Aurora Straus and Kaz Grala will team up for next weekend’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season-opener at Daytona, in one of the youngest pairings in series history.
Nineteen-year-old Straus and 20-year-old Grala will share driving duties of a BimmerWorld Racing BMW M4 GT4, as part of an expanded two-car GS class operation for the team.
Straus, who won rookie-of-the-year honors in Pirelli GT4 America last year, tested a McLaren 570S GT4 during the off-season but has elected to remain with BMW in her return to IMSA competition.
She made national headlines last year when she deferred her studies at Harvard University to compete full-time in GT4 America, where she claimed two wins.
“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.”
Grala, a race-winner in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, has made sporadic starts in IMSA in recent years, despite his stock car racing path.
He became the youngest-ever competitor in IMSA history by taking part in the Pilot Challenge race at Daytona in 2014 in a BMW M3 before stepping up to starts in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2016 and 2017.
“I’ve had success [at Daytona] on both the road course and the oval, and it has easily become one of my favorite tracks in the country,” Grala said.
“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.”
Straus and Grala will pilot the team’s No. 80 BMW GT4, with team Devin Jones and team owner James Clay slated to handle driving duties of the No. 84 entry.
“I’m beyond excited to field a second championship-level car for this event as we enter our 10th year of IMSA competition, and especially with such a talented pair of young drivers in Aurora and Kaz,” Clay said.
“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.”
No word has been given if Straus will complete the season in the BimmerWorld entry.