IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, VIRginia International Raceway
Sunday, Aug 23, 2020
After a hard-fought race in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin a few weeks ago, the Racing to End Alzheimer’s/BimmerWorld team turned its sights southward, to the historic VIRginia International Raceway in Alton, Virginia. Set among dense, pine-laden woods, the bucolic 3.27 mile track was one of the first permanent road racing tracks in the United States, with a storied centerline that has remained unchanged since bulldozers first carved it in 1957.
Beyond its beauty and history, the track at VIRginia International Raceway is well known for the challenges it presents to drivers. Extreme elevation changes, high-octane straights, gnarly turns and uphill Esses have drawn acclaim from the likes of Carroll Shelby, who once said, “One lap at VIR is like a hundred at Watkins Glen.”
A terrifying turn
During Saturday’s practice, the r2endalz/BimmerWorld team was made all too aware of the obstacles VIR presents. Devin Jones, the driver of the BimmerWorld #82 BMW M4GT4, sustained serious injuries when his car crashed through the tire wall and fence at turn one, flipping and rolling into the woods beyond. The incident left Jones with a broken arm and fractured lower back. (Thanks to the amazing work of local medical professionals, Devin had a successful surgery and is already back on his feet. All of us here at r2endalz and BimmerWorld are deeply grateful for the good news and wish Devin a speedy recovery.
With the crash weighing heavy on their minds, the team focused all their hopes on the remaining BimmerWorld #80 BMW M4GT4. During qualifying, driver Nick Galante was held up early on and struggled to find clear track to lay down good times. Digging deep, Galante ran an impressive final lap to qualify at 8th on the grid in a stout field.
A strategic setback
At the beginning of Sunday afternoon’s race, turn one struck again, as the lead car spun out while trying to make the late apex right-hander. Galante was forced to brake hard, dropping several places down to 12th in the process. Not allowing himself to relent, Nick stayed focused and climbed steadily through the pack. By lap ten, the #80 was sitting pretty in 6th position.
Pit-stop timing in IMSA racing is crucial, and strategy can make or break a race for a team. With the BimmerWorld BMW in 6th place, three of the frontrunners chose to take a partial pit stop, electing for a multi-pit-stop race strategy that allows for fresher tires. For the moment, this moved the #80 up to 3rd place. An hour into the race, the caution flag came out for a disabled car, and the r2endalz/BimmerWorld team took its first full pit stop – changing tires, adding fuel and swapping drivers.
After the restart, it was apparent the multi-stop strategy was paying off for the other teams. With Dillon Machavern behind the wheel, the #80 charged back out onto the track to try to make up some time. Machavern worked hard to move up through the field, passing 5 cars despite the somewhat cumbersome tire strategy. In the end, the team settled for an 11th place finish – mindful that the real victory was knowing their friend and teammate was well on the road to recovery.
The team’s next race is the 2020 Michelin Endurance Challenge at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in Braselton GA on September 4-6.