Thunderhill Raceway had been something of a double-edge sword for RK Motorsports TC Design driver and crew chief Tony Colicchio. He had enjoyed many wins here in Super Touring classes and had set lap records, but a win at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill had eluded him.
This year, the team brought a car built for the 2017 season and developed throughout the year. 2017 presented as good a chance as any to win the 25.
Early on, RK Motorsports TC Design incurred a couple of penalties that set the team back. They powered through them only to have the clutch fail at 2 a.m., so all they had was fourth gear, but that didn’t matter. The team turned a one-lap lead at 3 a.m. into an eight-lap lead by 6 a.m., and by noon Sunday, that lead became a class win in a field of 19 cars.
“We put Tristan (Littlehale) in and he built up this huge buffer. In fact, he put down the fastest lap in E0 with one gear, by almost 2 seconds,” Colicchio said. “We have a 3,000-rpm spread of the same horsepower, so we get away with a lot that way. We’ve also kept the VANOS in the cars, which a lot of engine tuners take off for some reason. But if you keep the VANOS, you actually have more low-end torque, so it saved our butt.”
Twelve laps back at the finish, the EXR Exotics Racing Mitjet Racing Team had to overcome troubles of its own to score a podium finish in its first attempt at the 25.
“In any form of racing you have to have a little bit of luck, and we did,” said EXR Exotics crew chief Bill Hynes. “We had some shifting problems with our gear shifter, but it was just low pressure, so we just bumped up the pressures, but we had nothing major, no incidents, nobody hit us, like our other car.”
Returning E0 champion, Valkyrie Autosport, also had to make do with just one gear. The Nissan 350Z suffered a partial transmission failure, which left them with just fourth gear — and a third-place finish.
“I think the craziest thing about this race is that we decided to do it three weeks ago,” said driver Brian Lock. “We changed wheel bearings and a leaky oil line, and did a once-over on the car and said, ‘Let’s just go run.’ We knew we weren’t going to have the ultimate pace since the car wasn’t rebuilt from scratch like it was last year, but we just had to run a couple of seconds off what we know the car can run and hope for the best.”