The NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill is an old-school endurance race, one where drivers have to curb their speeds and preserve their cars. One problem with old-school endurance racing is that sometimes for long periods of time, nothing happens. Everyone is lapping at a steady pace, neither gaining or losing, trying to survive rather than compete.
Luckily that didn’t happen here.
Through the final six hours of the race, the issue of who would end up on the podium was an open question. While the leading #64 Motorsports Solutions Porsche might have been protecting its 11-lap cushion, the sister car, the #00 Porsche, had only six laps on the pursuing #18 Davidson Racing RCRC Eagle.
While Davidson Racing had to push and risk breaking again, the #00 Porsche had to push to keep its second place, also risking breaking again. This infused every lap with tension: was the Davidson car gaining enough to eventually catch up? Was the #00 capable of lapping quickly enough to defend? Every time either car entered the pits, the wonder was, Is this just a routine pit stop? Will the car be coming back out, and how soon?
The Davidson Racing Eagle regularly turned in laps in the 1:48 range, with some 1:46s, six or seven seconds better than the competition–no doubt the team was going for broke. The team needed to gain every possible second on every lap—which made every lap exciting.
When, on lap 556, the leading Porsche pitted only 45 minutes after its last stop, everyone, whether they hoped the Porsche or its sister Porsche or the Eagle would win, felt a rush of excitement.
When the car began lapping slowly after rejoining, the tension grew? Was the driver being cautious on cold tires? Was the #64 Porsche taking its turn to dance with racing luck?
When the #64 Porsche slowed, the #00 sped up, turning laps in the 1:49s. Was this strategy or compensation because the #00 realized the #64 couldn’t protect the lead anymore? The Davidson driver responded with and amazing lap of 1:44.849.
The perfect time for the ninth safety car. On lap 558, when the yellow flags flew, the #64 had lost eight laps of its lead, but the #18 Eagle lost laps when it could have been cutting into that gap.
Another interesting contest developed at the top of the E0 class, where and the #68 Pure Performance BMW 325 led the #31 Hankook Tire/El Diablo BMW M3 by two laps in the fight for the class win. These two cars, fifth and sixth overall, had both been fairly reliable, but a five-minute stop for the #31 on lap 548 set it back some, but with five hours of racing left there was time for a lot to happen.
The battle for the E1 title was also good, with the #49 949 Racing Miata finally a lap ahead of the #55 CJ Wilson Young Guns Miata. Three of the drivers in this car had never participated in an endurance race, and for their first, they chose the longest race in North America. Nothing like a challenge.
Looking at the standings, there wasn’t a lot happening in the pre-dawn hours. As the sun slowly rose, the lap count rose as well, but without much change in position. To a casual observer, the race might have seemed dull, non-competitive.
For the people who had been following the action since Saturday morning, the tenth NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill has been an example of a good, old-fashioned endurance race.
Class leaders with five hours to go:
ES: First place— #64 Motorsports Solutions Porsche 997 Cup
ESR: Third place—#18 Davidson Racing RCR Eagle
E0: Fifth place—68 Pure Performance BMW 325
E1: Ninth place—#49 949 Racing Mazda Miata
E3: 13th place—#30 Miatacage.com PTE Mazda Miata
E2: 17th place—#79 Atlanta Motorsports Group Mazda MX-5
Update: Four Hours Left
The #64 Motorsport Solution Porsche wasn’t just slow after its early pit stop—it was done. The car went to the garage and gave up the lead to its sister car, the #00 Porsche.
The Davidson Racing Eagle was now five rather than 13 laps behind the race leader; it seemed to have gotten a huge break. However, on lap 563 a BMW E30 blew its motor coming through Turn One, spreading oil everywhere, which brought on the tenth caution period.
This lengthy caution cut into the time Davidson Racing needed for its pursuit of the leading Motorsports Solutions #00 Porsche.
The long caution also played in favor of the #64 Porsche, which its crew got running while the field was circulating slowly behind the safety car. The #64 was two laps behind the Davidson Eagle, but still, it was a fast car if it was healthy.
Yet another caution on lap 572, after just five green laps, made it worse for Davidson Racing.
After 21 hours of racing, the #00 Motorsports Solution Porsche held a five-lap lead over the #18 Davidson Racing RCR Eagle, which was running a little faster, traffic permitting. The Eagle had four hours to try to make up five laps—a difficult endeavor, unless fate foiled the #00.
Fate foiled a car, but it wasn’t the #00 Porsche. Instead, the RCR Eagle ended up back in the pits on lap 580, dropping to third and losing laps. After making a great comeback drive, breaking, making a second great comeback drive, and then a third … it was just too late to make another. The #48 Davidson Racing Eagle was reduced to trying to hold on to the ESR class lead and maybe a podium finish.
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