Team Grip Racing 0 looked like the team to beat in E1 in 2015. With a stellar cast of drivers, including NorCal Spec Miata standouts Mark Drennan and Mason Filippi, the team punched through the top of the qualifying charts, by just .100 seconds over rival Bullet Motorsport.
However, three hours into the race, the team had dropped to fifth place and down one lap, and by 5 o’clock Saturday, the team was down to sixth. But they kept pushing.
“We started the race replacing a tie rod,” said driver Addison Lee. “We were down pretty far. I think we were down in sixth out of eight in the field and we worked our way back up and had a little bit of luck. The early hours of the morning we were still in fifth place for a while. We got a little bit of luck and kept a good pace and got to the finish line first.”
E1 had a number of different leaders, including Bullet Motorsport, Grip Racing 95 and team Technik HQ Autosport/Active PDF. By the time the sun rose on Sunday, Technik had dropped out, Bullet had fallen back and it was the Grip cars firmly in first and second, where they finished.
“The car was great the entire race,” said Grip 95 driver Andrew Newell. “I started in the dry and then it just downpoured. We already had wets on it, so we were ready for it. It was amazing. Visibility when it first started was nil at best. Defrost was, uh, OK. There was just so much spray and rain coming down it was difficult to see with the headlights and everything else associated with nighttime driving. The car literally ran like a top the whole race.”
Team Honda Research West 1 kept the pressure on the entire race and when it was over, the team finished third.
“The four drivers we had were two younger associates at their first NASA 25 Hour event and they had just gotten their license in the last year,” said team manager Lawrence Hwang. “We have one veteran driver from our Ohio office and we have one engineer from our Japan office, and it was also their first time at Thunderhill, so this was almost their introductory race to Thunderhill.
“All the older guys, the more experienced guys were very impressed with the new associates,” Hwang continued. “I’ve been racing at Thunderhill since 2003 and I’ve never seen a first-timer podium like this. We’re actually very happy for the guys, and we think they did a really good job.”