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Posted: May 18, 2017

Q&A With James Clay on Nürburgring

Unpredictable conditions. Complex twists and turns. Elevation changes.

Fog, snow, high winds, torrential rains and darkness. Twenty-four hours of grueling, suspenseful racing.

It can only be Nürburgring.

Since 1970, the 24-Hour Nürburgring Race in Germany has tested racers’ skill, endurance and mental resilience. This year, OPTIMA® PowerPro Ambassador James Clay and drivers from his BimmerWorld Racing Team will go through the paces as they compete against more than 200 other cars for a chance at the podium.

We caught up with James to discuss how he’s preparing for this incredible, international 24-hour race.

How did this opportunity come about for you?

“OPTIMA asked me, ‘If you could do anything you wanted, what would it be?’ We started spit-balling ideas, but I never imagined Nürburgring would be an option. I’ve heard of friends competing, but have never taken the trip myself. The more I learned about the race, the track, and so on, the more I realized how awesome this would be. For me, this is a dream come true, and this race will definitely be a significant challenge for both our team of drivers and our BMW.”

You essentially had to go back to driver’s school to prepare for this race. What was that like? Did anything surprise you?

“It’s pretty wild to go back to school at this point in my driving career. The ‘class’ was a mix of F1 drivers, European Tour car drivers and other professionals from all over the world. The track itself is especially unique, and to be in such a high-level race like this, you need a special license and a specific amount of experience on this track. In terms of surprises, it’s really about the track. There are so many components on how to run a race there given the difficulties of the track’s length, surface irregularities, and so on. Trust me when I say, ‘You have to see it to believe it!’ In general, road racing isn’t about going with the flow; it’s more about repetition and going through a lap over and over and over again until you’ve perfected it, and a track over 15 miles long makes this repetition difficult.”

How are you and your team mentally preparing for this race?

“When we were in Germany for our first visit to get my permit and first race under my belt, the weekend was certainly trial by fire, and it was somewhat nerve-wracking. There’s a lot to process. The second weekend was much better; the race started to feel less like an abstract concept because I was able to visualize how to make a turn and understand what that means, how to keep going over it in my mind. The more we’re able to get laps in before the race, the better we’ll feel. What’s interesting and atypical is that what separates us from other racers is our lack of experience. We’re completely new to this challenging track, but well-experienced in this type of racing, and I think that is our edge.”

What goals have you set for the race?

“It’s difficult to answer that because I don’t want to put limits on what we can do. I know how brutal this race will be for our team. Our primary goal is to finish, which would put us in the top two-thirds of the group. But for me, placing in the top five would be even better.”

After Nürburgring, which race is next on your bucket list?

“Definitely Pike's Peak. We’re creating an entirely new build for that race, though Nürburgring is 100% my focus until we’re back from Germany!”

Be sure to follow James and his team at BimmerWorld on Facebook and Instagram.

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