Team FLIR Vision Racing’s Mitjet LV 02 car had trailed Team Bullet Performance early in the race, but they took over the E1 class lead shortly before 6 o’clock Saturday evening. Shortly before midnight Saturday, Team Bullet Performance suffered contact with the Toyo Tires Flying Lizard Audi R8, and had to take the car into the back paddock for extensive repairs.
“The Mitjet is a fantastic car. It’s a real solid package, a solid racecar for doing events like this,” said John Hill, a driver and team principal for FLIR Vision Racing. “It started out a as a spec car, so everything is overbuilt, and it works really well for endurance racing.”
From there FLIR Vision held the lead, and continued to hold the class lead at the 8 o’clock hour. Bullet Performance dropped back to finish third in class, with Team El Dorado Motorsports CRX in second place at the finish.
“I think Team Bullet had some troubles, so I think they were going to end up being a lot tougher competition than they ended up being,” Hill said. “But part of this race is just avoiding the troubles and luck. They had some bad luck and we were able to avoid that.”
El Dorado’s Mike Lock said the little CRX was making just over 200 horsepower. Combined with the feathery Honda CRX, the power-to-weight ratio put the car into the E1 class. The car gets a little bit of break under the rules because of the front-wheel-drive powertrain, but there’s no denying that the El Dorado Honda CRX was a player. It had the fast lap of the race in E1!
“That Honda reliability, the engine just, we ran that thing to 8,200 rpm, all 25 hours,” said driver and team principal Mike Lock. “This, I could say confidently was the most challenging driving I’ve ever done, and I’ve been racing since 2002. I mean the night was insane. Luckily we decided to run on Toyo tires this year and the RA1 gave us a lot of flexibility. We were a little slower in the clean rain in the beginning of the race. But as soon as it turned to that muddy slop and just that wet weird track, the durability of that RA1 enabled us to go from the spitting rain, running the dry for an hour and a half. And then go back to spitting rain and still keep up.”
Team Bullet’s performance gave it the early lead, but a full-course caution at about 10 p.m. Saturday night caused a few drivers to check up hard on the front straight. Bullet’s driver Ralph Warren braked hard enough to avoid contact, but the Flying Lizard Audi hit them in the rear quarter. The resulting damage pushed sheet metal into the rear tire and smashed the battery. The team essentially chopped the whole corner off the car, eyeballed the alignment and sent it back out. By the time the race was over, Bullet Performance finished third in E1, just 12 laps down from the class leader.
“We struggled getting it back drivable, and it’s drivable,” said driver Vick Pizzino. “It does a lot of weird stuff, but it did the same stuff weird all the time so you could understand what was going to happen. So, we just drove through it. Yeah, it worked out and worked out OK.
“There was a line that was about an inch bigger than the car and if you went off that at all, it was just like driving on ice,” Pizzino said of the muddy conditions. “Two wheels off, then it’d stay off for a little while. They were talking, my car went off, came back on and left the little trail and it would just greasy as ice. It was brutal.”