Each year the competition at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill Presented by Hawk Performance gets tougher. That competition has everything to do with the talent teams put behind the wheel and the level of preparation they put into the cars.
The 16th running of the twice-around-the-clock plus one-hour race is set to run Dec. 1-2, 2018.
For last year’s race, Roger Eagleton brought two Mitjet LVO2 cars, a French purpose-built, rear-wheel-drive racing car powered by a 2.0-liter Renault engine mated to a paddle-shifted six-speed Sadev transaxle. Both cars finished, and one took second in E0.
This year, Eagleton is returning with another Mitjet sponsored by Big Data in Action and Exotics Racing. The team is being managed by current V8 SuperCars and Penske Racing driver, Alex Premat, who also will drive. Other drivers include current IMSA racers Mark Ramsey, Eagleton himself, Richard Wendell, EXR instructor Josh DeLosier and Jonathan Cochet, who is a former Formula 1 test driver for PROST Grand Prix.
With this impressive roster, Eagleton is gunning for a class win in E0.
“Alex is pretty modest, but he was a factory Audi Le Mans Prototype driver as well as a factory Audi DTM driver,” Eagleton said. “Both he and Jonathan have raced in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, so I feel like NASA has done a damn good job to attract this level of talent to our little round-the-clock race!”
If you are going to run in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, it would be helpful to have a bunch of engineers on your crew, and that’s exactly what Team TAPG Motorsports is doing.
TAPG stands for Toyota Arizona Proving Ground. The team is comprised of Toyota engineers and technicians and family and friends. The team is taking on the 25 Hours of Thunderhill for the first time after winning five of the last seven races and the 2018 E1 class championship in the NASA Western Endurance Racing Championship series.
To prepare the car, the team’s target was to use little to no unproven components.
Team TAPG Motorsports has four drivers who have run the race previously, including hot shoe Randy Pobst, who has won the 25 overall in Davidson Racing’s BMW-powered Norma.
“The car/team is operated out of the Toyota Arizona Proving Grounds where we all work day to day in developing the dynamic performance of North American Toyota products,” said team principal D.J. Quint. “We are also very lucky to have tire support from Hoosier, suspension support from Motion Control Suspension, and brake pads from Carbotech. Despite this being this team’s first ever 25, we are approaching it with the target of an E1 class victory.”
While much attention in recent years has been paid to the Flying Lizard team that partnered with Toyo Tires to take the overall win three years in a row, another less-conspicuous team has taken three class wins in three years.
Competing in Mazda Miatas in E3, Team RA Motorsports has been putting in the late nights preparing its cars for the event. Team owner Ron Gayman said his team will be fielding three cars, and maybe as many as four. Three of the possible four will run in E3 and one will run in E0.
The E0 car is a Mazda Miata powered by a General Motors Ecotec four cylinder, which makes more horsepower than the stock Mazda engines. Asked whether his team’s past three wins put any extra burden on him, Gayman shrugged it off.
“No pressure to win a fourth,” he said. “We know if we just drive smart, we always have a chance. Just coming prepared is half the battle. Even then, crap happens! So, having things to fix the car is a must.
“We come to have a good time and finish the race, hopefully with no drama,” he continued. “And if several other cars are on top of their game as well, we always feel we will be there at the end!”