When it comes to the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, few teams have had as much success as Valkyrie Autosport. The team took third in E0 in 2018 and first in E0 in 2016. The team added to its trophy case after campaigning two cars this weekend and securing first place in its Nissan GT-R and third-place in its Nissan 370Z in the ES class. The team has six podiums in endurance racing in the last few years, said Giles Powell of Valkyrie Autosport. This year was the team’s first year in ES.

“It was clear we weren’t going to be able to secure position through outright pace,” Powell said. “We just had to be really conservative and wait for the luck to even out with the other teams, which luckily happened. The drivers stayed focusing on running clean and not taking chances, and we got lucky it worked out for us.”

Last year, Three Thieves Racing finished third in ES, but it came after a rough start on the warmup lap of all things. Their car was struck from behind by a Miata as the field rounded the circuit for the first time. The impact launched the car off the ground, crushed the left rear quarter panel and required the removal of the rear fascia — all before the green flag flew. Even with all that, the team finished third in ES in 2018.

This year, their race started off better, but due to on-again, off-again rains, the race was anything but easy. Rain at the start, mud just off the racing surface early in the race and just off the racing line in the morning hours caused havoc in terms of tire choice and pit strategies. They also made contact with a wall in the middle of the night, so they had to take a Sawzall and remove the front splitter and half the bumper, but in the end finished second in ES in 2019.

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“We probably ended up with the same problems everybody else had, lack of traction. Tire choice was always a question mark. Perpetual amounts of mud,” said team principal Eddie Nakato. “I mean the mud was covering the windshield. It was covering the lights. It got to the point where we were having to bring the car into clean the lights so they could see.”

The Valkyrie Autosport achieved a double podium in ES, scoring the class win and a third in its second car, a Nissan 370Z. Driver and team principal Brian Lock was supposed to be one of the regularly scheduled team drivers, but he spent more time fixing the 370Z than driving it. A couple of hard-to-find problems had them in the back paddock chasing gremlins rather than being out on track turning laps.

“We had a kill switch die on us. That cost us an hour. We had a pressure switch that activates our brake lights die on us. That cost us a half hour,” Lock said. “We had multiple times that we got hit by prototypes, body damage. We had the car go into the wall. We changed the diff at 6 a.m. Every time we thought that was the last thing, it was one more thing.

“I think we were the fastest car on track by 15 seconds a lap in those conditions,” he continued. “And so it’s a little bittersweet. We know the Z had a lot more in it but it just wasn’t in the cards.”

Image courtesy of Doug Berger

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