Amidst racers with years of experience under their belt, BimmerWorld Racing entered Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Tyler Clary as the third driver of the No. 84 OPTIMA Batteries BMW 328i for the BMW Endurance Challenge at Daytona last weekend.
In his first race at Daytona, Clary qualified the car 10th in the Street Tuner class and raced his way up to fifth before turning the car over to Tyler Cooke about 45 minutes through the race. Overall, the team finished 14th after battling mechanical issues during Cooke’s stint.
“My plan was to be pretty tentative off the start,” Clary explained. “I wanted to make sure that if there was any sort of mayhem going in to Turn 1 that I would not be a part of it. If we hadn’t had a couple of strokes of bad luck with the car, I think we could have easily been on the podium.”
Clary, who set an Olympic record in his 200-meter backstroke win at the 2012 Olympics, announced his retirement from swimming in July 2016 and turned his focus to racing. The Riverside, California-native described how he got into the sport at a young age, working a merchandise booth at nearby Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California with his parents to raise money for his club swim team.
“I just always wanted to be one of those guys driving the race cars, so that’s sort of where it all started,” Clary said. “Obviously I’m extremely thankful and forever will be for the opportunity that James (Clay, BimmerWorld Team owner) gave me. I’ve gotten to be on some pretty amazing teams during my lifetime and I can feel when a group has the makings to be a great team, and BimmerWorld does.”
Team owner James Clay immediately knew that Clary, being a BMW supporter and touring around the country in 2016 with his BMW X5, would be a natural fit for the team.
“Tyler was introduced to the team and me by Jerry Kaufman, one of our drivers last year,” said Clay. “I have been racing for almost 20 years and training new racers for a significant amount of that time. I have never seen anyone who assimilates so quickly and performs so well under the intense pressure of a new environment.”
Clary recognizes his background as a swimmer helped his transition to becoming a race car driver, noticing several parallels between the two sports.
“The process of learning to make yourself better and being self-critical, learning how to take criticisms and apply them in a way to make yourself better is a big skill,” Clary explained. “Another cool thing is that in swimming, you can get plenty of qualified feedback but in racing, the level and depth of data is far greater. To have that much more input into what I’m doing to figure out how to make myself faster is extremely rewarding.”
Clary is set to return to the BimmerWorld Racing lineup for the four-hour endurance race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on September 22-24, 2017.