James Clay, owner of the Dublin, Va.-based team, and his co-driver, Tyler Cooke, finished eighth in the Grand Sport (GS) class Saturday. They are second in that division’s point standings, just six points out of the lead, with their No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries BMW M4 GT4.
Clay, of Blacksburg, Va., qualified 13th in the GS category with a time of 1:25.228 on the flowing, 2.459-mile, 10-turn road course. He broke into the top 10 just 44 minutes into the race by passing Dillon Machavern in the point-leading Porsche and was still in that position when he pitted under green flag to hand the car over to Cooke about 10 minutes later. A limping ST car stopped at the exit of Turn 5 with about 51 minutes remaining, bringing out the only caution of the race, and regrouping the field. The pits roared to life as multiple GS drivers pitted under that yellow to top off with fuel, including Cooke. The Monticello NY.. driver dropped to 12th as other GS cars gambled with fuel strategy but had raced back in the top 10 with 39 minutes remaining.
Cooke battled with Eric Foss for ninth place as the pair swapped that position several times. Cooke’s hard driving finally awarded him the spot with 24 minutes remaining in the race, about the same time that one of the entry’s main title contenders made an unscheduled pit stop for brake issues. In a multi-lap chess match, including a lapped car and fellow BMW driver Greg Liefooghe, Cooke snuck past Paul Holton to snare eighth place with 15 minutes remaining in the race, where he ultimately finished.
James Clay, Blacksburg, Va., team owner and driver, No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries BMW M4 GT4:
“It was a fair day for us on the track. I feel very comfortable saying we gave it everything we had out there. I was happy with my stint. Tyler drove great again. The BMW stayed under us. It wasn’t a Mustang today, and it seemed like that’s what you needed. I’m super proud of my teammates in the No. 81 ST for their second win of the year. We’ll be back at Lime Rock and maybe things will be a little different there.”
Tyler Cooke, Monticello, NY., driver, No. 82 OPTIMA Batteries BMW M4 GT4:
“It wasn’t a bad race for us. There was a lot of hard battling and some battling that was harder than it should have been. We really have nothing for the Mustangs right now. We don’t know what can happen for us [as far as Balance of Performance changes] going into Lime Rock, but hopefully we’re able to be more competitive. Wayne [the team’s engineer] made a great call changing the car overnight, and he gave us a rocket ship. We had a car that would have been in pretty good contention, but it definitely wasn’t a podium contender here. I’m looking forward to Lime Rock. I love Lime Rock. It’s one of my favorite tracks.”