If you own a BMW and you work on your own car, odds are that you’re already familiar with Bim-merworld. If you follow North American sports car racing you might also be familiar with their many racing efforts in a variety of series. Bimmerworld’s owner, James Clay, is integrally involved in their many racing efforts both as a team owner and a driver, in fact, racing has always been the driving force behind the company from its very inception. James is a Virginia native who founded the company in 1997 as a used parts business.
Before founding Bimmerworld, James Clay was an electrical engineering major at Virginia Tech and an auto enthusiast who, along with his friends, enjoyed taking his car to the track. In fact, his daily driver at the time was a gutted and fully caged E30 M3 which he chose because of its suita-bility on the race track.
“I had a modified Japanese car but it just didn’t feel precise or involving in the way that I really wanted. At the time I had a girlfriend who had a Volkswagen and compared to my Japanese cars, it was simple and logical to work on and felt much more solid than what I was used to. I decided then that I needed a German car and that meant either Porsche or BMW. BMW just fit better. I bought the M3 and dove in with both feet,” said Clay.
After a short dalliance with autocross, Clay decided that wheel-to-wheel racing on an actual track was more to his liking. Being a young person with relatively little money, James figured that get-ting certified as an instructor was the best way to get cheap or free time on the track so he blitzed through the instructor qualification program in record time. Once he started going wheel-to-wheel, he found that it was all he wanted to do and everything since has been in service to that passion.
The parts that James removed from his E30 M3 in the quest for an ever-lighter racecar became the first parts in Bimmerworld’s inventory. Soon after, they began offering new replacement, per-formance, and racing parts beginning with brake cooling plates and eventually expanding into brake pads and rotors. One of the principal problems with starting a parts business is often figur-ing out which parts you should be carrying, and how to get your customers to trust those parts. James figured the best way to solve both of those problems was to take all kinds of BMWs rac-ing, and sell what worked in the race cars.
This sell what you race methodology eventually led James and Bimmerworld to help develop Spec E46 series. With base vehicles for the popular Spec E30 vehicles becoming more expen-sive and more difficult to find, James and others saw a need for a new series with a different base vehicle. The E46 was beginning to see the bottom of its depreciation curve and had benefitted from more than a decade of refinement over the E30 which made it the perfect platform on which to build a new race series. It offered a fundamentally different driving experience than the other spec racing series out there. While the Spec E46 rules result in a more expensive car than, say, a spec Miata or a spec E30, they also give drivers some choice in how they can tinker with their cars and the increased performance makes for better racing.
Racing seems to make up the bulk of James’ schedule these days but his time spent away from the track is used to push Bimmerworld even further and to develop products that enthusiasts and racers need. He is the kind of enthusiast/owner that people love to see, one who understands his customers because at one point, he was in their shoes.