Three for three-in most sports, if you score 3 successive times, whether it's homers or touchdowns or whatever, you're considered a badass. In hockey they even have a name for the feat: a hat trick.
While there's no parlance that we know of that expresses the same triumph in racing, we think the team from Honda R&D Americas might be good place to start looking for an idiom. Seriously, who better to ask than 3-time class winners in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill?
Now in its 4th year, NASA's season-ending endurance contest again went down at the climbing and falling, 3-mile, 15-turn Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, Calif. Competition began at 11:00 am on Saturday, December 2, and ended at noon the next day, and in between start and finish was a whole mess of nail-biting action. Among the racers, Honda R&D was looking to add to its winning record.
The team fielded entries in 3 different classes, E0, E1, and E2. The TL that won the class in '04 was tapped to run E0 once again, this time as an updated Type S. Their E1 effort had the second place E1 finisher from '04 in an FG chassis Si. Finally, in E2, Honda teamed up with PDQ Motorsports in another '06 Civic. PDQ has won the 25's E2 class for the last two years, and was looking to 3-peat.
In E0, the battle was long and hard. A broken wheel stud sent Honda R&D into the pits early in the event. The TL's knuckle was quickly changed and the car reintroduced to the track.
Another stop was required at around 6 in the evening on the first day to address the Acura's exhaust noise and Thunderhill's rigorous sound requirements. HRDA had used the same exhaust 2 years ago but didn't want to chance it, given that breeching the 98db-limit during night hours was grounds for instant disqualification. The crew replaced the exhaust with a readily available factory version that solved the problem. However, the 15-minute delay pushed them back to about 48th overall, leaving a considerable gap to be made up.
After a relentless stint, the Honda R&D guys were back on top of the E0 charts by hour 14. Then with a 10-lap cushion and about 3 hours left, the TL had an altercation with a slower vehicle. The team decided to pit the car to fix the damaged fender and change the brake pads. Thankfully, the rest of the race was incident free and the Honda R&D team brought home an E0 class win.
The team's E1 Civic-a bit heavier due to new class regs-had its own tribulations. The first came when an errant Miata struck the car as it spun coming over the bypass. The damage was cosmetic, and after a little beating the FG coupe returned to the track.
Later, major issues arose as the Civic's header failed near the midnight hour. Not an easy problem to fix, a spare was on hand and replaced as quickly as possible. However, the parts swap cost the team 45 minutes in the pits. The car returned to the track to assume 5th in class, and clawed its way back to finish 2nd.
Perhaps the most routine effort was the clockwork of Team PDQ Motorsports. The crew at PDQ is no stranger to endurance racing, having already won the 25 Hour in '04 and '05. Mike Quan and team were expected to 3-peat in a brand new car, a whip they received just 4 months prior to the race.
The drivers and crew ran like a seasoned ALMS team. It was the same old 25 Hour story until about 7 Sunday morning, when the Civic came in for a scheduled stop. As the driver went to start the car, the engine would not fire. The crew jumped into action to push start the car, and shortly afterward the pilot radioed in to report symptoms of a dead battery. In quick order the battery was replaced and the car back on track. The PDQ Civic came home to take an E2 class win.
Honorable mention goes out to the rest of the Honda clan that contested the 25 Hour: Spoon Sports and Opak Racing ran a 2-car effort, consisting of an imported Honda Legend (RL) and a Euro Accord R (TSX) finishing 6th in ES and 5th in E0, respectively. Lawrence Hwangs Team Dreams Motorsports returned to give the 25 another shot and finished 8th in E0 in an EP3 Si. Team Fantasy Junction ran 3rd in the E0 class and 11th in E2 in a pair of DA Integras. Team Speedy Motorsports placed 4th in the E0 class with their EK Civic. Finally, Team GOTO Racing finished 10th in the E2 class right behind REC Motorsports, while NN Racing placed 10th in E0.