Turn 3 Motorsports took the overall and ESR class win its first 25 Hours of Thunderhill presented by Hawk Performance. The team also achieved two “firsts” and did what no other team before had been able to do: take the overall and ESR class wins with it, and be the first car under-2.0-liters to win overall.
The Chicago-based team had a dominant performance, leading shortly after the start and never looking back. The Radical was caked with mud as driver and team principal Peter Dempsey brought the car across the finish line with an eight-lap margin of victory. It’s the first time a Radical sports racer has won the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
“I was in tears in the car there once we knew we had done it, so it took me a few laps to settle back down again and finish the race,” Dempsey said.
The team spent Friday night and Saturday morning waterproofing the open-cockpit car but it still lost an ECU during a rainstorm after the endurance race started. After that the car ran flawlessly, Dempsey said.
The team’s drivers Eric Wagner, Dempsey, Antoine Comeau and Neil Alberico drove the car 2,016 miles, good for an 8-lap margin of victory over second-place overall finisher K2R Motorsports. Team Praga Cars/Fellner Motorsports finished third in ESR and also third overall.
“I didn’t come here to race anyone else,” Dempsey said. “We came here just trying not to beat ourselves, and I think by focusing everyone in that mentality probably made a huge difference.”
K2R Motorsports brought a Ligier JS P3, one of the first such cars to appear at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. K2R definitely had the pace, setting the second fastest lap of the race, but the team ran into mechanical issues. The transmission was overheating due to the custom exhaust the team had built to comply with noise limits at Thunderhill. Nothing alleviated the overheating issue until the team removed the body shell covering the rear of the car. At the finish, K2R was eight laps behind Turn 3 Motorsport, which was good for second overall and in ESR.
“You know, first stint, one of the drivers had a couple offs so we had to get towed back on so that cost us some time,” said team owner Naveen Rao. “But then the big thing was really the transmission. Just managing that. I think all the drivers did incredibly well. Like Colin Braun did an epic, 3 hour 30 minute stint. I think George and I both did two, two and a half. Gerhard did hour and a half, two hours. Yeah. In this car that’s hard. It’s a lot of work. It’s pretty physical.”
Praga Cars/Fellner Motorsports took third, but the team also had trouble in the early hours of the race. Coming into Turn 14, the left-side hinge pin broke and the door flew off the car and landed in the infield. Driver Tim Barber drove about 30 laps without a door. The NASA safety crew retrieved it and gave it back to the team. On the next driver swap, they put the door back on and carried on.
“We had a stellar driver line up with Tim Barber and Danny van Dongen, Paul Blickman and myself and Jesse Grose,” said driver Steve Ferrario. “It was just a collective effort that was outstanding. Tough, tough conditions out there. I think the toughest that most of us have ever driven in before, so to keep it in one piece without significant body damage, other than the fact that we lost our left side door on track early in the race, is pretty significant.”