-- Weekend exemplifies “So close, but yet so far…” –

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CALIF. -- Robert Davis Racing (RDR) arrived at Willows, Calif.’s Thunderhill Raceway last weekend in full force, with two E2-class Mazda RX-8s and over thirty-five team members.  In the team’s three prior attempts to conquer the National Auto Sport Association (NASA)’s 25 Hours of Thunderhill, the longest endurance race in North America, RDR had never finished off the podium, but a hallowed class win also had remained elusive.
In Friday night’s always chaotic 30-minute qualifying session to determine the race’s starting order, team-car number 11, driven by Dennis Holloway, Jim Holloway, Lee Papageorge, and Joel Miller recorded the third-fastest lap in the class, with the sister car, number 12, driven by Richard Fisher and Nathan Edmonds, and new RDR team members Joel Weinberger and Mark Domo, starting in the 5th spot.
The race started under clear skies, with a forecast for cool and breezy – but unusually dry – weather awaiting the teams for the next day-and-an-hour.  The start was dramatic for car 11, and not in a good way, as an electrical issue brought the car to the pits for 20 minutes on lap 1.   The problem was thought to be in the throttle-body wiring connections, but the team would later learn that was not the case.  In contrast, car 12 moved quickly into the lead by lap five, and would continue to head the class for more than 13 hours, up a full lap over its next competitor at one point.  Teams behind kept the pressure on, however, lead by a strong charge from Mazda MX-5 Cup stalwarts Atlanta Motorsports Group.
But as seems to be par for the course in endurance racing, the gremlins reared their ugly head around midnight, and car 12 was forced to pit to replace both the clutch and transmission while in the lead; quick work on a very hot racecar meant the car was only stationary for 45 minutes, but the damage was done to the car’s race.  After spotting the field a 20 minute head-start, car 11 found itself in second place at about the same time that car 12 went to the paddock, in the process turning the fastest lap of the race for the E2 class. After the transmission change, car 12 rejoined in fifth place and began moving up the order again.
At about 3:00 am, bad luck struck car 11 again, as contact with another competitor caused damage to its new Magnaflow exhaust system, sending it back to the paddock for extensive repairs.
Team RDR never gave up on car 11, and after it returned to the track, the drivers were able to climb again to fourth place.  It was all for nothing though, as at about 5:00 am, the electrical gremlins that plagued the car at the start returned.   After changing several critical parts on the wiring harness would not correct the problem, the decision was made to retire car 11 and concentrate all efforts on car 12.
Now back to second place in class, it was car 12’s turn to draw the wrong card, as it was hit by a competitor, causing heavy damage to the exhaust and electrical system.  The newly repaired exhaust from car 11 was transferred to car 12, and it was soon back in the fray.  The drivers pushed hard, with a podium finish in sight, but it was not to be, and the car was classified in fourth place when the checkered flag finally dropped.
There really is nothing like the thrill of the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, as it combines the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, all in just an hour more than a day.  It is often said that motor racing is an individual sport, as the drivers are frequently held-up to be the stars.  In endurance racing, though, the chance of a strong finish, to see your car cross the finish line, to laugh out loud at everything the weather, the track, the mechanical gremlins and fate can throw at you, proves just how much of a team-sport racing can be.
Results:                               Start:                    Finish:                                 Notes:
#11                                      3rd                         DNF                                     Fastest lap of the race
#12                                      5th                         4th        
About RDR:  RDR appreciates the support of Mother’s Polishes and Waxes, Whelen Engineering, Magnaflow, SAFERACER, Hoosier Racing Tires, MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development, Motul, AIM Sports, Racing Hart, Nippon Paint, Racing Beat, SpeedSource, Hawk Brakes, AWR, Classy Car Auto Detailing, Sparco, Pure Power, Mechanix Wear and EMI.
# # #

Joel Miller2 Comments