Races in the Western Endurance Racing Championship series nearly always begin in the warm orange glow of a setting sun and finish in the pitch black of California’s San Joaquin Valley — but not the October event. It began in the dark at 7 o’clock and ended at 10 o’clock, when the stars shone even brighter in an indigo sky.
In ES, Team TruSpeed brought the biggest gun to the knife fight with its Porsche Cup car, but the car suffered a mechanical breakdown after just three laps, and retired. At the end of hour one, Team Prototype Development Group was leading, but before the two-mark the team suffered a crash in the Grapevine turn, and retired.
“We were cruising because we were like four laps ahead for the race overall,” said driver Mike Holland. “We needed to get halfway through the event to get our finishing points to beat TruSpeed. We were 15 points behind them coming into this race, so we were just concentrating on staying out of trouble and turning decent lap times and we got taken out. But we got our halfway point, so we won the Championship tonight.”
That crash allowed Team Yost Autosport to vault into the lead and on to take the win in ES and third overall.
“We had little issues as usual, getting sorted out before the 25 Hour, but no real complaints,” said driver Mike Bonanni. “We stayed out there and ran consistent laps the entire time and the result of that is we brought home first in class and third overall. I’m pretty happy about that, and we have a good bit of momentum going into the 25 Hour, which is our main focus for the year.”
In ESR, Team Competitive Edge Motorsports ran in class alone and took the win and the WERC Championship.
In E0, Team Inverter Technologies started from the back of their class because they either strategically or absent-mindedly didn’t qualify earlier in the day. In the end, the team had fought its way forward to take second in class and second overall.
“I’m a little emotional because this is one of the best night drives I’ve ever had,” said driver Jim Stevens. “It was an interesting night because there’s no wind. So when people were dropping wheels the dust stayed right in the apex. It stayed in that corner, so a lot of the nigh we were blind. It took preparation to know where to be on track and were the track went, but the result was good. I’m really happy about it. I’m really happy about the team because there’s no way we can be successful without the team. In the end, I can’t ask for much more. This was more than I could have ever expected tonight.”
At the checkered flag, Stevens was running nose-to-tail with Roadshagger racing, which took first in class and first overall.
“Our race was fantastic,” said driver Gavin Ernstone. “We found ourselves after pit stops with a full-course yellow and we were second overall, but we had one more stop to go, whereas everybody else was good to go to the end. John (Morley) drove an absolutely incredible race. We had to make up a 1:20 deficit after the pit stop and John brought it back, and with two laps to go, got into the overall lead and won the race by about a second.”
The competition in E1 was intense, with 10 cars in class. At the one-hour mark, Team German Auto had the lead. By hour two, Team BennyJoe Racing was in first. But in the end, Team El Dorado Motorsports took first in their Honda Prelude.
“My cool suit wasn’t working. That was annoying,” said driver Nathan Pope. “I basically did what I was told. When they told me to push, I pushed. When they told me to conserve, I conserved, and it worked.”
In E2, Team Quattro Motorsports Development ran its Audi A4 in a class of two, and outlasted team Creative Strokes’ BMW.
“It was really dusty out there, kind of like the wild, wild west, in my opinion,” said driver Justin Grey. “I went off track a couple of times, but it was a good race. I had a lot of fun.”
As for E3, the competition was intense, with lap times faster than both E2 cars. Driving for Team ART Racing, Aristotle Baylogh brought home second place.
“It was my first enduro at night and it was wild. It’s a little disorienting at first, and then you get the hang of it,” Baylogh said. “There were a couple of high-powered cars that sat back and waited to pass. There are not very many easy places to pass here and they were very polite.”
Ahead of Team ART Racing by one lap, Team Buzz Bomb Racing finished first in E3, ending a racing season with two first-place finishes and one second.
“It went well. The car was good,” said driver Charlie Buzzetti. “We ran Hoosiers tonight instead of Toyos and we were using the autocross tires left over from the Championships and it turns out that they won’t go three hours. So we corded all four tires and just babied it home.”