Twenty challengers converged on Buttonwillow Raceway Park for round three of the Western Endurance Racing Championship to battle the heat and one another in a three-hour enduro. When the race began at 5:40, the sun was blazing and temperatures were still in the high 90s.
Technic/HQ Autosport, which qualified on pole had a great start, and led E1 and overall the first half hour of the race. Teen Mazda Challenge racer Joey Jordan drove the first stint until the car began to overheat. He pulled far off track but the truck that arrived to pull him back to the pits, it got stuck in Buttonwillow’s infamous silty soil. That meant another truck had to come out and tow the tow truck. In the end, Team TB took first place in E1, followed by Team Mazdaspeed C in its diesel-powered 6 and Technik/HQ Autosport in third.
“The car ran great the whole time,” said Team TB driver Tom Paule. “The tires greased out a little bit, but I did the first stint and Ryan did the second stint, and the car ran a consistent lap time the whole time and that was the key.”
Ryan Walton, who took the second stint, was driving for the team for the first time and driving at night for the first time.
“I’d never run a night enduro,” he said. “I had a really good time, felt really consistent. The tires really fell off at the end, but it’s an enduro, right? Drive around it.”
In E2, Team TAPG Motorsports drove unchallenged in class to take first place in its red Scion FRS.
In ES, two genuinely fast prototype cars battled. Team Quick Racing Products ran quicker lap times, but dropped out and didn’t finish. WERC-series regular Team Prototype Development drove its red, white and blue Factory Five GTM to first place in ES and third overall.
In ESR, Competitive Edge Racing ran uncontested, but completed just five laps before retiring.
In E3, always the most competitive endurance class, Team BuzzBomb racing piloted its 944 Spec car over second-place Roman Vaisman, who drove the whole race himself in his R&R Racing Saturn SC2. Team Squidmobile finished third, also in a Porsche 944.
“We had a really well prepared car,” said BuzzBomb driver Charlie Buzzetti, a two-time National Champion. “It ran flawlessly the whole race. Our co-driver Robert Davis did an excellent job giving me the car in first place with a 40 second lead. We extended that out to 80 seconds at the end of the race. It was a great event. I had a great time with good competition.”
At the front of the field, it was a battle of the BMWs. The E0 cars of Achilles Motorsports and GTI Racing fought hard the whole race. Achilles had developed a lap lead by the second half of the race, but their car had a problem.
“It was kind of tough because we thought the differential was going out,” said second-stint driver Marc Ghafouri. “Before I went out, V.J. (Mirzayan) told me to kind of take it easy, to conserve the car, but still keep my pace up.”
That’s always a difficult task, but they managed to keep their lap lead. They knew that if a full-course caution were to come out, their closest competitor would be right on their bumper and it would become a sprint race. One problem: they also needed to conserve fuel. With just a couple of laps left they let GTI Racing pass, which brought them back on the lead lap, but by then, it was all over. Achilles Motorsports took first in E0 and first overall. Team GTI Racing took second in E0 and second overall.