True Test of Endurance: BimmerWorld’s James Clay Pulling Double Duty This Weekend Between Watkins Glen, Pikes Peak Hill Climb
Thursday, June 27, 2019

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – While most IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge drivers are focused on their four-hour endurance race at Watkins Glen International this weekend, James Clay has a few more elements to consider. 

Co-driver of the No. 82 BMW M4 GT4 and BimmerWorld Racing team owner, Clay will be competing this weekend in both the Pilot Challenge race in Watkins Glen, New York, as well as the 97th annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in Pikes Peak, Colorado. 

The Pilot Challenge race is scheduled for 1:55 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 29; Pikes Peak Hill Climb time trials get underway in the early hours of the morning on Sunday. 

The four-hour race at Watkins Glen will be challenging enough, but the 12.42-mile Pikes Peak Hill Climb adds factors of altitude, time change, exhaustion and risk given the layout of the track. 

This will be Clay’s second run at the Hill Climb after also competing in 2017. 

“Pikes Peak is super unique because it’s not only 5,000 vertical feet, but it’s 5,000 vertical feet that starts at over 9,000 vertical feet,” Clay described. “The intensity of it is just wild where we’re way above the tree line, we’re on what’s now a paved road. 

“Historians of Pikes Peak would say ‘Well, it used to be a dirt race,’ but it certainly hasn’t become any safer now that it’s not on dirt. Aero is now a bigger factor, speeds have increased because of the asphalt, they don’t have any guardrails still or there may be a couple hundred feet for the duration of the mountain. It’s one of the wildest things I’ve ever done.”

One of the biggest differences between Clay’s races at Watkins Glen and Pikes Peak is the amount of testing the BimmerWorld team is allowed to do. With hours of practice time and pre-race testing leading up to the race at Watkins Glen, the curvy Pikes Peak road is part of everyday life in Colorado that limits opportunities to go full speed up the mountain. 

“We arrive at the mountain at 3:30 in the morning and we’re on track probably as soon as we start to see the sun come up, just a little bit of brightness in the sky,” Clay said about this weekend in Colorado. “We have to be done with our day by 8:30 or so because Pikes Peak is otherwise a tourist road and it’s a toll road so people can drive up to the summit and that’s the primary use. All of this testing in preseason and on race week is done ridiculously early in the morning and race day is the day you get to actually run the mountain.”

Clay spent the first half of this week in Colorado, but travels to Watkins Glen on Thursday to focus on his IMSA team. He’ll take the first stint in Saturday’s race before handing over the car to co-driver Devin Jones and hopping on a plane to Colorado to race Sunday morning in the team’s second BMW M4 GT4 racecar. 

What is it exactly that’s driving Clay to push himself this weekend? Interesting enough, it’s more than just personal satisfaction. 

“I look for things that are personally both challenging and unique, so this is a little bit out of the box,” said Clay. “It’s not our typical IMSA deal, which I enjoy the variety. Also, from a marketing standpoint and things we like to do, it sticks out like a sore thumb. It is a really different deal. We like that it’s a little bit different than pictures of the car around the racetrack and the same checkered flag finish with all the cars. It’s just a totally different thing.”

In the Pilot Challenge, things are rolling for Clay and Jones who are second in the GS class point standings, trailing leaders Jesse Lazare and Corey Fergus by just two points, 84-82. The team finished second at The Glen in 2018, so the chances for potential repeat success this time around are high. 

Regardless, Clay is ready to take on the weekend.

“All of this, the four-hour races certainly take a little bit more out of you, Pikes Peak is a grueling event,” he said. “With all the racing I’ve been doing in the past several weeks plus the weeks coming up, it’s certainly going to be intense. I imagine this will be the test, but fingers crossed I’ve done my work in the gym and stayed fit and I’ll be up for it.”

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