In a year marred by COVID-related shutdowns in addition to the usual hot-weather break in the late-summer, early-fall racing season in Southern California, 24 WERC racers gathered at Buttonwillow Raceway in October to knock the rust off and slug it out one last time in 2020.
From the comfort of the timing and scoring tower, the action on track looked reasonably under control. The scene out on track was another story. There were offs. There was dust. There were yellows, standing, waving and doubled up with the pace car leading the field.
In ESR, the Team PMG Awareness Porsche 911 was in a dogfight the entire evening with Team Lang Racing Development’s Norma M20 sports racer. Driver Tom Haacker usually iron-mans it through both stints, and drives the whole race, but in October, he turned the car over at the fuel stop to Ross Thompson, who brought home the second stint and the team’s first ESR win of 2020.
“It was great for us. We won and we won our fifth-in-a-row championship in WERC,” Thompson said afterward. “It was like a dirt track out there. There was a lot of dust, a lot of debris, a lot of rock and a lot of cars off, but the car was solid. Our tires were great. Our strategy was great, and the pit stop was fantastic.”
PMG stands for polymicrogyria, a brain development disorder. You can find more information at PMGAwareness.org.
“It was just an awesome opportunity to represent Tom Haacker and PMG Awareness, and have the kids out here to check out the car,” Thompson added. “We’re happy to be on top of the box and get another championship.”
In ES, Team Chill by Strom Motorsports showed no signs of rust, leading the class from flag to flag. The Porsche Cayman GT4 the team has been using all year clicked off lap after lap through all the offs and all the dust to take its third 2020 ES win.
“It was probably one of the craziest three-hour races I’ve ever done,” said driver Brett Strom. “Cars off everywhere, dirt everywhere. That was a gnarly race. A lot of people were kind of lost on track because there was dust all the time, so it was tough putting down consistent laps, but that Porsche is super consistent, so it was pretty fun.”
Co-driver Chris Hill — the C. Hill in Team Chill — has been improving as a driver, with coaching from Strom, and the team wrapped up the ES championship at Buttonwillow.
“Well, with Strom Motorsports, a great team manager, a guy that just works nonstop and a great coach, too,” Hill said. “He’s made me a much better driver than I was. But he’s picked up my pace so much, and I can’t thank him enough.”
One hour into the enduro, Team RK Motorsports TC Design was trailing Team Hemisphere Endurance, but on the same lap. Evenly matched because both teams were wheeling BMW M3s, the E1 race flipped by hour two, but by then Team RK Motorsports TC Design was leading by one lap. By hour three, they had gapped Team Hemisphere Endurance by three laps with two other cars between them.
“We put it on pole, got off to a good start, then we timed that first pit stop really, really well with that yellow, and we got in just before the safety car came out,” said driver and team owner Andy Kwitowski.
The team used a two-stop strategy and three drivers.
“Our middle driver, it was his first time driving a nighttime enduro, so he plugged away much better than we expected,” Kwitowski said. “I got in and dropped his times by about 3, 4 seconds with old tires, so everything went really smooth, no hiccups. It was very dusty, probably one of the dirtiest ones I’ve driven through. By the time I got in, it had thinned out quite a bit, so the traffic wasn’t as bad.”
Team Hemisphere Endurance locked up the 2020 championship at Buttonwillow.
Team HQ Autosport has been a dominant force in E2 for the last couple of seasons, but one hour into the enduro, HQ was in third yet on the same lap as second place Team Bruce X Racewerkz and Team GOneppo Racing’s double-duty Spec E46 car. That order remained through hour two, and when the checkers flew, Team GOneppo had the lead and took the win with HQ not far behind.
“It was very dusty. We had a few sketchy calls out there because of the dust factor, but our drivers just did a really amazing job today,” said team spotter Nolan Sykes. “We were able to drive so quickly that two fuel stops didn’t harm us. I was out there for three hours and it went by in a flash. It was very tense with the HQ car coming up behind us on that last pit stop, but we were able to keep our gap. Peter Hopelain killed it in the first stint and Peter Oneppo brought it home. That was amazing. Those guys can drive.”
Team HQ Autosport notched the E2 championship at Buttonwillow.
Team Krider Racing ran unopposed in E3, unless you factor in the schedule the team had set for itself that day. Driver Rob Krider was racing in Honda Challenge 4, running in the autocross event held simultaneously on the kart track at Buttonwillow and had signed up for the enduro. That’s a lot. He finished and took the E3 win.
It is possible to run an E3S Spec E30 through a three-hour enduro on one fuel stop, but you can’t run the pace you might prefer and it might be good to have a pace car out on track for a while. Some bad luck on the part of your competitors also helps. Team Thundercock Racing did one full stop and one splash and go, and got the break it needed to seal the deal.
“We took off at the start of the race and got a little bit of a lead. We kept it, and fortunately for us, late in the race, our main competitors got a black flag for fueling and they also had an exhaust break,” said driver and team owner Andrew Clark. “It would have been better if they stayed on track and we could have fought to the end, but we were pretty much in command most of the race.”
Team Thundercock also secured the 2020 championship with the win.