Back in 2012, 25 E3 cars gridded for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Over the last four years, the class has witnessed a slow, steady decline in numbers. In 2016, six cars took the green flag.
RA Motorsports fielded two teams, and team owner and 25 Hour veteran Ron Gayman knows how to prep car to win here. His team won E3 last year. Also in the hunt for E3 glory was RJ Racing, which has two wins in the 25 and podium finishes, too.
Of course, one of the more interesting teams is A+ Racing, whose car was built and crewed by high-school students in a vocational class. This isn’t their first year. Last year the team finished fourth and in 2013 they finished third.
“When they come to my class, they don’t even know where a lug nut goes or how to put it on,” said teacher and team boss Al Angulo. “So we pretty much start out from that and go all the way up to advanced computer control systems. About 85 percent of the kids that finished my class get hired right out of my class and are making a living at being a mechanic.”
The racing experience is hugely beneficial, and this year the team reset its new high water mark by finishing second and holding the lead for several hours.
“It wasn’t really any one person, obviously,” said A+ driver Justin Cone. “This was entirely a crew effort. I’m a rookie so I didn’t drive at night at all today or yesterday for that matter, so I was really just here for the show, and everyone else did all the hard work.”
RJ Racing also did some hard work. Due to engine trouble Saturday night, the team had to replace it. In the end, the team finished in third place.
“We changed an engine and then battled back from fourth or fifth in class to get a podium finish,” said driver and team owner John Gibson. “So, I’m really proud for the crew. I think we had the biggest audience of the night watching us change an engine in an hour.”
Both of RA Motorsports cars held the lead at one point or another. Last year’s E3 winner looked strong — until it didn’t. The team had cam sensor problems, had some contact, then lost a cylinder. Game over. The No. 38 car soldiered on and took the lead before sunrise, and held it till the end.
“We had a few incidents I didn’t even know about till the car came in. A few tire rubs,” Gayman said. “Again, these guys, their whole goal was just to finish the race and stay out of trouble, which was how I explained it to them, and they wanted the experience. Two of them have never raced. One of them is on his rookie license and he had enough races to run.”
Not a bad way to end your first experience at the 25.