Pirelli GT4 America
Watkins Glen International Speedway
Watkins Glen, NY
September 18-19, 2021
As an action-packed summer winds down and gives way to fall, the BimmerWorld/Racing to End Alzheimer’s team confronts an entirely new set of challenges that arise with the shoulder season. In an indication of what is to come, cooler temperatures and changeable weather played a crucial role in the race at Watkins Glen International Speedway last weekend.
Right off the starting line, teams found themselves scrambling to gain traction on one of North America’s most storied racetracks. During a damp, early-morning qualifying session, cars skidded off track with such frequency that race officials ended the runs early. With only 3 or 4 qualifying laps completed before the hard stop, the field was all kinds of mixed up.
Drivers and teams of every caliber were set to start the weekend’s races in oftentimes unfamiliar or uncomfortable positions. While undoubtedly frustrating for the professionals, this development only added more excitement and intrigue to what already promised to be a wild weekend at Watkins Glen.
The scrambled qualifying impacted the drivers of the #36 BimmerWorld/Racing to End Alzheimer’s M4 GT4 unequally. James Clay managed to find some room and lay down a decent lap to give him a respectable 6th place starting position for the Pro-Am class on Saturday. Nick Galante, on the other hand, had some tough luck and was unable to find open track before the red flag ended the session. He settled for 13th and prepared for a long battle to the top on Sunday.
Saturday brought perfect weather, giving the drivers a chance to let it fly on dry track. James Clay took advantage, shooting out of the 6th spot and making enough passes in the first 15 minutes to catapult the #36 BMW into 2nd place. After a truly impressive drive, Clay cruised into a perfect pit stop and handed off the hot car to Nick Galante.
The second half of the race illustrated just how competitive this Pro-Am series is. Fierce competition greeted Galante as soon as he hit the track. Despite expertly handling consistent pressure from seasoned pros, Galante was forced to relinquish a few spots, bringing home an 8th place finish for the team.
Sunday brought another day of fierce competition under sunny New York skies. Nick Galante knew he faced an uphill climb from the 13th starting position, and he got to work quickly. In lap one, he shot up two spots and settled in for a few circuits. On the exit of turn 10, an eager Porsche took a chance at squeezing past Galante for better position. The risk, while admirable, proved unsuccessful as the Porsche spun out across the nose of the #36. The distinctive purple Racing to End Alzheimer’s BMW earned some battle wounds and lost two spots in the process, but miraculously remained in the race.
After a yellow flag came out when another BMW lost its hood, the #36 re-entered the race within striking distance of the leading pack. With about 30 minutes to go, James Clay jumped behind the wheel and set off to claw his way up the leaderboard. His ambition and energy were soon thwarted, however, as a three-car collision and long caution period forced the team to end the day in 7th place.
Here at Racing to End Alzheimer’s, we love motorsports. The excitement and adrenaline, triumph and tribulations, bring us immense joy. Most of us have been doing this for a long time, and the opportunity to compete at the highest level only adds to the passion we have for racing.
That said, while we can sometimes get caught up in performance and podiums, our team is constantly aware of the fact that our mission is about so much more than that. Every name printed on the livery of our car tells a story. They remind us to honor those we have lost and to be steadfast in our goal to end Alzheimer’s.
We feel privileged to carry these names on our car and want to share an account from driver Nick Galante that we feel illustrates the importance of our mission.
“A long-time school friend, Jadie Almonte, saw a post of mine on Facebook, promoting the upcoming race at Watkins Glen and the Racing to End Alzheimer’s charity. She contacted me and informed me that her (step) grandmother had just recently passed and that Watkins was a very special place to her and the entire family. It seemed like a perfect way to honor her with this coincidence of charity and care. She reached out to me with the request to add her grandma’s name to our racecar, and I had to hurry because the printers were just finishing up the names in North Carolina and were about to ship them to the track in New York. Right at the last minute, they were able to get one more name made and overnighted to the track. Just in time for the race on Saturday! I sent some pictures and the family was happy to see her name — Mary Leffingwell Hitchcock Davis of Glastonbury, CT — on the car at a place so dear to her and the family.
We press on. More action soon. Next race is at Sebring, Florida, on October 3, 2021.