NASA Racing: Flying Lizard wins its fourth 25 Hours of Thunderhill
By Brett Becker for RACER.com
Toyo Tires/Flying Lizard Motorsports team won its fourth consecutive overall victory at the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill presented by Hawk Performance on Sunday
The team overcame a broken axle just after the start of the race on Saturday and powered on to the checkered flag at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Northern California. The team now holds the most overall titles in the 16-year history of 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
“It’s 25 hours, so many things can happen and we’ve got to hand it to the guys in the Radicals,” said Darren Law, one of the team owners. “We know those cars are fast, but they’re a bit more fragile than the GT cars, and that’s why we come here with a GT3. We’ve got great driver lineups, a great team and great cars, great preparation and great tires.”
An axle broke on the Porsche RSR on Lap 10 and later that night the car suffered another axle failure that was quickly repaired. “The guys never give up, and they know to work through it, and that’s the attitude of the team,” Law said.
Nearly 50 teams competed in seven classes in the endurance race that started at 11 a.m. Saturday and concluded at noon on Sunday.
The Toyo Tires/Flying Lizard Motorsports team has been on a tear at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill the last three years, taking the ES class win and the overall win three years in a row. Last year the team dominated the race, leading darn near the whole thing from flag to flag. This year was different.
The Lizards’ Porsche 911 RSR chewed up a left axle within the first hour of the race. When the team got that repaired, it went back out to try to make up the laps they had lost. Then the right axle failed and they had to come back in. When what was fixed, the team noticed the paddle-shifted gearbox was starting to act up, so they began omitting the use of certain gears in certain corners.
The problem continued to worsen till the very last laps of the race when they were down to just fourth and fifth gears. Clean-up driver Charlie Hayes nursed the car home for the team’s fourth consecutive class and overall win.
The CrowdStrike/One Motorsports team brought two cars to the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, and for 16 of those hours, the No. 44 Radical had the lead in ESR and the lead overall.
The team had faced off with the usual problems of the 25, a little contact, a few trips off track, and some mechanical gremlins. Those gremlins finally became too much to bear and the No. 44 car had to retire, but the team’s sister car, the No. 67 Radical took over the ESR lead and second overall. The No. 44 car still took third in ESR and 17th overall.
“Initially we had a brake problem, which we sorted out, but we had a clutch problem from the beginning, and the clutch eventually failed and debris got in and messed up the crank sensor and shut the engine off,” Shafer said. “We were going to change it, but there was only two hours left in the race and we weren’t going to change position, so we ended up bagging it.”
El Diablo Motorsports team took home its fourth E0 class victory at 25 Hours of Thunderhill, beating second-place finisher Dasboot Motorsports by four laps. The team set the pace, turning a class-best lap time of 1:53.896 on the 3-mile road course.
“We expected the pace, this car has always been fast and we have really fast drivers,” said crew chief Navid Kahangi. “We didn’t expect that much longevity (from the car). We didn’t break anything. The two problems we had were self-inflicted.”
Kahangi, who won his first 25 Hours of Thunderhill as a crew chief, was exhausted after losing a night of sleep. “I’m getting ready to drop,” he said with a smile.
In recent years, E1 has provided the most nail-biting finishes of all classes in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. This year was no different. Two teams, MooreWood Creative and ART Racing 2, exchanged the lead more times than you have fingers and toes and the race was still a toss-up with a few hours left to go.
In the end, MooreWood took the win, its fourth in a row in E1.
“With about four hours to go, there was some issues with the other car and it ended up giving us the lead and we kind of maintained it from there,” said driver Justin Ross. “It was definitely a dogfight up until then. We were on the same lap. It was trading with pit stops, trading with tire changes, we both did pad changes and rotors at some point, and that had an artificial read on stuff, but it ended up coming out they had some issues at the end of the race and we solidified it.”
The HQ Autosport Racing team set out in June 2017 to build a car and a team to win the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. The team reached its goal by cruising to victory in the three-car class.
“One of the challenges was not so much the car part, but building the team, and Rob (Henretta) and I managed to not only put together a great race package with an amazing car, but we were able to put together a team of great, seasoned racers, some new to the WERC series and new to the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, but have a lot of club racing experience,” said team co-owner Paul Quattrocchi.
The E3 class has long been hotly contested because so many NASA racing classes fall into it. This year looked like it might go to Team A+ Racing, a team run by a high school automotive instructor and a group of students. They were in the lead till the middle of the night when their engine failed.
That left the race to Team Neth Racing Works and Team RA Motorsports, who each took turns with the lead. In the end it was Team RA Motorsports taking the E3 win, some eight laps up on Team Neth Racing Works.
“The cool thing about this team to me is this sort of embodies what this race has always been about,” said crew chief Tupper Hull. “It’s about grassroots racing, people, friends getting together, working in their own garages. Nobody has got a fancy shop and a big rig. Everybody hauls the cars up themselves, works on it on the weekends to get them ready. As I’ve said before, these cars don’t win beauty contests. They win races.”
There was only one car running in GT Challenge, so that put the onus on the all-women driving team in the Jester & Babbitt Motorsports with Flying Lizard Audi LMS GT4 team to strive to place overall. They came up a bit short, finishing fourth overall, just eight laps out of third place overall after 25 hours of racing.
“This is actually the first time four of our five drivers have done this race,” said driver Ashton Harrison. “We have Christina Nielsen, who has done a ton of endurance racing, but this was her first time at the 25 Hours. So, three of our other drivers haven’t ever done the 25 Hours, so this is their first experience, and overall we finished fourth. It’s pretty awesome.”
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