Four Years after His First Visit, Mike Wimmer, 13, Is More Passionate about IMSA Than Ever
By Mark Robinson
ALTON, Va. – He’s a member of Mensa, the global society for individuals with a high IQ. He earned his high school diploma and an associates degree at the same time. He’s simultaneously working on a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an MBA, expecting to complete both in the very near future. He’s started two companies and performed contract work for the U.S. military.
Did we mention he just turned 13 and is a huge IMSA fan? Meet Mike Wimmer, who returned this past weekend to VIRginia International Raceway, where his love of all things IMSA flourished when he made his first visit to the same track four years ago.
While attending this year’s Michelin GT Challenge at VIR weekend, Mike reconnected with friends at Corvette Racing and other teams, toured IMSA race control, engineering and timing and scoring, and even issued the start engines command for Sunday’s Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands race.
It took him back to that first trip to a race in 2017. His parents, Mark and Melissa Wimmer, brought Mike to VIR from their home in Salisbury, North Carolina, to connect him with the two things he loves most: cars and technology. Mark knew his son would be most interested in an IMSA weekend because the variety of cars on hand would be similar to the diecast and toy cars he had at home.
When they parked at VIR next to car corrals for Lamborghinis, Ferraris and more, the look on Mike’s face confirmed they were right. When they reached the IMSA paddock and Mike saw the actual race cars, teams and drivers up close, the die was cast.
“As a kid being able to walk up to the drivers and meet the drivers, and the approachability of that, it just hooked me,” Mike recalled of that first visit, “because I was thinking, ‘I just met this guy who’s getting ready to drive this car.’ And to get close to the car. It’s a great experience and it just hooked on me.”
Mike also got hooked on Corvette Racing. Like most youngsters, he was thrilled when the team let him sit in the race car. Unlike most kids, however, Mike impressed team members with questions and observations far more detailed and technical than the average 9-year-old.
“He gets in the garage and starts asking tech questions,” his father recalls with a smile. “They stopped and actually said, ‘Here’s the laptop, here’s what we’re doing here.’ Then he started feeding off that.”
“They let me see the technology behind the things,” Mike adds, “which is what interests me with IMSA as well.”
“He just loved it from Day 1,” his mom Melissa says. “He kept asking, ‘When can we go back? Where else can we go?’”
The family has now been to most every IMSA track east of the Mississippi River except Watkins Glen International, using the trips as rewards for Mike’s educational accomplishments. After receiving his high school diploma from Concord Academy near Charlotte Motor Speedway and an Associates in Arts degree from Rowan-Cabarrus Community College this spring, Mike is attending Carolina University for his undergraduate and graduate studies.
His parents make sure Mike doesn’t miss out on being a kid. He hangs out with friends his age, plays video games – mainly racing, of course – and more.
“We do make sure he has time to still do 13-year-old stuff,” Melissa says. “He will still sit and build the Legos. People think he doesn’t play, and I will say, ‘Well, you haven’t seen my house.’”
Academics are not the only part of the story for this brilliant teen anyway. He has worked on projects for the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), which coordinates special operations around the world involving all branches of the military. His two businesses, Reflect Social and Next Era Innovations, aim to make IoT (Internet of Things) advancements that simplify and improve the lives of others.
One came from necessity after Melissa underwent spinal surgery and had limited mobility during her recovery. Mike developed an operating system that allowed their video doorbell to integrate with a smart door lock using a facial recognition system that he developed– even though the two platforms couldn’t originally communicate with each other – to identify pre-approved caregivers and allow entrance to the home or ensure the door was locked and alert Mark and Mike when someone unrecognized came to the door.
“That was something I saw that helped us, it helped her, but also it could help the blind, the disabled,” Mike says. “There’s many different applications for it, and I thought, ‘How can I bring that to the consumer?’ That’s just a specific application of what can be done when these things are made simply.”
He also floated an idea at VIR about ways to make the IMSA race viewing experience more complete for fans at home. Harnessing the technology of his newest company Reflect Social, fans could keep tabs on their favorite team or car, even if it’s not being shown on the broadcast at the moment.
“What if your Internet of Things lights could flash if the car pitted or if it gained or lost a position, or now is in the lead?” Mike explains. “Or it could be a green flag, red flag, yellow flag kind of thing. It’s a more immersive experience.”
The options, he adds, are boundless. Just like Mike Wimmer’s future. There’s one thing he’s pretty certain of, though, that IMSA will be a part of it. And he already has an idea how.
“I hope to own some form of IMSA team,” he says, “Whether that be a WeatherTech (Championship) team or (Lamborghini) Super Trofeo team or whatever it is. That’s the end goal, really.”
One can only imagine how tricked out that operation will be.