifth position on the grid and immediately passed two cars on the first lap, elevating the BMW M4 to third place. A total of five cautions over the 103 laps as well as some intermittent rain led to an exciting race that had fans on their feet cheering.
The first full-course caution was displayed on Lap 8, and Clay pitted for a fuel top-off two laps later. On Lap 17, another caution was thrown as Clay continued to take advantage of any inch of track space he could to advance his No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries/Veristor-liveried BMW. By Lap 28, he drove the race car into the lead and turned his fastest lap of the race on Lap 37 with a time of 1:55.971. He held the number one position until his next pit on Lap 43, nearly one hour and 40 minutes into the race. The team’s choice to pit at that time turned out to be brilliant, as Clay narrowly entered the pits just before the third full-course caution of the day was displayed, approximately one hour and forty-five minutes into the race.
Jones started his stint and quickly maneuvered the No. 82 BMW back into the lead as he kept bettering his fastest lap, ultimately collecting his fastest on Lap 74 with a time of 1:54.077 and earning fastest lap of the race honors, as well as setting the new track record.
Rain began to fall on parts of the circuit just before the final pit stops. The BimmerWorld crew took a chance by staying on Michelin slick racing tires, while many of their competitors opted for rain tires. After the restart following the final caution with just 15 minutes remaining, the cars with rain tires held the front positions, but as the rain stopped and the track quickly dried, the gamble paid off as Jones climbed back into second place. He ran out of time to capture the victory as the checkered flag was displayed at 6:56 p.m. Eastern time. Jones lead the most laps of the day with 49 of the 103 total laps.
With their second-place finish, Clay and Jones moved back into the MICHELIN Pilot Challenge points lead after four of 10 rounds this season.
“We watched it (the race) while we headed to the airport to head to Pikes. It was one of the craziest race finishes I’ve ever seen. So much happened, and it was such incredible racing with the rain. We had a great car today, and Devin did a fantastic job. We were headed for a win, but it didn’t quite come through. I’m so proud of Devin and the team and the great job they did today, and I’m happy we’ve regained the championship lead.” - James Clay
Jones had to handle the Victory Lane honors solo as team owner and teammate Clay was well on his way to his flight to Denver for competition at the 2019 running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb (PPIHC), also known as The Race to the Clouds
“It was a really interesting race. We’ve been working really hard on getting the car set up for the longer run, and it was starting to pay off today. James did an incredible job in the first stint and was out in the front, battling for the lead, and doing a great job, especially after he didn’t get much practice coming in from Pikes Peak. It put a lot of pressure on me to get in the car and do well. I thought we did a pretty good job. We were out front for most of the race. Towards the end, the No. 35 was fast, and he was running about the same pace as me.
“When the rain came, it kind of changed everything up and threw a curveball. I didn’t really want to see it because I knew how fast we were in the dry. We were able to hold onto it, and the track was starting to dry up towards the end. We were running them down and just ran out of time. It was still a really good run for us. We want to get a win, but we’re knocking on the door, so hopefully soon. I just want to thank everybody on this team. They do such an incredible job with this car, and it’s really a privilege to drive it. I have to thank Veristor and OPTIMA Batteries too. It’s weird not having James here since he’s probably already on a plane going to Pikes Peak. So, good luck to him on Sunday and hopefully we can carry some momentum going into Mosport.” - Devin Jones