It’s a testament to how consistent the Three Thieves Racing team has been at 25 Hours of Thunderhill Presented by Hawk Performance.
The drivers have run the Audi to a 35-lap overall lead on Sunday morning, but the team is eyeing a more impressive mark. If the team can keep its pace, the GT car could set a total lap record for 25 Hours of Thunderhill, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this weekend.
As of 9 a.m. Sunday, the team had recorded 655 laps and needs over 780 laps to break the record set by Flying Lizard in 2017.
Overnight, the racing was relatively uneventful, with most drivers taking double shifts. With the attrition of a handful of cars, the drivers had a wide-open track with no weather problems that had plagued previous endurance races.
The 25 Hours of Thunderhill is expected to end around noon Sunday. Here’s where the classes stood at 9 a.m. Sunday.
Despite amassing a 35-lap lead over second place Team TruSpeed Autosport, Team Three Thieves Racing had been babysitting an imperfect car. Early on in the race, they discovered that the starter was glitching out and wouldn’t turn the engine over. When the red flags came out Saturday night for an oil spill in turns 5 and 6, the team took a chance and shut the car off to prevent overheating. When the race resumed, the driver mashed the starter button and the engine sprang to life.
Not taking any chances, the team has been leaving the car running during pit stops, which, fortunately, have been routine matters for fuel, tires and driver changes.
The car has excellent pace compared with the rest of the GT class and the field overall, but the team has focused on consistency and the omnipresent task of looking after the car so they can ensure a big finish.
“We knew what our fast time was. And so essentially, what we did is we backed off the RPM, the fuel use just a brake usage, the tire usage, and really just kind of plugged away at our target number. And the idea was that it didn’t matter what anybody else did. We’re going to stick to our plan,” said driver Eddie Nakato. “A lot of it’s just down to real specifics, like, hey, we need you to shift at X RPM, we need you to brake at X brake force, you know, save the rear tires. These are kind of your target lap times. And then as long as you’re in the ballpark, it doesn’t matter. I mean, the overriding theme for the weekend was safety, safety, safety. We were our greatest enemy, you know, in this race. As long as we didn’t hit anybody, we didn’t screw up, we didn’t damage the car. That was probably the best chance we had at winning. So that’s really what we’ve been focusing on this weekend.”
Team Kleen Blast – Davids Race Products had dropped to third in class and fourth overall. Team TruSpeed Autosport had taken over second place in GT and overall.
It was already 22 hours into the race and Andy Hollis, the crew chief for Honda Racing, was running a pit stop with the energy of someone who had a full night of sleep.
Hollis had a lot to be energetic about as the team was leading the E0 class and was third overall at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
“It’s like my second, third, fifth or tenth wind,” Hollis said. “And probably a dozen cups of coffee.”
The Honda Racing team was campaigning three cars this weekend, and is made up of company volunteers who serve as the drivers and crew. While the team has built up an 11-lap lead over fellow Spoon Sports competitor, it hasn’t come without its challenges, Hollis said.
“We had parts falling off the car, we had our splitter break in half, all kinds of things like that, but we overcame them,” Hollis said. “We had a number of corded tires, just because we were short on the number of tires we had, so we really extended our stints on them and got everything we could out of them.
“The goal is to get the drivers to run clean laps to finish out the 25 Hours of Thunderhill,” Hollis added. “On our spreadsheet where you have the driver, next to it says run ‘clean laps don’t break the car.’ That’s our approach.”
Sister car Honda Racing 1 was running in second, 10 laps back, and Spoon Sports was in third, 11 laps behind Honda Racing 1.
Tazio Ottis Racing has been running well all night long. As soon as the sun set on Saturday night and its car preparation, early fuel strategy and double-stinting of drivers began to pay off, the team began to accumulate a lead.
The red flag for an oil spill in turns 5 and 6 set them back a bit, but it did the same for every team. Once that was cleaned up, the team focused on consistent lap times and preserving the car for the daylight run to the finish.
“It’s actually pretty cool. Some of the some of the problems we encountered before had hampered our car. We tried to make some fixes on and it seems to be a lot better and reliable. So it’s cool to actually have the full 25 hours to really test those ideas out,” said team owner Tazio Ottis, adding that they were also focused on resting their drivers. “And that if that’s all you’re worried about 25 hours, that’s a nice 25 hours. And I know there was no fog or anything like that. The weather was good. There was there was an oil spill at one point. OK, that was a little bit challenging. A little tricky.”
Tazio Ottis Racing had a 12 lap lead on Honda Racing 3 in second place in E1, which had two cars in contention.
Team Spark Performance had been the model of consistency in E2 throughout the early evening and the wee hours of Sunday before sunrise. Incredibly, the team had built up a lead of more than 100 laps over second-place Harvey Auto Group 2 in its Honda Civic.
Just after sunrise the car began to suffer fuel-delivery problems. The car was starving for fuel in left-hand turns, which is significant given that 10 of the 15 turns at Thunderhill are lefts. The team had to come in and fix it, which put them essentially out of the running for a top five overall finish, which is what they were aiming for Saturday night.
“So we came in we thought we had a problem with our surge tank and we worked with that for a little bit and then we got the car ran a little bit better than a couple hours went by they were still having some problems. So we ended up swapping the intake fuel tank fuel pump, said team owner Nathaniel Sparks. “It takes about 30 minutes or so. It’s not too bad. But it’s the figuring and finding it out. We’re sad to miss out on all those laps there because we were really running pretty solid for a Mazda MX-5 in E2, you know, and for overall we were looking really good. So now it fell back a little bit.”
Team Harvey Auto Group was in second, and The Speed Traveler was in third.
All afternoon Saturday and into the early evening, Lesher Motorsports had built up an 11-lap lead over second place Original Racers and 17 laps over Harvey Auto Group 1 in its Mazda Miata fitted in Spec Miata trim.
However, when the Lesher car suffered catastrophic engine failure just before the 9 p.m. mark, the Harvey Auto Group Miata began to make up laps and capitalize on Lesher’s misfortune. Throughout the long night stints, the Harvey Auto Group Miata kept ticking off laps.
Team owner Taz Harvey, who owns four Honda dealerships and three Mazda stores, was kind of tickled to have a Honda in E2 and the E3 Mazda in the race. The Honda was a bit trouble prone, but other than a brake caliper problem, the team’s Mazda Miata has been strong.
“You know, I got to say hat’s off to my crew. They’ve done a fantastic job, staying up for 25 hours. It’s been pretty trouble free, the Miata, throughout the whole race. So, I think we’ve had pretty decent luck,” Harvey said. “Of course, did a great job prepping for it. It’s a team effort. And you know, we got the Yoda of the Spec Miata, Larry Oka here. When we had something go wrong with the Miata, which I think we had brake caliper problems, you know, he helped us fix it. We did have to go find him. I think he was napping somewhere. But once we woke him up, he was like, ‘Oh, yeah. This is what you do.’ So it was nice to having Larry on the crew, too.”
At 9 a.m. Harvey Auto Group 1 was 39 laps up on Lesher Motorsports. Original Racers had only completed 254 laps at that time.
The teams race continuously until noon Sunday. Follow the event live at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill page on Race Hero.