When the EXR Racing Series showed up to race in the E0 class at the 2017 25 Hours of Thunderhill with a pair of Mitjet LV02 cars, a skeptic might have looked askance at the cars.

This is, after all, a 25-hour endurance race where body contact is not only possible, but also likely over the course of a full day and night of racing. Big cars always come out on top. Production cars made of steel stand a better chance of surviving the 25, but the Team EXR Mitjets surprised the skeptics.

One car finished second in class and ninth overall in the team’s first attempt at the iconic endurance race held each December. The team returned again in 2018 with two cars. They didn’t finish on the podium, but they did finish.

One interesting point is that the team only used two sets of 200 treadwear Nexen N Fera tires while running lap times in the 1:58s, which are comparable to some of the BMW M3’s they were racing against.

“We had a good link with Tork Engineering. We thought it would be nice to bring those cars to America because they’re good cars, light cars, low maintenance,” said Alex Prémat, CEO of the EXR Racing Series and EXR Team by Prémat in Las Vegas. “From lap one to the last lap of the tires, the speed is the same, which is good.”

In endurance racing, the less often you need to stop for tires, the better. Fuel efficiency also helps. Powered by a 2.0-liter Renault DOHC four-cylinder rated at 230 horsepower, the Mitjet can go for an hour and 45 minutes on a full tank of gas in its 19.5-gallon fuel cell. Of course, E0 cars can only add 10 gallons at a time during a pit stop, so figure a little more than an hour between fuel stops.

Speed also is critical to logging a lot of laps, especially in long enduros like the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. At 1,800 pounds with the driver, 230 horsepower is ample, but the key to fast laps in a Mitjet LV02 is speed through the corners, and this is car is built for it. Premat explained.

“On those cars, we say that the braking has to be late, but you need to do a very quick trail brake, but still get some brakes while you are still in the turn, making sure you’re putting enough load on the front axle on the car, but not taking too much speed off the car,” he said. “If you kill the speed too much, then you will be slow on the exit, because we only have 215 horsepower. When you go back on the gas, it’s pretty easy. You don’t get snap oversteer, but there is no power. So that’s why you need to keep some momentum midcorner, so there is a balance between braking late, trail-braking fast and keeping momentum midcorner to get a really good run off.”

The 2018 race had some mishaps for the team. Two hood pieces blew off because of damage, and a side panel caught fire due to contact with a hot exhaust pipe.

Under the fiberglass panels lies a robust, yet lightweight chassis. It features tube-frame construction with double-wishbone suspension up front and a proprietary Tork Engineering solid axle in the rear with its own differential cooler and pump. Power from the Renault 2.0-liter runs through a paddle-shifted Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox, and it looks as though the car also can be set up for right-hand drive.

The car was designed for sprint racing, but eventually made its way into endurance racing in Europe before Prémat brought them to the United States for use in the EXR Series. To ready it for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, the team added lights and some extra crash protection on the driver’s side. That’s it.

Prémat said the team plans to return to Thunderhill with one Mitjet this year, and maybe with an Audi S3 LMS the team uses in the NASA WERC series and in TCR in Pirelli World Challenge. As competitive as Prémat is, they will be looking for podium finishes.

“You just need to be sure the car is prepped well, the body work is attached very well on the car, and things like this,” Prémat said. “I mean, to do the 25 Hours of Thunderhill and finish second in the class, we just brought the cars like this. We did some updates on the car just to make sure we could hold the race for 25 hours, but it seems pretty reliable and strong.”

Owner: EXR Racing
Year: 2012
Make: Tork Engineering Mitjet (now built by Ligier)
Model: Mitjet LV02
Weight: 1,800 lbs. w/ driver
Engine/Horsepower: Renault 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder / 230 @ 7,500 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed sequential Sadev, with paddle shift
Suspension Front: Double wishbone with coilovers
Suspension Rear: Tork Engineering live axle with coilovers
Tires Front: Nexen N Fera SUR4 245-40-ZR18
Tires Rear: Nexen N Fera SUR4 245-40-ZR18
Brakes Front: Brembo four-piston calipers, 328 mm ventilated discs
Brakes Rear: Brembo dual-piston calipers, ventilated discs
Data system: AiM
Sponsors: EXR Racing Series, Hexis
Image courtesy of Brett Becker

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