The BimmerWorld GRAND-AM Continental Tire Series team returned to Indianapolis last weekend and came within 2.5 seconds of repeating its incredible win at the Brickyard in 2012.
Seth Thomas and Dan Rogers, drivers of the No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN® BMW 328i, waged an epic battle to follow up their win with a third-place finish, and BimmerWorld’s Gregory Liefooghe and Tyler Cooke rallied to claim eighth in the No. 81 BimmerWorld BMW 328i, giving the Virginia-based BMW experts the highest combined finishing position of any the Street Tuner class team in the top 10.
Team owner/driver James Clay was pleased to see Thomas and Rogers on the podium at Indy for the second year running, but admitted he preferred last year’s outcome at the legendary track.
“At BimmerWorld, we always want to win and it is hard to celebrate near-wins, but this was a good weekend for us and we banked some good points for the Championship,” he said. “I do think we had cars to win and just fell a little short with lack of time under green at the end to race them. We feel like we had a repeat performance of last year’s win in our grasp and I think we all left feeling slightly disappointed.”
The long straights that define the Indy road course favored the smaller, lighter cars in the ST class, but as Clay explains, when it came time to corner or use the brakes, BimmerWorld’s race-proven line of BMW aftermarket components played an instrumental role in securing two strong finishes.
“Indy has some huge braking zones and without question, a solid BMW is a good platform and an exceptional Performance Friction braking package only accentuates that strength,” he said. “We always know that when we have a track configuration like this, the PFC will give us a slight edge over the competition. Likewise, our engineers constantly develop our suspension package and that work is the only way our heavy BMWs keep up with the rest of the field. This development process transfers directly to our customer programs and performance suspension packages we develop and sell at BimmerWorld, which is the icing on the cake for us when our proven cars earn a solid result like this.”
Thomas fell in love with the Brickyard after winning last year, and says it felt strange to watch another set of winning drivers go through the traditional post-race celebrations.
“I am going to be honest I was a little jealous seeing someone else kissing the bricks,” he said. “I felt as if the Brickyard had broken up with me. Indy is my new favorite track. Honestly when I walk into the place I get in the zone ready to go fast in a BMW. The track flows well with the 3-series. We had a good shot at winning for the second year in a row as our E90 had the speed to go from 18th to third. Some of the cautions did not work in our favor later in the race, but in the end, the weekend was a success. We were very close to pulling out a second consecutive win at the most prestigious track we visit, and that says something about our team and our cars.”
Rogersproduced his greatest drive to date in the No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN® BMW 328i, carving through the field before handing over to Thomas who took the car to the checkered flag.
“Starting 21st wasn’t what we were planning on, but given the way qualifying went, we knew we could make up some ground in my stint, before Seth took over,” he said. “From the start of the race, it was just a matter of picking and choosing passing opportunities. There are a number of aggressive opening drivers, so the key was to pick up positions without putting the car at risk. Getting a draft down the front straight, and taking the competitors under brakes in Turn 1 played to the E90′s strength – the PFC brakes – and was one of the primary tools we were able to use to gain position.
“Ending up leading a lap or two was a fun bonus, but the biggest accomplishment was giving Seth a car he could run to the finish and secure a podium for BWR and No. 82 CRC BRAKLEEN® BMW 328i. Once again, the combination of BWR and Indy has proven to be a powerful pairing. While we would have liked to have repeated as winners, getting a solid third tightens up the points race at a critical time in the season.”
The combo of Liefooghe and Cooke also impressed at Indy, with the teammates overcoming a frustrating stretch where the No. 81 BimmerWorld BMW was sandwiched between a group of more powerful cars that made passing nearly impossible.
“Handling was our biggest asset,” said Cooke. “We could accelerate out of the corners better than the other cars and carry more speed through the corners, but with the extra weight we’re made to carry, it’s hard to keep touch down the straights to use those assets to your advantage. We’re happy to get eighth at the end, but breaking out of the pack of cars to finish higher was too tall of an order.”
The third member of the team, the No. 80 BimmerWorld BMW 328i driven by Greg Strelzoff and team newcomer Kevin Gleason, retired early in the race with a mechanical issue.
Next up on the Championship trail is Elkhart Lake the weekend of August 10-11. Follow BimmerWorld at www.BimmerWorldRacing.comas they prepare to race on the historic Wisconsin road course, and tune into the Indy broadcast when it airs on August 3rd at 4 p.m. ET on SPEED.