With 16 cars on grid, E1 had the highest car counts of the 2016 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Grip Racing took first and second in 2015 and they were looking for a repeat. They got half that.
As the race took shape, it looked like Grip Racing 95 and ART Racing were going to be the ones to watch. Some six hours into the race, the two were separated by just one lap. At midnight, they were on the same lap. Throughout the night, the two teams were never more than two laps apart and when the sun rose on Sunday, the two teams were back on the same lap, with five hours left to go.
The two teams dug in for the rest of the race, never separated by more than a lap or a second or two in lap times. Each team had drivers who had podiumed at Thunderhill before, so they had skill players on their rosters. In the end, it was Grip Racing 95 in first, one better than its second-place finish in 2015.
“The car ran great, all day, all night,” said Grip driver Adrian Newell. “The night stint and dawn hours, which can be a little tricky, seemed to go with no problems. The car ran like a top the whole race. Really, we escaped with little to no damage and nothing to slow the car down, so we got lucky a lot of times and just kind of made it through.”
That left ART Racing to take second after what essentially was a 25-hour sprint race.
“It was a pretty trouble-free run, really,” said Steve Cameron, ART Racing team owner. “We had a problem, like a lot of the teams, with buildup on the tires, so some our stops were tough because trying to decide which tire to change was difficult, because you would base it more on which end was getting the buildup versus maybe tire wear.”
Behind the leaders, the race for third heated up when the No. 24 Frasun 1 BMW sheared the studs off and lost a wheel in Turn 4 at 10:25 a.m. Team Trim-Tex was three laps down, having dropped back since being one lap behind at 10 o’clock. Frasun 1 had to be towed, which brought out yellow flags, but Team Trim-Tex needed one more stop for fuel. No big deal, right? A fuel stop is quicker than replacing a rear hub? It is, but Team Trim-Tex had troubles of its own.
“We lost fifth gear first in the night, and as we were coming down for the second-to-the-last stint, the car just went into neutral and we lost every gear except for sixth,” said driver Josh Bilicki. “And we had to make a stop, so the guys pushed me and I wrestled the hell out of the clutch, but we kept going and we made it.”
Team Trim-Tex finished third in E1 in a 2016 MX-5 Cup Car.