A Need for Speed
IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge
Road America 120
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Saturday, August 1, 2020
Coming off a frustrating weekend in Florida cut short due to thunderstorms, the Racing to End Alzheimer’s/Bimmerworld team was relieved to find perfect racing weather on Saturday at Road America. With cool, clear skies overhead and the welcome sight of recently-allowed spectators lining the route, the team set out onto a track that has reached legendary status among drivers and fans alike.
Set against a spectacular Wisconsin timberland backdrop, the challenging 14 turn, 4.048 mile track features technical turns, frequent elevation changes and heavy braking zones. Success here requires serious skill, as drivers can expect consistently good overtaking possibilities and resulting high-speed battles for placement. This weekend’s race promised all of that and more for Nick Galante, Dillon Machavern and the rest of the r2endalz/Bimmerworld team.
Slow going at America’s “National Park of Speed”
Despite good weather and track conditions, the team found itself facing a new challenge before the start of qualifying. Because of the fine-tuned nature of turbocharged cars like the BMW M4 GT4, engine performance fluctuates with changing elevations, air density, humidity and air temperature. In an attempt to address these uncontrollable factors, the rules committee engages in what it calls “Balance of Performance” to even out engine performance in the field. This can be done by changing weight and ride height requirements, restricting the size of the fuel tank, or disallowing certain engine performance options. In the case of the #80 BMW, the sanctioning body decided to allot the team the lowest power level on its engine map, meaning the car would operate with significantly less power than usual.
For Galante and Machavern, the power map change had serious implications for the way they had planned to drive the race. Under the new conditions, they would be forced to deal with changed handling off the corners, altered shifting points and last-minute planning to take into account different timing on the track.
Powered down, but not counted out.
The new set of obstacles made itself evident in qualifying, where the team placed a slightly disappointing but not insurmountable 13th of 21. In the first half hour of the race, however, Nick Galante settled in nicely and engaged in a three-car battle for 11th position. After completing half of the two-hour race, Galante roared into the pits where the Bimmerworld crew performed a flawless pit stop and sent Machavern charging back out onto the track. Handling the power deficit expertly, Machavern negotiated the #80 through Road America’s challenging turns and fierce competition. He was able to hold onto the 12th spot and bring the car home for a respectable end to a challenging weekend.
In many ways, the revered proving grounds at Elkhart Lake served to reinforce the r2endalz/Bimmerworld team’s cohesiveness and determination. Times have been difficult on and off the track, but morale is high and a sense of optimism prevails. As the IMSA season steadily progresses, the team is on course to raise a record amount of money to Fund the Care and Fund the Cure. And as each new race of the season is safely run, the road ahead looks ever brighter.
Next race: Sunday, August 23rd at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) in Alton, VA
All photos ©2020 Halston Pitman