MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Kaz Grala and Aurora Straus will share a BMW M4 GT4 fielded by BimmerWorld in January’s BMW Endurance Challenge race at Daytona Int’l Speedway.
Grala and Straus have both competed in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge as some of the series’ youngest drivers, but Daytona will be their debut as teammates.
Grala has a history of success at Daytona. In February of 2017, at the age of 18 years, 1 month and 26 days old, Grala kicked off his first full-time season in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series with a win from the pole, becoming the youngest driver in NASCAR history to win at Daytona. In 2018, Grala made an impressive Xfinity Series debut at the track, finishing fourth. He followed that up with another top-five finish in the July race at the facility.
Grala is also no stranger to IMSA and BMW. At Daytona in 2014, Grala had just turned 15 years old when he earned a fourth-place finish and set the fastest lap of the race in a BMW M3, making him the youngest competitor in IMSA history, a title he still holds. In 2016 and 2017, he earned a ride in the prestigious Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.
“I’m pumped to get back on track at Daytona behind the wheel of an IMSA car,” Grala said. “I’ve had success there on both the road course and the oval, and it has easily become one of my favorite tracks in the country. Though I have competed in the Rolex 24 twice since then, I haven’t driven in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge in five years — so I’m sure it will take a few laps to get readjusted to the car. Unlike my stock car, I’ll be working with an anti-lock braking system, traction control, and advanced electronics all while paddle shifting, which totally changes the driving style needed to get the most out of the race car. I’ve known Aurora for years, and am eager to co-drive with her for the first time. We are going to have a blast going for that top spot.”
Straus will return to IMSA after a successful 2018 season piloting another BMW M4 GT4. In 2017, while in high school, she made her professional racing debut with IMSA in a Porsche Cayman. Competing as North America’s only teenage female professional sports car racer, she earned Rookie of the Year for the season. In 2018, Straus deferred her studies at Harvard University to contest the full World Challenge season in a BMW, where she took four podiums – including two wins – and finished second overall for the season championship.
“I am elated to remain with BMW for the 2019 season after such a successful season last year. The M4 GT4 car is an exceptional platform, and I’m looking forward to what will certainly be a strong program with BimmerWorld and Kaz,” Straus said. “A huge thanks to Nick Longhi, who envisioned this partnership with Kaz, to BimmerWorld and BMW for helping piece this program together, and to Richard Mille for continuing to support competitive efforts like this. Most importantly, though, I’m looking forward to continuing to host Girl Scouts at Daytona as part of my ‘Girls With Drive’ program, which inspires, identifies, and invests in young girls interested in male-dominated careers.”
Grala and Straus will be piloting the No. 80 M4 as BimmerWorld’s second entry at Daytona.
“I’m beyond excited to field a second championship-level car for this event as we enter our tenth year of IMSA competition, and especially with such a talented pair of young drivers in Aurora and Kaz,” said BimmerWorld team owner James Clay. “Our team finished on the second step of the podium in our first race in the new platform last year, and fielding a strong and capable two-car effort will multiply our chances at this draft-critical track to stand on the top step. I am counting down the days to the race.”