When 28 teams took to the grid for the 6:30 p.m. start of round two of the Western Endurance Racing Challenge series at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, temperatures still hovered in the low 100s. Racers boiled on grid as seconds ticked down to the start. When the green flag flew, the field took off at sprint-race pace for the three-hour enduro.
In ESR, Team Green Alternative Motorsports took its Honda-powered Norma chassis to a class win. Team Competitive Edge racing came in second in its rotary-engine Amac sports racer.
“The start was good,” said Competitive Edge driver John Bosso. “We had a good, solid car that was competitive. We started 13th and moved up to fourth overall, and we got a flat. We lost 20 laps with the flat and then we put Bill in the car and got second in class.”
Team Late Entry took third in ESR, but only completed six laps.
In ES, the Porsche Cup Car showed its strengths again by not only taking the class win, but also the overall. With lap times 2 seconds faster than even the Norma sports racer, Team TruSpeed fought a race-long battle with Team Prototype Development group in its Factory Five GTM Supercar, which took second and finished on the same lap as TruSpeed. Team Yost Development finished third, seven laps down from first and second place.
In E0, Team Inverter Technology and Team Roadshagger Racing waged a heated battle. Team Roadshagger had its share of problems, though. They broke two wheels and got meat-balled for inoperative taillights. Then they had to swerve to avoid a bird. At the one-hour mark, Roadshagger had the E0 lead, but by hour two, the gremlins and wildlife had taken their toll and Team Inverter Technology had taken the lead it would hold till the end.
“Consistency is important, as is managing the race,” said Inverter Technology driver James Stevens. “We had some minor issues and we managed them in the car, and just brought it home here in the end.”
In E1, Team El Dorado Motorsports used its pace to its advantage. The team held the lead at the one- and two-hour marks.
“When we started the race, it was a pretty fast pace in the beginning,” said El Dorado driver Chris Lock. “We thought we were going to have a lot of work to do, but unfortunately the other guys had some bad luck, had a mechanical, and kind of handed it to us, and then Nathan jumped in and took it home.”
TAPG Motorsports, which stands for Team Arizona Proving Grounds, is comprised of bunch of Toyota engineers. They are using the scion FRS as their platform, which they put to good use and brought home second place.
“It’s working out pretty well so far, said TAPG driver Mike Donnick. “It’s a good way to get all the guys excited about motorsports and it helps us build a better product. Instead of worrying about a Corolla, a Camry or a Prius, this gets us a little more passionate about motorsport and making better cars.”
Coming home in third, Team Technik HQ Autosports diced with Bullet Performance until Bullet lost an engine. Driver Peter Hopelain explained that their alternator went out and they went through four batteries during the race. Despite the electrical gremlins, they still took home the last spot on the podium in E1.
“I’ll tell you what, E1 is ramping up to just be this hallowed class,” Hopelain said. “We’re an aggressive team and we were pushed the entire time. I love it.”
The E2 class also had its share of tension. Team Creative Strokes had the lead for the whole race. Driver Tim Carman drove the whole race and enjoyed a significant lead for most of it, but with just a half a lap to go, Team Sampson Racing Communications passed Carman to take the lead and the win.
“They did nip me in the end with a half a lap to go,” Carman said afterward. “It was wonderful. It was a great race and a great experience. The first part of the race was kind of hot and then after about the first hour it cooled down and I settled into a groove.”
While trying to catch the leader, Team Sampson Racing Communications was battling fuel problems.
“We just weren’t sure if we should come in and put 10 more gallons in and we would have enough fuel and we wouldn’t have had fuel-pickup problems, or run the tank down to the bottom where we were having pickup problems,” said driver Shawn Sampson afterward. “We did the math and Roman (Vaisman) said stick it out. We had 10 seconds on the other car that we had to catch up on the last 20 minutes and we made it.”
In third, Team Quattro Motorsports development brought home third in an unusual platform for NASA endurance racing: a 2001 Audi A4. In the team’s first endurance race, they took the last step on the podium.
In E3, Team Buzz Bomb Racing and Team ART Racing waged a three-hour-long battle for first. At the one-hour mark, Team ART Racing had the lead. At the two-hour mark, Team Buzz Bomb was running up front. Even at the end, it was close. After three hours of racing, Team ART Racing took first by just more than 9 seconds, with Buzz Bomb Racing in second and Team Need Speed in third.
“Greg was laying down laps that were anywhere from three to five seconds faster ,” said crew chief Justin Ross. “Eventually we caught them going into Turn 1, executed a clean pass, got about 14 seconds up, ran into some fuel problems — it’s called fumes — so he went into conservation mode and was running slower lap times … and we were able to pull it off, and roll in on fumes.” — Brett Becker