Fresh off a hat-trick win at round five of the Western Endurance Racing Championships series presented by Enduro-Racer.com at Sonoma Raceway, Team 949 Racing had a look at the low car counts for the final round of the WERC series and came up with a brilliantly stupid idea.
Why not enter five Miatas in all five classes? With the fastest car in Team 949 Racing’s fleet topping out at 165 horsepower, why not enter it in ES, then move a few of the other cars in its stable up a class and see what happens?
That’s when the fun started. Team 949 Racing’s orange No. 49 car piloted by Emilio Cervantes bumped up from his usual E1 class to ES, which also had Team Bimmerworld’s BMW M3 in it. Andrew Kidd in the Team 949 Racing/Trackspeed Engineering car bumped up from E3 to E0, where it would compete against Lang Racing Development’s faster E30 BMW. William Chen entered his fresh E2 car in the E1 class against Robert Davis Racing’s Mazda RX-8. Sonny Watanasirisuk entered his E3 car in E2, which had no other cars running, so that was just a matter of finishing. Gordon Jennings entered his No. 05 E3 car in, well, E3, always the most hotly contested class and one in which he faced 25 Hours of Thunderhill winner and 2012 E3 Champion RJ Racing.
Watanasirisuk finished. So he won E2. Chen battled the RX-8, which would have to stop for fuel twice in the three-hour enduro, but Chen’s car only needed fuel once, and he went on to take the win.
In E0, the Team 949 Racing/Trackspeed Engineering suffered electrical problems in the closing minutes of the split-format enduro, which lasted two hours Saturday afternoon, and one hour first thing Sunday morning. According to the rules, the team wasn’t allowed to touch the car until the green flag Sunday morning. Turns out the battery box had come loose and the battery was flailing about in the trunk. A quick fix with zip ties and they were off, only to be sidelined when an aftermarket throttle body stuck wide open. The team replaced it on pit row with an OEM piece and went on to take the win.
“The other guy had more problems than we did and we ended up passing him on the final lap,” Kidd said, “so we finished exactly one lap up on him.”
By late in the Saturday stretch of the race, Cervantes had the overall lead and P1 in ES, a class with a far more powerful E36 BMW M3. Cervantes wasn’t as fast, but his car proved more reliable, even though he was having issues of his own.
“We had some tires on for ES that we had no experience with,” Cervantes said. “It was sort of a roll of the dice with some Grand Am Continental slicks. They went off probably an hour into a two-hour race, so I was managing those. As soon as I knew I had it clinched, I backed way off. Additionally, we lost the syncros and were basically having to double-clutch all up and downshifts.”
Those issues didn’t stop him from taking the overall win, but they did allow him to help a teammate. Gordon Jennings’ E3 car was in a tight battle with RJ Racing. Jennings, who drove both stints himself, was close enough that he passed overall leader Cervantes, effectively putting RJ Racing a lap down for the restart Sunday morning.
RJ Racing’s team was doing the same math in their pits, and while they battled with Jennings’ No. 05 car, the team was keeping track of Cervantes’ lap times. Cervantes, who had been lapping Buttonwillow in just under 2 minutes finished the last lap before the checkered flag in about 3 minutes, which allowed Team 949 Racing’s sister car, Jennings’ No. 05 car, to get around Cervantes and effectively put RJ Racing a lap down for the start the next day.
“Great strategy move, smart call on their part, and that gave them a lap overnight,” said RJ Racing’s John Gibson. “If you can control the race like that, why not? Use it to your advantage.”
Turns out Team 949 Racing’s No. 05 car would need that lap more than they knew. On Sunday morning, Jennings’ car wouldn’t start.
“A fuel line had fallen off, so instead of taking the green, we sat in the paddock and waited for everybody to go by, and my lead evaporated,” Jennings said. “We fixed the fuel line, went back out in P2 and hunted down P1 over the course of 20 minutes or so. They’re reasonably fast and extremely consistent. So I just had to try to go as fast as I could, and managed to hunt them down after to about a half an hour and open up a comfortable enough lead to bring it home.”
So when the checkers flew for the second time, Team 949 Racing had won all five classes in five Miatas, a feat that topped the team’s hat-trick victories at Sonoma just two weeks before.
“My congratulations to RJ Racing on winning the season championship,” Jennings said. “I don’t think they were ever off the podium all year. They were consistent and did an awesome job. It was a great race. It was an iron man with a 10-hour nap in between.”
2012 Western Endurance Racing Champions
Team Green Alternative Motorsports ran mostly uncontested in the ESR class during the 2012 season as they picked up three wins while piloting their No. 88 Honda powered Norma. However, they were unable to earn an overall victory at any of the races, despite having one of the fastest cars in the series.
The mighty No. 66 Super Truck of team Lynam Racing, run by team principle Troy Lindstrom, earned three wins and a second place during the season to become the 2012 WERC ES Champion. If anyone thinks they need a BMW to win an endurance title, they should take a look at the results of this Chevrolet powered pickup truck.
Some of the best racing in the 2012 WERC series was in the E0 class with a battalion of BMWs rubbing fenders in the darkness during the night racing. This year’s E0 champion is Team TC Design in its No. 70 BMW. Team TC Design showed solid consistency with four podium finishes (one win, one second, and two thirds) which is exactly what is needed to earn a championship.
No team dominated the WERC series like Emilio Cervantes in his Team 949 Racing Supermiata. During the season, Team 949 Racing earned four solid wins. Nobody else in the E1 class was even close in points at the end of the season, so the team ran the car in ES “just because” and helped Team 949 Racing win all five classes in the last race of the year.
Team Ice Cold Brew driving their No. 3 Honda Del Sol picked up the E2 championship without winning a single race. They did earn two second places and a third place. Nevertheless, at the end of the season they had the most points. Not too shabby for the little Del Sol.
To become a WERC Champion in E3, you have to bring your A game. You have to make every event, you cannot have serious mechanical problems and your pit crew has to be competent.
Team RJ Racing, who won the 25 Hours of Thunderhill in 2011, earned a staggering 535 points, making them the WERC Grand Champions, earning more points than any other class. They competed against 37 other teams, earned one first place, 2 seconds, and 3 thirds. For their speed and consistency all season long while driving their orange and blue No. 23 Mazda Miata, they now have the honor being called the 2012 WERC E3 Champions.
|949 Racing – E3
|Second Chance Roadster
|949 Racing E2
|Sampson Racing Radios
|Driven to the Track Racing
|Tahoe Pacific Racing
|Track Speed Engineering
|Lang Racing Development