The July races at VIRginia International Raceway featured some additional on-track action this year, thanks to Grassroots Motorsports’ Ultimate Track Car Challenge and a visit from Bimmerworld owner and driver, James Clay, who came to play with NASA Mid-Atlantic in July.
In GTS2 , dicey weather made for damp qualifying conditions, but everyone chose to qualify on dry tires. Clay took pole, with Jason Crist in a rental E36 M3, and Kyle Bacon in third. The green flag saw the wave barreling into Turn 1 with quite a bit of action. After the dust settled, Clay ermerged in the lead followed closely by Crist and Jeff Emanuelson in a BMW M Coupe.
Getting a full head of steam coming out of Oak Tree corner, Crist would take the top spot from Clay. Crist sought to capitalize on traffic by putting cars between him and Clay, but Clay also diced his way though. Most memorable was a three-wide pass coming out of Turn 10. Crist went left. Clay went right and then into Oak Tree corner. Clay maintained the pressure but could not seize the position from Crist. Emanuelson stayed in sight and came in third. After impound, however, positions shifted, and D.J. Fitzpatrick would take over third place.
On Sunday, Barry Battle cruised to a pole position in a borrowed E46 M3. Battle and Fitzpatrick went side by side into Turn 1 at the start with Battle coming out with the lead. Jim Khoury had a great start and watched as Clay narrowly escaped contact in Turn 3 with Fitzpatrick. The dirt tracking allowed Fitzpatrick to focus on Battle and Khoury and on Clay. Khoury had a chance in Turn 4 to attempt a pass, but seasoned veteran Clay quickly defended. Before lap one was complete, Fitzpatrick overtook Battle on the back straight and pulled away for most of the race, clicking off lap times faster than his competition.
The real fireworks took place in positions two through five. Khoury started pressuring Clay, with Crist close behind. Khoury had a late-race off in Hogpen corner, then retired early. Crist moved up one spot.
During this time, Clay used traffic to catch Battle, who was in second. After some close nose-to-tail action, Battle bobbled coming out of the lower esses, and Clay took the position away after attacking the uphill esses two wide.
He then set his sights on Fitzpatrick, who had a comfortable lead. A master of traffic, Clay would get within sight of Fitzpatrick who went off once in Turn 1 and performed a nice drift in Turn 3. Those two mistakes allowed Clay to close the gap. However, there was not enough time in the race, and Clay finished a mere 0.6 seconds behind Fitzpatrick. Clay wound up getting the win after another impound reshuffle.