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Favorite TV show:
|Porsche 911 GT3|
|Mountain View, Calif.|
|Owner, Heyer Performance, Porsche specialist|
|Steak and potatoes|
Favorite TV show:
|“My Years With Ferrari: Nikki Lauda”|
|Porsche 911 GT3|
NASA NorCal racers Dr. Bill Brown and Tony Heyer have a unique way of attacking the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. They make it fun, not work.
Team Brown Heyer shows up at Thunderhill with one prepared car and two drivers: Bill Brown and Tony Heyer. The two show up, sometimes they qualify the car, sometimes not. They’ll take their place on the grid, start the race and drive like hell till the sun goes down. What happens next is the novelty in how they approach the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
When it gets dark, they don’t pull in for lights, they pull in for the night and park their Mazda Miata. While other teams are hammering away in the dark, Brown and Heyer go into town, get a nice hot meal, maybe take in a movie, then get a good night’s sleep. They wake up in time to arrive at the track for sunrise, then resume driving.
“That’s exactly what we do,” said Brown, who also is NASA NorCal’s medical director. “It’s just the two of us and each of us gets three or four hours of driving each day, and it’s plenty for us. Most of the accidents occur at night, and to be honest, my night vision isn’t what it used to be. So both of us think it’s safer, and safer for the other drivers, if we don’t run around at night.”
It’s also less stressful, and a lot more fun, according to Heyer. Back when the 25 Hours of Thunderhill was the 12 Hours of Thunderhill, Brown and Heyer were campaigning a Porsche 944, and they even won their class one year. When the race became twice around the clock plus one hour, they formed a team and went for it.
That meant feeding and managing the team, arranging lodging for them and making sure everyone knew what to do. Heyer said he even rented a trailer and hired a massage therapist to keep everyone relaxed. Regardless of whether the car made it through the race, Heyer still had to feed and house everyone on the team. It’s not like they’re going to go sleep in their cars for the night.
“It was stressful. Too many people. Too many personalities and way too much work for the amount of fun,” Heyer said. “That was when Bill and I decided, ‘You know, let’s just run till it gets dark. Just you and me. We fuel each other and we go out there and we drive and we have fun.’”
“The first one or two we ran all night, and we got some friends to help share the driving,” Brown said. “But it was so much more work. I don’t know why, but 25 hours seems to be a lot harder than 12 hours on the car. When we run 12 hours, we don’t have to change the rotors or pads or anything, whereas with the 25-hour race, we were changing rotors, pads, the transmissions, you know, doing all sorts of horrible stuff to the car in the middle of the night. With the 12 hour, the Miata just cruises right through. We almost never had any repairs we had to make.”
The team has done every 25 Hours of Thunderhill save for a couple of years. They go out and turn laps until dark, then park it. One year, when a heavy fog rolled in at night, their method for tackling the 25 Hours of Thunderhill didn’t seem so crazy after all.
“It worked pretty well that year. I think it was shut down for most of the night,” Heyer said. “If I remember correctly, I think it was by 8 or 9 o’clock. The fog was so thick. And then when we got there at dawn the next morning, it still wasn’t clear enough for them to get the race going, so we actually got a fresh start on Sunday.”
Team Brown Heyer has no plans of quitting. They’re racing and having fun, and that’s just the way they like it. When they’re not driving, they’ll be in the paddock, napping and taking it easy, focusing on fun and not stressing.
“When you work all week on cars, when you go to the track, you don’t really want to work on them anymore,” Heyer said. “That’s what the Miata gave us. When you’re working on a Porsche, you’re working on it all the time.”