BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona
Daytona International Speedway
January 29, 2021
AFTER A SEEMINGLY ENDLESS two-month hiatus, IMSA gave racing fans a reason to smile again with the kickoff of the 2021 Michelin Pilot Challenge in Daytona, Florida.
With unprecedented challenges and uncertainties dominating the headlines, racing might seem like little more than a distraction these days. But for all of us here at Racing to End Alzheimer’s, the start of a fresh season means so much more than that. It means focusing our collective energy on long straightaways, uphill esses and perfectly timed pit stops. It means getting back on track, doing what we love, and engaging in what driver Nick Galante calls “racing therapy.”
Most importantly, it means joining forces with our amazingly supportive community to fight the scourge of Alzheimer’s through our shared love of motorsports. We’re grateful to be back at it. We’re glad you’re here. And we hope you’re doing okay.
The Rubber Meets the Road
Normally, the IMSA season starts with The Roar before the Rolex, a jam-packed practice weekend followed by several weeks of testing and resting before the first official race of the season at Daytona. This year, however, both events were squeezed into consecutive weekends, meaning that teams had to strap up for the 4-hour season opener with less prep time than usual.
The Racing to End Alzheimer’s/Bimmerworld team proved to be more than up to the challenge. Ace driver (and brand-new dad) Nick Galante qualified the #82 BMW M4 GT4 in the middle of the pack, quickly rocketing up to 10th position in the first laps of the race. Steady and strategic through multiple cautions and restarts over the next hour and a half, Nick worked his way up to an enviable 6th place, cruising into the pits with the kind of momentum that makes race leaders grip their steering wheels just a little bit tighter.
Duking it Out for the Cameras
With fresh tires and a full tank of fuel, team owner and driver James Clay took over from Galante, torching onto the track to put on a clinic in showtime racing. With challengers at every turn, James engaged in a series of epic battles that had the TV cameras glued to the #82 and spectators on the edge of their seats. For much of his stint, all eyes were on Clay as he expertly navigated the iconic course and fought off all comers to enter the pits in 7th place.
Skeen on Scene
Driver Mike Skeen took control for the final segment of the 4-hour race. Just as he seemed to be hitting his stride, an accident elsewhere on the track threw the race into a caution period. Anxiety levels rose as track clean-ups ate away at the time Skeen needed to claw his way up to the front. After the final frustrating restart, the #82 was in 8th place with only three laps remaining.
But Mike Skeen lives for these moments. In a remarkable display of driving derring-do, Skeen seemed to be picking off three cars every two turns. Within minutes, he had worked his way up to the 2nd spot. Out in front, a sleek McLaren ran away from the field, putting some daylight between its bumper and an emerging dogfight for 2nd place.
On the last lap, Skeen kept up the screaming pace. In his rearview mirror, two Turner BMWs were working together to overtake him. At Daytona, the legendary straightaways create draft that can literally make or break a race. Unfortunately for Skeen, the tailing BMWs were well positioned to take advantage of the track’s peculiarities.
Going into the final Bus Stop turn, Skeen was forced to surrender the second spot, slowing his exit down the long straight to the finish line. The tailing Turner BMW maneuvered into the draft created by the #82. Despite Skeen’s attempts to make himself as wide as possible, all he could do was watch as his challenger slingshotted around him and crossed the finish line a mere 5 feet ahead of the #82.
Just Getting Started
Despite the disappointment of falling just short of the podium, the season opener at Daytona was a real shot in the arm for the Racing to End Alzheimer’s/BimmerWorld team. The crew worked well together, the drivers performed spectacularly, and the race provided all of the excitement (and then some) that we’ve been missing for the last two months. It feels good to be back on track.