The April WERC event was marked by four caution periods in the first hour, a time in which the pace car was often leading the field on track and lit up like Times Square at Christmas. For the June event at Buttonwillow Raceway, the caution periods were fewer and the pace car saw significantly less action.
The action this time was in the E0 class, which resembled more of a three-hour sprint race than an enduro. Team Achilles Motorsports 1 battled El Diablo Motorsports for first overall and first in class for the entire three hours. El Diablo driver Scott Smith explained that the team didn’t qualify well, but managed to capitalize on a good start.
“We started back in fifth position, but on the start I was able to get a run on three or four cars,” Smith said after the race. “After a couple of corners I was behind the first-place car, Achilles, and we were able to dice it for an hour, hour and a half.”
Each car had its advantages and deficits, Smith said, and neither was substantially faster than the other. One hour into the race, Achilles held the lead. Two hours in, Achilles was still ahead. The Achilles car handled better, but Smith said they had more power, which would come in handy after their pit stop.
“We came in to pit at about an hour and half, and when we came out, we had lost about a half lap to them because our pit stop was so slow,” Smith said. “Because the safety car had bunched everyone up once again, Lance was in sixth position, and he was able to dispense with the cars, catch up and pass the Achilles so we were then able to hold the lead for the rest of the race.”
With a field of four cars in the E1 class, Team Honda Research West continued its dominance with two cars, but the car that found itself in the lead for most of the race was not the one to finish on top. At the one-hour mark, the No. 27 car had the lead over its team car, the No. 25, known as Team Honda Research West 2. At that point, the No. 25 car was trailing, but still on the same lap as its sister car. At the two-hour mark, the No. 25 car had fallen two laps down, but in the end, Honda Research West 2 had captured the win, a move the team attributed to fuel strategy.
“We ran a conservative race just to try to preserve the car and conserve fuel and stay on track as long as possible, and out of the pits,” said cleanup driver Derek Ferretti. “It seemed to pay off for us pretty well.”
“I ran pretty conservatively with a conservative fuel setting,” said first-stint driver Calvin Liu. “Car felt great. BF Goodrich tires felt great. I came in, gave Derek the car and he finished it off.”
In the nine-car E3 class, Team Supermiata also was running conservatively but doing so in a different manner. Driver and team owner Emilio Cervantes explained that the car had been fitted with a new engine — the old one blew at the last WERC race — and he was running a richer fuel curve than normal. Team SuperMiata had the lead at the one-, two-, and three-hour marks, but his fuel economy was so poor, by the time he pitted for fuel, he was close to running out.
“We have a new engine that we tuned a little bit more conservatively than we would normally tune, so it was not getting very good mileage,” he said. “We kind of knew that going in because it was tuned pretty conservatively, so we just barely made our fuel stop and then had to put in a full 14 gallons. Normally, we have fuel to spare. This time we didn’t. Next race, now that we have one race under our belt and we know what the economy is, we can tune a little bit leaner and get better mileage next time.”
Team SuperMiata beat second-place finisher Buzz Bomb Racing by two laps and the Saturn of third-place finisher Thunder Valley Racing.
The ES and ESR classes each were populated with one car. At the one- and two-hour marks, ESR car Team Prototype Development was as many as seven laps down from the leader. The team turned up the wick late in the race on its Factory Five GTM to finish sixth overall. In ES, the Catfish of Team CRE finished 18th overall out of 28 cars.
However, it was E2 that produced the most drama, even though there were only two cars in the class. Dean Mansour of Team Mansour was enjoying his lead in his E30 M3 when he was suddenly passed by Team PHS Motorsports. PHS stands for Porterville High School, which operates an extensive academic motorsports program.
“We were out by ourselves for a long time and I was sort of losing focus,” Mansour said after the race. “Then another E2 car went by and I went, ‘Oh my God, that’s a pass for the lead.’ They passed me and I was taken aback. We had a great battle for maybe 15 laps going through every corner nose-to-tail. We caught up to a bunch of other cars and in the commotion of passing other cars, I managed to get by him and got clear and then came in for a pit stop.”
But his troubles weren’t over. When Mansour came in for a pit stop, his car wouldn’t restart when it was time to go back out. So the crew push-started it out of the hot pits and he was off and running. Once he was out on track, he discovered that the car didn’t run right in the upper rev range because his alternator had given out.
“I was turning off the headlights on straightaways so the car wouldn’t stutter at high rpm, and just before the corner you flip the lights back on so you can see the apex,” Mansour said. “It was very exciting for a while doing that, for probably a half an hour. Then there was a yellow flag. Everything bunched up, so I turned off the lights. I could use everyone else’s headlights.”
He lapped Team PHS Motorsports, but when he chucked the car off track at the Star Mazda turn, PHS got by him and finished in second on the same lap as Team Mansour.
|El Diablo Motorsports
|Achilles Motorsports 1
|Thunder Valley Racing
|949 Racing – E3
|Team Honda Research West 2
|Team Honda Research West 1
|2nd Chance Roadster
|Scuderia R2 Racing
|Luxury: Don’t Crash Racing
|Lang Racing Development
|Achilles Motorsports 2
|Tahoe Pacific Racing
|Sampson Racing Radios
|Fingers Crossed Racing
|HQ Autosport Racing