If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. That’s what the JFC Racing team has been doing at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill with its Wolf GB08MJ chassis. This is the team’s third attempt at the storied endurance race, and it has taken lessons from years to improve their car.
For example, in 2013, their engine threw a rod 19 hours into the race. The driver pulled the car to the side of the track, but not off track, and was involved in a collision with the Team CRE/Jackson Racing/ AIM Catfish. Last year, the team had shifter actuation problems in the dead of night, which ended their race.
“We didn’t want to go out and cause any issues because the car was really new,” said crew chief Brian Roberts. “There were some components that weren’t really proven. They were good but we didn’t want to sacrifice anything or take away anything from the guys who were out on the track.”
In previous years, the car was fitted with a Radical Performance Engines V8, which produced 370 horsepower at the wheels. This year, the team worked with Honda Performance Development to improve reliability, using a K20 engine in the chassis with the same gearbox. The naturally aspirated K20 made 240 horsepower at the wheels. That slowed lap times, but the Wolf was running within a half second of the 2015 race’s fastest car, the Team One Motorsports Radical.
“The only thing different is the power plant,” Roberts said. “We’re going for reliability this year. We started this build in September and got the K20 in, and it was a project we put together because we were working on it with HPD. We really wanted to showcase their power plant and reliability.”
The team dialed back shift points to 8,000 rpm from the usual 9,000 rpm to boost reliability. The team could turn back it up if it needed to in the closing hours of the race, but Roberts told drivers Miles Jackson, Al Unser Jr., Ryan Eversly and Todd Harris not to mess with the tune.
Their efforts paid off. Although the team had to perform an engine swap in the middle of the night because of skyrocketing oil pressure, the Wolf GB08MJ-K20 finished third in ESR and 36th overall.