For the second time in three years, RJ Racing (“RJR”) is your 2013 National Auto Sport Association (NASA) 25 Hours of Thunderhill E3 Champion. The near perfect race executed by the RJR team was rewarded with first in the E3 Class, second Mazda, and 16th overall, beating several higher classed cars with their 628 laps completed. The 57 car field took the green flag on Saturday morning for 25 straight hours of racing around the 2.866-mile Thunderhill Raceway circuit.
Holding the title of North America’s longest sports car endurance race, the 25 Hours of Thunderhill is held north of Sacramento in the sleepy town of Willows, California. For the 11th straight year, racers of all levels have flocked to the race known for its unpredictably harsh weather hoping to earn their “I Survived the 25” patch and maybe a piece of hardware. The #23 RJR Mazda Miata earned its first win in 2011. The 2012 campaign was bittersweet as the team earned the title of E3 Western Endurance Racing Champions (WERC), only to be stymied by a blown engine half way through the 2012 25 Hours.
After that disappointment, the team, known for their organization and precision race preparation, narrowed their focus for 2013 to a few select races. With renewed vigor and a thirst to relive the success of 2011, everyone on the team arrived at Thunderhill with their game faces on. The test days leading up to the race were a well planned concert of bedding the race set of brakes supplied by Porterfield Brakes, scrubbing the super sticky Hoosier SM6’s and getting our drivers time in the car. By the qualifying session, the entire five-driver team of John Gibson, Rob Gibson, Jaime Florence, Roger Eagleton and Gary Browne were setting consistent lap times that would put us at the top of the E3 Class. A light rain began to fall shortly before qualifying, and with track temperatures all ready near freezing, the call was made to turn in one good lap and get off the track to avoid possible disaster. This strategy would put RJR 5th in Class on the starting grid with 25 hours to make their way to the front.
The green flag dropped on a beautiful sunny morning, but the race was quickly under a full course caution as an ES car caught fire and came to a rest inside of turn 10. By about the end of the first stint, it was clear that we would be chasing the 949 Racing #05 Mazda Miata the whole race. “The 949 car had unbelievable speed, running race laps about five seconds faster than any other car in class and appeared to have a little more speed if they needed it,” said Team Owner and Driver Rob Gibson. But RJR stuck to the game plan and hoped for the best.
By nightfall, and after a fairly uneventful first half of the race, RJR was running a solid second in class. “The car felt great throughout the race. It was the best braking car I’ve ever raced in,” said Driver Gary Browne. After a long night of slowly losing ground to first place, temperatures in the teens, and consistently losing out under the numerous cautions most teams would have started thinking about consolidating second place and giving up on a win. Not RJR. With the car running perfectly, the drivers performing consistently, and the crew executing the fastest stops in pit lane RJR stuck to their race strategy by continuing to put pressure on the class leader. They plugged away increasing the gap to third place, leaving 949 Racing no room for mistakes–11 laps down is still a close race with five hours left on the clock.
Suddenly, the #05 car came into the pits for an unscheduled stop. As the crew jacked up the car and started manhandling the right front tire it was clear: front hub failure. During the #05’s short stint behind the wall, RJR was able to claw back 8 laps to the lead. RJR was back in the fight.
Then with about three hours left in the race, the #05 suffered a right rear hub failure, sending their car into the dirt in turn 8 with significant damage. They would need to be towed in to make extensive repairs. Meanwhile, the #23 RJ Racing Miata was still putting down fast and consistent times. By the time 949 Racing got back out on track RJR had taken the lead by five laps. With time running out, even with the #05 making a desperate charge, all RJR had to do was keep it on track. Even a late race splash and dash for fuel could not stand between RJR and another 25 Hours of Thunderhill win. Team Owner and Driver John Gibson commented: “That was the best race car we have had at the end of any 25. It could have easily done another 25.”
A post-race technical inspection would disqualify 949 Racing from the race. Officially, RJ Racing would win the 2013 25 Hours of Thunderhill by an unprecedented 19 laps.
Special thanks to our good friends at Porterfield Racing Brake Pads, Hoosier Racing Tire and Exedy USA, and Bonk Breaker Energy Bars.
RJ Racing: firstname.lastname@example.org
www.rjracing.net P: 949-305-3552
Rigid Industries: World leader in cutting edge forward projecting LED technology
www.rigidindustries.com P: 480-655-0100
Porterfield Enterprises: Raybestos endurance race pads and Brembo brake rotors
www.porterfield-brakes.com P: 949-546-4470
Mishimoto Radiators: aluminum radiator, silicone hoses
www.mishimoto.com P: 877-466-4744
Hoosier Racing Tire: R6 tires
www.hoosiertire.com P: 559-485-4612
Mueller Motorwerks: dry cell battery
www.muellermotorwerks.com P: 855-669-7224
Exedy Racing Clutch: clutch
www.exedyusa.com P: 734-397-3333
Bonk Breaker Energy Bars
www.bonkbreaker.com P: 310-315-4129
Race Engineering: endurance-built transmission
www.raceengineering.org P: 704-202-5551
Mothers: Polishes, Waxes, and Cleaners
www.mothers.com P: 714-891-3364
www.borla.com P: 877-Go Borla