Praga is a name you might not know, but the company has been building cars, light trucks and buses for more than 100 years in Slovakia. What’s even more interesting is that the company also has been building aircraft, racing karts and racecars. The Praga R1 that raced at the 2015 25 Hours of Thunderhill is one of just a handful of cars in the United States.
Team Gryphon Racing also brought a spares car to the race in its first effort at the 25. Crew chief Dusan Maly said he has imported 20 cars to the United States, and those cars race regularly in FARAUSA events in Florida. In fact, the team raced the weekend before Thunderhill, then packed up and headed for Northern California. Along the way, the team blew a few tires on their rig before arriving Wednesday in time for load-in.
For races 12 hours and shorter, they run cars with turbocharged Renault four-cylinder engines that make 335 horsepower. For those longer than 12 hours, they use naturally aspirated Renault engines good for 225 horsepower. Because the all-carbon-fiber Praga R1 only weighs 1,300 pounds dry, the car enjoys a healthy power-to-weight ratio, which was good for 1:46s around Thunderhill.
“We are learning the track,” Maly said before the race. “We have a brand new engine in the car. Our goal is really to finish the race. Our other drivers will drive the car. I hope they’ll have enough time today to learn the track.”
When the race was over, after 25 hours of action on track and 10 hours in the rain, the Praga was unblemished. Not only did the team finish the race, but they also finished first in ESR, more than 70 laps ahead of second place, and fifth overall.