2011 NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill Race Recap
By Robbie Montinola
Photos by Dito Milian, GotBlueMilk.com
The U.S. Air Force NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill completed its 9th running this past weekend at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, CA. With a record breaking number of entries, 83 racecars took the green flag for the longest sports car endurance race in North America. What’s unique to the 25hr is the wide range of teams and drivers entered into this one event, from pro-level ALMS and Grand-Am teams to the local NASA privateers, all racing for 25hr glory. Combine that with the grueling conditions of a December winter in Northern California and you have yourself one of the toughest competitions in motorsports.
The race features an eclectic mix of racecars that compete in five different NASA endurance classes. Over the past few years a Porsche GT3 Cup car has dominated the competition in the unlimited ES class. It’s reliability and speed has proven to be the car to beat. It helps when you also have a crew of ALMS and Grand-Am mechanics and an all-star driver line-up like Mercer Motorsports. The Mercer crew took home the hat trick with its third overall victory with pro drivers Jon Fogarty, Johannes van Overbeek, Tommy Sadler, Rich Walton and Wolf Henzler behind the wheel. The team from Los Altos, CA dominated this year’s race covering 691 laps, posting the fastest lap of the race and beating their closest competitor by 41 laps. Coming in second overall and in ES was the G22 Racing/Truspeed Porsche followed by the BMW M3 of Stammer Inc./Bavarian Performance in third.
Blown engines, broken parts, and contact plagued the E0 class, the highest of the limited classes within NASA’s endurance series. Usually dominated by E36 BMW M3’s, this year saw every BMW team have drama that ultimately kept them from the top step of the podium. The Atlanta Motorsports Group took the victory in their Playboy Mazda MX5 Cup car after battling through a broken transmission early in the race. Their crew swapped in a spare transmission in 25 minutes to get them back in the race and a steady pace carried them the victory. The Edge Motorsport/Apex Race Parts BMW came in second after also swapping in a new transmission with the Bimmerworld BMW M3 following in third.
In E1, the CJ Wilson Racing team won for the second year in a row in their Mazda MX5 Cup car. The driver line-up included recent Formula D Irwindale winner, Super Lap Battle and Global Time Attack record holder Tyler McQuarrie. They were 30 laps down and pushed hard to the end to win the E1 class. The E2 class also featured another Mazda winning, this time the 949 Racing Mazda Miata took the victory in its first try. And in E3, the RJ Racing Mazda Miata won the largest class of the race with 22 cars. An interesting tidbit, four of the five classes were won by a Mazda and a Mazda also held ten of the possible 18 podium positions. I guess Mazda’s right, there are more Mazda’s racing on any given weekend then any other manufacturer!