NASA SoCal offered up rounds four and five of the Western Endurance Racing Championships series in July at Willow Springs International Raceway.
Saturday night’s three-hour enduro kicked off at 5:10 p.m., which meant racers wouldn’t have to find their way around Willow Springs in total darkness, but they would have to contend with a setting sun and dusk conditions.
Unlike the March event, which ran from start to finish with nary a yellow flag, the Saturday night race dished up a double-yellow and a red flag due to a fire on pit row.
At the one-hour mark, Team Prototype Development Group held a one-lap lead over Team Coldcock Whiskey and Lang Racing Development. However, by the end of the second hour, Team Prototype Development Group sheared two studs from its left rear hub and had to pull behind pit wall for repairs. That put Team Coldcock Whiskey in the lead, a position it would hold till the end. Lang Racing Development finished second with Team TruSpeed Autosport in third, some 10 laps down.
“We’re sort of the tortoise here of the top three, so sometimes it takes some special things to happen to pull it off,” said driver Troy Lindstrom, who iron-manned all three hours. “Today, we had no problems. We had a perfect pit stop. We did some aero work on this brick of a truck and actually got it to handle without lifting in Turns 7 and 8. So that picked our lap times up, made us more competitive and we pulled a win.”
The varying track conditions and driving into the sunset in critical — and high-speed — turns like 1, 2 and 9 were difficult for all teams. Team El Dorado Motorsports had managed to establish a one-lap lead over Team Phantom Motorworks, but shortly after the driver swap, a suspension component failed, which made the Honda Prelude a handful to drive.
“It was a difficult stint because about four laps in something broke in probably the left front, so it was really difficult to keep it on track,” said second-stint driver Bill Damron.
Team El Dorado Motorsports held on for the win, followed on the same lap by Team Phantom Motorworks and Team HPD in its Acura RSX.
Team Buzzbomb Racing has been on a tear this year, winning E2 in every event this season. Second-stint driver Charlie Buzzetti and first-stint wheel man Michael Mihld were running as high as fourth overall that night, fighting the low-light conditions and held on for the win, followed by Team Steyn Motorsports.
“I didn’t really care for that in Turn 2, looking straight into the sun. Conditions were tough. So I held up one hand to block the sun and drove with the other hand,” Buzzetti said. “The track conditions were changing constantly so we were having to adjust the line, but it was a flawless effort by the car and both drivers.”
Team Sampson Racing’s Roman Vaisman has driven all three-hour enduros this year by himself. He emerges from the car looking no worse for wear, and at all but one event this season, in first place. That was the case again at Willow Springs. Team Sampson Racing took first with Saturn-racing stable mate Team 805 Racing in second and Team Neth Racing Works in third.
“It was a little intense in the beginning,” Vaisman said. “The Miatas were not giving up, and it kind of thinned out and then we had a double yellow and a red that allowed me to rest a little bit.”
The following day, the WERC series continued with a two-hour enduro that also featured a half-hour-long Australian Pursuit for a cadre of mostly Spec Miata, 944 Spec and Spec E30 racers.
Team TruSpeed Autosport took the ES and overall win. Team Pond won E3 over Team Sampson Racing. Team Creative Strokes ran unopposed in E2 for the win, with Team El Dorado Motorsports notching its second win in E2.