Lowe Group Racing owner Jerold Lowe had been trying to win the 25 Hours of Thunderhill since 2009, and this year he finally got over the top. Lowe and racing partner Michael McAleenan, who has multiple NASA Championships to his name, took a 1991 BMW M3 racecar, which had sat in mothballs for a decade, replaced the engine and upgraded the transmission.
Not only did the wrecked-car-turned-racecar win the six-team ES class, but the Lowe Group Racing car also finished fourth overall. Just three teams—all ESR cars—logged more laps.
“For the first time, this is actually like a smooth, laid back, kick your feet up weekend,” Lowe said. “That’s what we need to strive for in the future because in past it’s always a thrash to get here, a thrash qualifying/practice night all the way through.”
It didn’t hurt that Lowe Group Racing amassed a 57-lap lead over the second-place ES car, Three Thieves Racing. Lowe Group had the largest lap-winning differential in the seven classes at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
“I’ve been trying to win this event since 2009 and, of course, it becomes an addiction for us,” Lowe said. “We just keep getting a little better every year.”
The reason for that 57-lap gap was because Three Thieves Racing was having more troubles than any one team should. They missed practice because they were chasing a misfire. They changed plugs, the coils, the wiring harness, the sensors and the gas pedal on their E46. They were the last car to roll onto grid and were lucky they didn’t have to start dead last.
They continued to experience random misfires throughout the race, but they were also racing on tires they hadn’t planned on using because their first choice was unavailable, which makes their second-place finish all the more hard-fought.
“So, we had to run on a tire that was not ideal, which slowed us down quite a bit. So, combined with the fact that we didn’t get any practice, we didn’t get all the horsepower, we didn’t get all of the grip, it was a really, really rough race, but we managed to pull through,” said driver Eddie Nakato. “Timing and scoring was down all the way until the very end. We didn’t know if we were in second or third and with just a few laps left to go, it came back up. We were one lap up. So, that worked out really well.”
They finished one lap up on Stratus Racing, which was campaigning a NP01-EVO that was dialed in, turning some of the fastest laps in the field, and holding onto second for most of the race. However, a stuck throttle sent the car off track in Turn 3 and the team didn’t have enough time left to make repairs to the car.
“So, you know, we had to pack up early, but we ended up carefully watching timing and scoring and barely squeaked by into third,” said driver Clay Magouyrk, who also podiumed in an NP01 in 2017 in ESR.