Round four of the Western Endurance Racing Championship sponsored by Enduro-Racer.com began as the sun set over Buttonwillow Raceway Park. Race teams had to ensure their electrical systems were in top order because this race would take them three hours into the black of night. Buttonwillow is a dark, dark place once the sun sets, and the only thing to keep drivers on course are the bright lights mounted to the front of their racecars. The event was run counterclockwise, making this round the fourth different track configuration in four rounds of the WERC Series.
The six-class format (ESR, ES, E0, E1, E2, E3) made for some heavy traffic as 29 cars took the green flag. The field ranged from prototypes to Porsche 911s, BMWs and Mazda Miatas. Some teams were racing for class wins, some were gunning for overall victory and others were strategizing for season points battles. As the race progressed, the leader board continued to be jumbled as darkness fell and teams pitted for fuel and fresh drivers. The racing was close and crowded, but the WERC teams showed they are a class act by running a three-hour race into the night without a single full-course caution.
The race to watch was out front with the white No. 67 BMW of Pure Performance running hard to the end to capture the overall victory and the E0 class win. A mere 14.986 seconds behind them was another white BMW, the No. 70 Team TC Design E0 car coming in second overall and second in the E0 class. Taking home the final overall podium spot, and winning the ES class, was the formidable black and yellow Porsche 911 of G22 Racing/TruSpeed, which also set the fastest lap of the race with a 2:04:064.
Racing was tight in all classes, with the E1 win going to Team Supermiata in its orange No. 49 Mazda Miata. A mere 20 seconds behind them was the Mothers-sponsored Mazda RX-8 of Robert Davis Racing in second place. Robert Davis Racing’s second RX-8 in the field won the E2 class.
The biggest field in the event, with 14 cars, was the E3 class with a fleet of Mazda Miatas taking the green flag. A pair of BRE heritage painted Nissan Sentra SE-Rs sponsored by I/O Port Racing Supplies tried to break up the Mazda dominance this year in E3, but with a lunched gear box for the blue No. 33 car and a fuel spill penalty for the red No. 38 car, the Nissan team couldn’t get it done. And so, again, it was an all-Mazda podium, with some close racing between the Miatas down to the wire. Team Trackspeed Engineering picked up the E3 win, with Team RJ Racing just 17 seconds behind in second place. Third place in E3 went to the No. 99 Mazda Miata of Team Supermiata.
After three hours of hard racing in the dark and desert heat, three different classes had their first- and second-place finishers separated by less than 20 seconds. It was some amazing close racing in another solid round of NASA’s Western Endurance Racing Championship.