Editor’s Note: James Clay is the owner and operator of BimmerWorld. Clay is taking on one of his greatest racing challenges this spring with a goal of competing in the annual 24-hour race at Germany’s famed Nürburgring. 

Driving the Nürburgring was one of those things I eventually wanted to do.

Over 20 years ago I started driving BMWs on road courses, loved it so much that I started our BimmerWorld BMW tuning-and-racing business so I could do it full time. I have since raced professionally for 14 years all over North America and some nearby islands, but never in Europe.

Many of my BMW friends have driven the ’Ring and a few of my racing buddies have driven it. It has always been on my list of things to do at some point. However, in January that timeline was dramatically shortened.

James Clay
James Clay sits aboard his race car prior to making his first laps at the Nürburgring.

While I was at the Roar Before the 24 IMSA test at Daytona Int’l Speedway, which is the annual start of our racing season, I got a call from OPTIMA Batteries that totally turned my expectations, and the season on end. OPTIMA spends a lot of time and effort promoting automotive events, culture and ultimately engaging enthusiasts — and as kindred spirits, we have enjoyed a solid partnership for the last few years.

As I was standing at our transporter watching prototypes carve through the International Horseshoe, the question posed was: “What are the most iconic racing and automotive events?”

Of course, the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Indy 500, Pikes Peak Int’l Hill Climb, Baja 1,000, and some others immediately spring to mind, but the response was “think bigger.”  Le Mans? The Nürburgring 24? Dakar? The seed had been planted and I was commissioned to learn more about these events and how to participate.

The Nürburgring caught my interest immediately. It isn’t Le Mans in terms of prestige (yet), but this event is rapidly rising on the world endurance racing stage.

First run in 1970 on the 22.8-kilomter course that opened in 1927, the ADAC Zuric 24-Hour race at the Nürburgring now starts more than 200 production-based cars, ranging from privateer sports cars to GT3 factory efforts using both the Norschleife and Grand Prix circuits.

Run May 25-28, which can often mean rain, fog and even snow in the mountains of Central Germany, this is a world-class grueling event to test man and machine — and a true showcase of product durability.