After three previous podium finishes in the Grand Sport (GS) class this year, including two second-place finishes in which they came very close to the overall victory, BimmerWorld Racing co-drivers James Clay and Tyler Cooke were victorious in the season finale for the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series on Friday at Road Atlanta. Not only did they win, but their OPTIMA Batteries BMW M4 GT4 was a whopping 8.999 seconds ahead of the second-place McLaren after two hours of grueling competition in the Fox Factory 120.
In GS, team owner/driver Clay started sixth. The Blacksburg, Va.-based driver maintained fourth place for most of his stint, trying to conserve both his car and his tires. He turned the car over to Cooke, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., under yellow on lap 26. Cooke took the lead for the first time on lap 40 with about 50 minutes remaining, but he had to make a final pit stop about 10 minutes later for left-side tires and fuel. The Dublin, Va.-based team’s stop was timed to perfection, as Cooke got out of the pits faster than many of his rivals and before some of them even made their final stop. He was fourth after the stop but he regained the lead on lap 55 with 26:33 remaining and then left everyone behind him as he powered around the 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course.
With the hard-earned victory, Clay and Cooke advanced one spot to tie for third in the GS drivers’ championship out of 93 drivers who earned points this season. BimmerWorld also finished third in the team standings in GS.
James Clay, Blacksburg, Va., team owner and driver, No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries BMW M4 GT4:
“I’m super excited for our first win! We had a good car all weekend. We qualified sixth, which I believe matches our best qualifying. That typically means we’re going to have a solid race, and race to the front. I was pumped with my drive and thrilled with Tyler’s. I was waiting for the trouble to happen and it never did. What a great team behind us, and what a great finish to the season!
“It’s been really special to take the ST points championship in the final year of the class. That’s the class we entered when we sprouted our roots in IMSA, and to close it out with a championship after so many years of hard work is very special.”
Tyler Cooke, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., driver, No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries BMW M4 GT4:
“It was an awesome race! The team did a flawless job, and we’ve been there all year. Finally, finally, we get that win! It was quite special and a very emotional win. The last time we got a win, my dad was still alive, and I remember getting that phone call from him right after the race with him just screaming and excited. So it’s been tough for the memories, but I’m glad to get that win for him and for the team, James, and BMW Motorsport. BMW gave us a great car out of the box, and we proved that at Daytona. I’m looking forward to celebrating. I think James and I have a lot to celebrate!
“Hats off to the ST guys; they deserve that championship. I’m happy for them and happy for James and me for winning the last Continental Tire race of the year.”