Florida Rush Hour: A Weekend at Sebring
Pirelli GT4 America
Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Florida
October 2-3, 2021
Fresh off the previous weekend’s race in changeable New York weather, the BimmerWorld/Racing to End Alzheimer’s team headed south to Sebring International Raceway, where warm afternoon practice runs and cool, fast morning sessions on the iconic, 17-turn Florida track delighted racers and cars alike.
With the #36 BMW M4 GT4 responding well to Saturday’s brisk morning air, James Clay ran a blistering qualifying lap to earn him a 2nd place starting position for the first race of the weekend on Saturday. When Nick Galante came out onto the track, his hopes of building on the hot start were met with a very crowded qualifying field. Unable to break loose from the traffic, Nick nonetheless put in a good enough lap to place 15th, giving the team a decent shot at success in Sunday’s race.
High Temperatures and Congestion
At the start of Saturday’s race, spirits were high as James Clay blasted off the starting line and held onto the 2nd position for the opening lap. But soon the challenges began to pile up. Clay was forced to navigate gnarly bunch-ups and pass cars that were not in his class. Meanwhile, the mounting Florida heat was wreaking havoc on the car’s setup. Most distressingly, the rear of the car was loosening, causing it to slide and oversteer. Despite these hurdles, Clay dug in and handed the car off to Galante in a still promising 7th place.
A determined Nick Galante leaned on his experience to work his way back up to 3rd in class before engaging in a gut-wrenching battle for the last podium spot with Greg Liefooghe from Cameron Racing. With three minutes remaining, Liefooghe was able to catch Galante and apply some serious pressure. The wily Galante widened his BMW and fought off multiple pass attempts until the ever-loosening rear end forced him to relinquish the 3rd spot. The team finished Saturday in 4th place.
Collision, Frustration and a Traffic Violation
Despite their suboptimal starting position, the BimmerWorld team entered Sunday’s race confident that their adjusted car setup would perform better than Saturday’s. Right out of the start, however, competition was incredibly fierce.
After a few aggressive battles, Galante dropped back to 14th place and fought hard to stay there for the remainder of the first half. After a quick pit stop, a fired-up James Clay blasted out onto the track with an aggressive game plan in mind. The team had built some tire durability into the car’s new setup, giving Clay the go-ahead to make some assertive moves in the second half.
Emerging from the pits in 15th place, Clay capitalized on the better setup and started his ascent through the field. Just as he was beginning to hit his stride, Clay made contact with another car on a particularly crowded section of track. Despite the unintentional nature of the collision, race stewards assessed a drive-through penalty, effectively ending the race for the team and cementing a 13th place finish.
A wild, unpredictable, exhilarating penultimate race in a wild, unpredictable, exhilarating season.
The season finale for Pirelli GT4 America is at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, October 14-16th. As always, it promises to be two days of can’t-miss action. Stay tuned!