Based on the final results, the opening round of IMSA’s Continental Tire Series Championship wasn’t kind to the BMW tuning and aftermarket specialists at BimmerWorld, but the team still managed to demonstrate great pace and progress.

The team’s pair of turbocharged BMW 328is, built on the F30 chassis platform, impressed in qualifying and led the race at Daytona International Speedway as team owner/driver James Clay and Tyler Cooke pushed the No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries entry to the front. Even with a drivetrain issue derailing their progress, and contact ruining the chances for Jerry Kaufman and Kyle Tilley in the sister No. 81 BMW, Clay left the event confident in BimmerWorld’s potential.

“We obviously had the cars to contend and win at Daytona, and I just wish we had been able to have the results to show it,” Clay said. “I led the race for a few laps and was solidly running in the top-3 during my full stint, and I know Tyler would have been right there as well, but it seems like we had what may be a failing spark plug and he never got the opportunity.  It is a shame that something so trivial can cause an issue, but that’s racing, and I think we showed that we will be racing to win this year.”

Daytona also marked the debut of Kaufman and Tilley in IMSA with BimmerWorld.

“I knew from our work before the season that Jerry and Kyle would be a good combination, but Daytona was the ‘trial by fire’ race weekend for them, and as expected, they rose to the occasion,” Clay added. “Jerry had a solid qualifying, and on the second restart when I found him beside me in Turn 1, I chuckled a little – that was a good moment.  Their contact in the race was unfortunate, but I am looking forward to seeing the results they achieve when things go their way.”

Although BimmerWorld’s fortunes in the race were less rewarding than anticipated, Kaufman ensured the team’s pre-race activities made headlines. Dropping to his knee on pit lane, he surprised everyone—including his girlfriend—with a perfectly-timed proposal.

“My fiancé and I have an amazing relationship; we spend most of our time together when we are not working, and we wouldn’t want it any other way,” he said. “That time together makes surprising her with a proposal almost impossible, so while I was at the pre-race test a few weeks earlier, the idea of proposing at Daytona hit me.  I asked James to help set it up with IMSA, and the series was more than happy to help and get FOX involved.”

With TV cameras trained on Kaufman, his proposal became part of the festivities.

“Looking back on it, I don’t have any regrets,” Kaufman continued. “The proposal couldn’t have gone any better, and then my first race was a crazy mixture of highs and lows.  It was very cool to have great young talented drivers start the race just in front and just behind me. I didn’t know what to expect, but when the green flag dropped I was able to pull out and beat a few cars to Turn 1.  The No. 81 BMW worked really well, and I was able to work my way from 12th to fourth in the first 30 minutes of the race.  The top-3 cars were just in front of me, and my goal was to stay with them.”

Kaufman and Tilley would lose a lap while the BimmerWorld crew repaired the No. 81 after the clash with another car, and both drivers say they’ll learn from the experience.

“The race for me was bitter sweet,” Kaufman noted. “I am thoroughly optimistic about this season, but the results in Daytona are not a reflection of where we should be.  Lots of lessons learned. Time to move forward.”

“Jerry’s contact was an unfortunate racing incident,” Tilley added. “I was delighted to see Jerry show the kind of pace that I knew he could. It really does bode well for the rest of the year. Sebring can’t come soon enough.

The highly competitive environment within BimmerWorld makes celebrating a race like Daytona somewhat hard, but Clay knows the team can be proud of its showing.

“I had a great time trading spots in the draft for the lead, and feeling out the strengths of our car so we would have a plan for the race finish when it was time to grab that win,” he said. “As much fun as I was having, I am equally excited for our sponsors, and especially OPTIMA Batteries, who help us put this whole show on the track. I know they got great and well-deserved coverage for their brand with BimmerWorld being out front at Daytona.”

Like Clay, and the No. 84 drivers, Tyler Cooke can’t wait to race again at Round 2 in Sebring, FL.

“We didn’t get the result we wanted from both cars, but we learned a lot with our development program,” he said. “James did a great job qualifying the car and had a great first stint leading most of it. We know we can compete for wins, and I expect our story to be better for Sebring.”