Continental Tire Challenge ST Notebook
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

This is the third and final installment in a three-part series to examine some of the top IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge storylines heading into the series’ season finale at Road Atlanta on Oct. 10-13.

The 10th and final race of the Continental Tire Challenge season – the Fox Factory 120, part of the Motul Petit Le Mans weekend along with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – takes place on Oct. 12 at 1:25 p.m. ET and can be streamed live on IMSA.tv. Tickets are also available at RoadAtlanta.com.

The Street Tuner (ST) class’ 16-year tenure in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge reaches its conclusion at Road Atlanta in two weeks.

Nearly 130 drivers for 13 marques have logged ST victories since the class’ first race in 2001 and this year, the remaining ST teams are vying to claim the final victory and championship in the class. Here’s a look at who is still in the running to do just that:

BimmerWorld Hoping Final ST Championship Can Be Team’s First

The blue, yellow and white BimmerWorld Racing banner is one of the most recognizable in the Continental Tire Challenge paddock and come the end of the ST era at Road Atlanta, the team hopes to be recognized for claiming its elusive first championship in the series.

Devin Jones and Nick Galante – who joined BimmerWorld this season – have put the Virginia-based crew in one of their best positions yet to clinch not only the driver and team championship, but also a potential manufacturer championship in the No. 81 BMW 328i. Jones and Galante currently lead the driver standings 292 – 276 over MINI contenders Mat Pombo and Mike LaMarra and have BMW ahead of MINI by two points in the manufacturer’s championship.

BimmerWorld President James Clay, who also co-drives the team’s Grand Sport (GS) entry, is cautiously optimistic heading into the final race.

“As we enter the last race weekend, we are poised to claim not only our first ST championship, but also a manufacturer's championship for BMW,” said Clay. “We have been in this position before, and call it superstition or karma, but I don't have further comments on the weekend ahead of us, other than how thrilled I think we all are to be in this spot.”

But if there’s one aspect of the weekend that Clay has nothing but good words about, it’s how the ST class has transformed BimmerWorld Racing throughout the years.

“This year is a little sad as the swan song for the ST class which was our first entry when we started racing with IMSA (then Grand-Am) in 2010,” said Clay. “But our team and drivers have really made it special with the culmination of a very long and difficult development process of our BMW 328i turbo platform, and a series of results that have made this year a fantastic way to finish this chapter of our racing history.”

Bavaro Reflects on Bodymotion’s History in ST, Thanks Continental

Bodymotion Racing has long been a fixture in the Continental Tire Challenge paddock in both the GS and ST categories. As the latter of those come to a close, Bodymotion, Inc. President Mike Bavaro took the time to reflect on how far the class has come during his tenure in the series.

“We have had a good run in ST,” said Bavaro. “Starting when the field had a dozen or so Porsche Caymans mixing it up with BMWs, Hondas, Nissans, Miatas, MINIs, the entire field was, and still is, very competitive.”

As a testament to the competitiveness of the class, all three full-season manufacturers this year – BMW, MINI and Porsche – have won races. Bodymotion’s No. 21 Porsche Cayman got its turn on the top step at VIRginia International Raceway in August with Jason Rabe and series rookie Max Faulkner behind the wheel.

While Bodymotion has four victories in the Grand Sport (GS) class, the win at VIR was the first in ST for the New Jersey-based squad. The team currently sits third in the ST championship standings, 23 points out of first.

“We have tutored many rookie drivers of all ages and seen them move on to other classes,” said Bavaro, whose shop also constructed the 2014 championship-winning Porsche Cayman fielded by Murillo Racing. “Bodymotion Racing has been an IMSA Continental supporter for the entire run and we thank Continental for their support of the series.

“We hope to return soon to compete in the TCR classification. We are grateful to have had the support of Delaware investments and Competition Motorsports and hope for a continued relationship.”

“Collective Energy” Approach for MINI in Quest for Manufacturer Championship

While the MINI JCW Team has fielded three full-season entries throughout 2018, the group has one goal in mind as the Continental Tire Challenge prepares for its final race of the year – the manufacturer’s championship.

Luis Perocarpi, MINI JCW Team owner, credits the team’s strategy going into the final season of ST, which aligns the entire team rather than divides it.

“We have unique chemistry within our team,” said Perocarpi. “In preparation for the final year of ST, we switched from inter-competition mode to using our collective energy to attempt to give MINI a manufacturer’s championship.” 

Since joining the field in 2015, MINI struggled to find its rhythm until last year, which saw the team break through for its first victories in the series at Daytona International Speedway and Watkins Glen International.

So far this year, MINI JCW has doubled their success from last year with a total of four victories. The success has put them narrowly behind BMW for the manufacturer’s title 298 -296. One position during the Fox Factory 120 in two weeks could determine who takes the honors.

“This is what we do, this is what we go racing for, to win championships and races,” said Perocarpi. “You start by winning races and hopefully a championship comes along. There’s a lot of hard work and it’d be very, very nice to be rewarded with a championship after our four years of competing in IMSA and the ST class.”

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