January 6th, 2015
The newest team in the Continental Tire Series Street Tuner class is primed for the 2015 Championship with race-winning veterans and up-and-coming talent.
Owned by BimmerWorld Racing driver James Clay, the Virginia-based Next Level European team will add to Clay’s competitive footprint with a pair of Porsche Caymans in the ST, and both entries feature front-running drivers.
BimmerWorld ace Greg Liefooghe and BimmerWorld development driver Eric Zimmermann will share the No. 83 Cayman, pairing one of Clay’s best performers as a mentor to one of his BMW Club Racing-to-Pro Racing standouts.
Seth Thomas and Dan Rogers, BimmerWorld’s most tenured driver duo, complete the NLE Porsche roster in the No. 38 Cayman. Along with a strong technical team to support both cars, kicking off the NLE program with proven commodities, as Clay explains, is by design.
“The Next Level European team is a strategic expansion of our business, and the 2014 season and circumstances paved the way for the launch,” he said. “The Porsche Cayman platform is proven to be strong, and we have a fantastic staff of drivers, engineers, and crew to make it a success. Our technical partners from BimmerWorld also speak Porsche, and coupled with the experts at BGB, who we commissioned to build the new cars, I feel like we have an incredibly strong package.”
Drawing from a wealth of racing and R&D skills to accelerate the NLE program was also a calculated move.
“I know from experience that even given a good platform to build, winning races and developing a racecar isn’t easy,” Clay continued. “Seth has been with us for over 10 years, Greg will be in his fifth with the team, and I trust their abilities both behind the wheel and with the task of development. Eric and Dan are very capable drivers, excellent teammates, and complement the program perfectly. I am excited to see what this group will accomplish in 2015 and beyond!”
Liefooghe spent most of 2014 at the sharp end of the ST Championship standings, and has ambitious goals to bring the NLE Caymans and teammate Zimmermann with him to the front of the pack.
“Being paired with Eric is very exciting; we started working together last year and it was clear that we communicated very well,” he said. “He is a very analytical person and he made some tremendous progress every race. It will be fun to dig in even more and see Eric realize his full potential. I’m looking forward to going for a championship with him.”
Entering his second season in ST—his first full Championship campaign, Zimmermann expects to use what he learned during a partial season in 2014 and add to it with all the experience Liefooghe can bring.
“I had a lot to learn last year, and by the end of the season, we were running very competitively,” said Zimmermann. “Beyond the new Cayman platform, being paired with Greg Liefooghe is the perfect situation. Greg is exceptionally fast, is unflappable and, is not only a professional driver, but also a professional coach. Greg invested significantly in my driving last year by being my go to guy for my coaching. It was clear by the end of the season that his efforts to broaden my skills were paying dividends.
“I’m thrilled that Greg has interest in driving with me in 2015 and am very excited to see us finish well as my growth continues and I benefit from now having driven nearly all of the tracks we will be racing on in the coming year.”
For Thomas and Rogers, the continuation of their driving partnership in a new chassis is something both are looking forward to in 2015. With a new chassis to develop after years or refining BimmerWorld’s BMW E90 platform, turning NLE’s Caymans into winners is a process the teammates have embraced.
“I have been in a BimmerWorld BMW E90 since 2006, and at first the car was a big challenge to tame, but we were the first team in North America to do it,” said Thomas. “I feel the Cayman will have similar results with NLE, and we have the right guys are in place to make this car the fastest and best finishing Cayman in the field. This is the right group to do it, and they know how to develop race-winning cars.”
Rogers looks at the new season with the same goals he and Thomas have set in the past.
“Being in a new car will be an interest proposition, but we know the Porsche can win, and the plan and expectations this year is the same,” he said. “We plan to be competitive in every race, and be there at the end for a shot at the Championship.”
Follow the Next Level European racing team as they prepare for the first official test of 2015 at Daytona International Speedway this weekend by visiting us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NextLevelEuropean