Hot temperatures and caution-free conditions were the themes of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race yesterday at Lime Rock Park. The short but fast “classic” layout on the 1.53-mile, seven-turn northeastern Connecticut circuit was a challenge for the two-hour and 30-minute 150-lap race, which saw Mazdas dominate the Street Touring (ST) class podium.
The No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW 328i of starting driver James Clay and co-driver Tyler Cooke began the race from the fifth position on the grid and struggled a bit with the heat and tire preservation on the greasy track. However, they were able to manage their fuel economy to run in the Top 10 all of the race. As the race went on, the duo did their best to maintain position, manage the heat inside the cockpit and push the F30 chassis to the limit under trying conditions to finish in sixth place in class.
The No. 81 BimmerWorld BMW 328i of Jerry Kaufman, who qualified the car in the 19th class position, and co-driver Kyle Tilley, advanced their BMW to 14th position at the checkered flag, despite a challenging race start. Feeling comfortable with the car setup, Kaufman clawed his way back up through the field after losing several positions early in his stint. Tilley had to manage a brake pedal issue, which proved particularly challenging in the first corner, despite having an otherwise good BMW race car with plenty of speed.
James Clay, Team owner and driver, No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW 328i (F30 chassis):
?“It was a good race, but we were struggling with the car a little bit in the second half. We’re the heaviest car without a special tire exception, and it’s just hard to keep the car together for that burst you need at the end. I think we were lucky to run up front today at the beginning, and we were gifted a couple of spots there at the end just because we were able to run up front. Plus, we were able to push our pit stop to a little bit later, so the fuel game played in our favor. Sixth place — I wasn’t feeling that was likely, especially since we saw what was going on with the track. It was a really hot, greasy track, but I’m pretty excited for sixth.”
Tyler Cooke, driver, No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW 328i (F30 chassis):
“We started off with a pretty good car. The team’s done a really good job working their butts off, and I couldn’t be prouder with a Top 10. We just had nothing at the end for the top guys. The Miata MX5s lapped the entire field, so that’s unreal. That’s not even remotely close to anybody’s pace which just blows my mind. This [Lime Rock] is an okay track for us, so a Top 10 is perfect, but we’re happy to be heading into Road America next, which is a good track for us.
Jerry Kaufman, driver, No. 81 BimmerWorld BMW 328i (F30 chassis):
“Well, it was an interesting start. We started from the inside and hung to it, but then we got caught out on the outside for turn three and lost a bunch of spaces but crawled back from 25th to 15th. It was a lot of work trying to keep the right side tires good for the second driver. The car had good pace the whole time, and it never felt like the car went away. As the fuel burned off, the tires went with them, so the car didn’t ever develop any kind of push or oversteer; I’m really happy with the way we ended up getting the car setup. I wish the start went a little bit better because we could have been a lot higher. That really killed us for positions. Once you lose laps at the start, it’s really hard to claw them back. I think our goal for the Road America race is to really focus on getting a clean race start and not getting hung up anywhere where it could cost us.”
Kyle Tilley, driver, No. 81 BimmerWorld BMW 328i (F30 chassis):
“On the whole, it was a good race. We lost some track positions in the pit stop, and when Jerry was getting out he dropped the car into gear, so we were held in the pit box longer than we should have been. It just dropped us down a little further than we wanted. The first couple of laps out of the pits we had a brake pedal go to the floor every lap into Turn one. We had to do lots of pumping on the brakes into [Turn] one, so the brakes weren’t really where we wanted them to be. On the whole, our pace was good. Towards the end of the race, we were one of the fastest cars out there. We just need to nail it. The first five laps for Jerry and the first five laps out of the pits would have been a lot better if we didn’t have the brake pedal issue, but these things happen. It wasn’t a bad run by any means. It’s solid points but still not quite where we wanted to be.”
The television broadcast of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race will be on FOX Sports 1 on a tape-delayed basis on Sunday, July 31 at 12 PM EDT.
The next race, Round 7 for the Continental Tire Challenge, will be held at Road America as part of the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase on Saturday, August 6.