Dec 3rd – 5th 2010
We teamed up with Atlanta Motorsports Group (AMG) to run the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. AMG has campaigned the championship wining car in the SCCA Playboy Maxda MX5 Cup for the past two seasons. This presented a great opportunity to work with a professional top level team and gather more information on what is needed to run in this series.
Matthew Wolfe ran the E2 MX5 Miata in practice to get use to the feel of the car. It was showing snap over steer at first which seemed odd but not being one to blame the car Matthew continued to adjust his driving to get the most out of the car. In the few short sessions he was able to improve his lap times by 8 seconds and was running the same lap times as the other drivers with more seat time in an MX5 Cup car.
We missed qualifying due to a stuck throw-out bearing so we started from the back. Bobby Carter, SPEED World Challenge veteran and former SCCA Pro Miata Champion, took the green and quickly moved up to first in class. 20 minutes in he was reporting a soft brake pedal which caused a quick trip through the dirt. He stayed out to determine where the issue was so we would not lose time in the pits. After a few more laps he determined it was getting better and he could drive around it for the time being. After this, the first few hours were going smooth as they should in a 25 hour race.
Matthew got in for his first stent and immediately noticed the pre-race adjustments had removed the snap over steer the car was experiencing the day before. On his third lap the BMC Tools sports racer made a low percentage move out of the chicane and attempted a pass on the outside on the corner exit. Matthew stayed on line but the passing car took off his passenger side mirror. As the sports racers are lower that the trunk lid of the MX5 on a straight and they were going up a slight hill with the sun glare in the rear window early in the race we are still not sure why the driver would take such a chance. Fortunately our car was still running great so we continued on. The rest of the stent went well with no incidents.
As Matthew was about to come in for fuel and a driver change one of the Honda CRZ race cars flipped over causing a full course yellow. Most of the time this would have been good timing but at this race the pits are closed during a full course yellow. As Matthew entered turn 14, he noticed all the cars were dead stopped. Since there was not a red flag out this led to a few tense moments while he waited for everyone to stack up behind him. Luckily everyone was paying attention and there were no incidents. The driver at the front finally started moving and we continued to circle the track as you would expect during a yellow flag. As we rounded turn 2 everyone started to stack up looking at the accident. We expect this rubber necking on the freeway but not on the race track. The Spec Miata behind Matthew must have been looking to long because he narrowly missed our MX5 and ended up hitting the fire truck. After this excitement Matthew went back to fuel conservation mode and continued to drive around the track in 5th. As we continued to circle the track under yellow the concern that we would run out of fuel kept escalating. As Matthew came around turn 8, about half way on the track, the fears became reality and the car ran out of gas. Matthew quickly pushed in the clutch and crossed his fingers that the next hill, turn 9, would not bring him to a stop. Fortunately AMG had the car prepped perfectly and the car coasted all the way to pit lane, where the crew had to push it the rest of the way. We pushed the car behind the pit wall where the missing mirror was replaced and the driver change was performed. The car was then pushed back to pit lane, refueled, and sent on its way. This was definitely an exciting first stent for Matthew and fortunately we did not get any penalties for coming in to pit lane to early.
Not too long after Matthew came in the forecasted rain started to fall. There were a few tire changes to wets and then intermediates as the rain could not make up its mind. Everything was going smooth until a trophy truck and a Ford GT started to spin in front of our car. Scott was not able to avoid them and ended up taking out 3 of our 4 add-on lights and half way blocking the passenger side headlight with the bumper cover. Luckily the damage was cosmetic and we could continue.
Matthew got in for his night stent, the first time racing at night, with less than optimal lighting. Luckily there was enough light to see where the track was and everything went well. About half way through the stent the rain picked up and made things slick for a while but the stent was otherwise non eventful, the way we like it.
As the sun rose we found ourselves in a battle with the Hover Speed Miata. We were 5 laps down and making up ground. Our team did receive a penalty for passing under yellow which didn’t help. As the Hoover Speed Miata was putting in their best drivers for the end of the race they started to notes things were not working right with the car. Around hour 23 they retired with a blown engine.
As Matthew got in the car for the final stent we were 5 laps up on the second place car. The track was starting to dry and the lap times were falling. Matthew was not pushing as fast as the car would go as he was making sure that we could finish the race. As he came around the 2nd place car to put him another lap down he knew he was running fast enough to keep the lead, and that was all that was needed. As Matthew rounded the final corner for the last time all the teams were lined up at the wall cheering the drivers on. As he passed the checkered flag he locked up the win in E2 at the 8th annual 25 hours of Thunderhill.
Matthew Wolfe would like to thank AMG for the invitation, and putting together a great car and winning team. He is looking forward to racing with the AMG team in the future.
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