The next time anyone says a stock production car can’t win at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, introduce them to the MPACT Racing team. The group ran essentially a stock Ford Mustang GT, and the only upgrade was the suspension. The car came out of the Ford Performance Racing School in Utah.
“We’re really excited. We’ve got some seasoned guys, we’ve got some first timers here, so it’s a great win,” said Rob Birkhead, president of MPACT Racing. “To take a school car first time out and pull something like this, we’re real excited.”
While MPACT won by 19 laps in the E0 class, the race was much closer, with DIG Motorsports and Honda Racing THRW mixing it up and making it tough sledding early in the race.
“We didn’t have the pace in the wet, but we knew we had the pace in the dry, so we were watching the changing conditions,” Birkhead said. “We just tried to keep it on track and fortunately luck was in our favor today.”
DIG Motorsports finished second in a Ford Mustang several years older than the first-place car. Driver and Red Panther Motorsport team principal Reto Baumann said none of his drivers put a wheel off track and the car zero mechanical issues throughout the race. During a race with conditions as varied and difficult as the 2019 race, that’s difficult to achieve, especially since the team made the decision to race just a week before.
“Every time you come around to turn, there is new mud, and that wasn’t there before. So it was really hard. It was slippery. It was wet,” Baumann said. “The mud just made it really difficult in terms of visibility as well because once you had the car in front of you, even after the pit stop, you had the real good visibility, because we cleaned the windows like everyone does, and then I have a lap, and you can’t see anything anymore. So, that was really difficult.”
Third-place finisher Team Honda Racing THRW 2 finished third in a Honda Civic Type R. The team started from the back of the field, took the lead early and held onto it from the start of the race Saturday morning at 11 a.m. till 3 a.m. Sunday morning. The front-wheel-drive Honda was the car to have in the rain, but it lost fourth gear in the middle of the night. The team drained fluids and cleaned sensors, but that didn’t fix the problem, so they swapped the transmission and finished 46 laps behind the leader.
“I think in terms of pit stops, we had zero penalties for fuel spills, which is a target, and we achieved that,” said team principal Lawrence Hwang. “But we also wanted to podium and then we achieved that. So, unfortunately, we had a little mishap with one of the cars, but I think overall the team did a great performance and it was, I would say, it’s a very successful year.”