Day-into-night endurance racing is never easy. Racers in the Western Endurance Racing Championship know that better than most drivers, but the April event at Buttonwillow threw in a few new twists in the form of cold wind, driving rain and clingy mud.

Conditions had been dynamic all day leading up to the 6:15 p.m. start. Practice and qualifying took place under mixed conditions, but come race time, rain was falling and the track was wet with standing water in places. One look at a Doppler app would tell you that those conditions would change during the race. Tire choice was critical because have to change them during a three-hour race might mean the difference between winning and placing.

That was evident about an hour into the race when the Team Go Go Dog prototype went off the backside of Phil Hill and came to rest so far off track — about 100 meters — that it took rescue crews about 30 minutes to extract the car. They strung together every tow strap they had so they could keep the tow vehicles on the asphalt while trying to pull the car from the muck.

When racing resumed, it was a sprint to the wet and wild finish. Here’s how the classes unfolded at the WERC season opener in April at Buttonwillow.


You would have been hard-pressed to find Turn One Automotive Ligier prototype on track because the team was actually driving a Honda Civic Type R. Once you figured that out, you could see that Turn One Automotive had the E0 class lead at the one-hour mark, but had fallen behind by one lap to the No. 25 Team Honda Research West car two hours in.

Somewhere in that last hour, the No. 25 car had trouble and fell back, leaving Team Turn One to bring it home for the E0 win and fourth overall, just behind three prototypes.

“We overcame a lot of obstacles this weekend and really the team pulled it together when we started the race. I mean it was pouring rain. A lot of standing water, but kept it clean on the start and just really went out there and stayed consistent. I mean it was hard to see really. We kind of ran a hybrid tire the whole day,” said driver Phil Robbins, noting the change from day to night was made more difficult by the weather.

“I’ve managed it multiple times, so it’s interesting, every lap you make, it gets a little bit darker, and I just look for my points every time,” he added. “Over two hours it can get a little disorienting out there, but you’ve just got to look through the turns, and we actually had good lights on the car today. So, today was actually a really good day, kept it on track the whole time.”

Team Steyn Motorsports finished second, with Team Honda Research West in third.


Staffed by a bevy of Honda engineers, Team Honda Research West fielded two teams in the April WERC enduro, one in E0 and one in E1.

Team Honda was up against WERC regulars, Team Land Yacht Racing in its familiar Infiniti G37 sedan, and the “yacht” had the lead at the end of hour one, and they were up by two laps. By hour two, Team Land Yacht had improved its position by seven laps. However, in that last hour, Team Land Yacht entered the pits with problems significant enough that it never returned to racing.

At that point, all Team Honda Research West had to do was keep its nose clean, keep it on track, avoid the puddles, stay out of the way of the prototypes and bring it home for the win. It sounds simple, right?

“I told one of my friends at work that I want to go off-roading with him, but now I don’t have to do that anymore. I’ve got all the mud I need now,” said driver Colin Murach. “My stint started drying up, but there’s still a lot of standing water and mud on the track.  Because it was my first time racing in these conditions, I was just trying to be chill, trying to keep the pace. But yeah, it was fun and mentally challenging.”

Team Land yacht Racing finished second.


A veteran team in the WERC series, Team Norma’s Last Chance did not start from pole, but managed to get around Team Sigier and Team Lang Racing Development before the end of the second hour. Through all the rain and the mud and the cautions, Team Norma’s Last Chance took the ESR and the overall win.

“I think attrition definitely helped us out today, but it was a great race. The guys did a great job with the car and we were able to bring it home,” said driver Phil Fogg. “When the sun went down, it got a little dicey for a little while, and at the same time there was a lot of mud, and that car went off on the big corner over here and it made visibility a little bit tough, but once it got real dark it got a lot better. It did for me anyway.”

Team Norma’s Last Chance also snared the overall win.

Team Intermedia finished second in ESR, 10 laps behind the Norma. According to driver Alex Barron, their Ligier sheared off a stub axle on the left side, which required a tow and a repair in the hot pits, but Team Intermedia still took third overall. Team Lang Racing Development finished third in ESR.


Team Sigier Motorsport had no other cars competing in the GT class, so they focused on the overall win, and they did have the lead at the end of 60 minutes of racing. Campaigning a KTM X-Bow GTX, Team Sigier fell to third overall, some five laps back, but by the time the checkers flew, Team Sigier’s Audi-turbo-five-cylinder-powered KTM had muscled its way back up to second overall, and, obviously, first in GT.

“Yeah, definitely early on it was fun because conditions were obviously pretty wet out there, but when it’s full wet like that, all the drivers, we know what we have and so we know what we need to do to adjust to those conditions,” said driver  Cole Loftsgard. “As the sun started setting, there were areas on the track that were starting to dry out more than others, and particularly as you start to lose visibility, it becomes pretty challenging to navigate those areas that are a little bit more wet than others and also have that mental capacity to keep in your brain that, ‘Hey, next time I come through this corner, it’s still wet there even though I can’t see it until I’m on top of it.’ So, it’s definitely mental exercise for sure, but obviously this car is really fast, and even in the wet, it’s very stable. It’s easy to drive, so KTM does a good job with that. It was a good time. It was fun.”



Image courtesy of HERB LOPEZ

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