It was 12:30 a.m. I had officially been at the track for 17 hours and my body was all but functioning. My hands were frozen from shooting without gloves in the 20-degree weather, my nose was falling off and I was just about positive I had bruised the bottom of my heel due to countless miles of aimless walking in my cheap pair of Vans. Haggard as ever, I scurried back to the hotel to try and snag a few hours of sleep before returning to the track for sunrise, yet as I laid down, all I could hear was the constant roar of race cars screaming through my head. It was finally then that I realized the repercussions of covering such a race were in full effect.
For those of you who don't know, the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill is an annual endurance race running non-stop around the clock inviting platforms of all classes to come take the ultimate test of survival. As eager as I was to begin coverage, I'll have to be the first to admit that it didn't take long for me to realize that solely spectating the race is about as exciting as watching water boil. It's a marathon, not a race, and for every team, simply finishing in one piece was the main goal. Realistically, there are only so many times you can watch a group of 60 cars cautiously go around a 2.5-mile track, but thankfully I was lucky enough to link up with teams Spoon and Lexus for a first hand, inside scoop on conquering the 25-hour challenge.
Spoon Sports brought out their fully prepped, right-hand drive CR-Z for the race piloted by an all-star cast consisting of our good friend, Dai Yoshihara, Spoon sports founder Ichishima San and veteran drivers Naoki Hattori and Hidetoshi Mitsusada. Dividing the sessions by four drivers allowed the team to break up the race through shorter stents keeping the group’s awareness at maximum capacity. Placing 3rd in their division, the team successfully completed a total of 592 laps and clocked a fastest lap of 2:10.873. One of the most notable factors in covering the Spoon team was the fact of how quick they worked as a team. Each driver would help one another in and out of the car, strap and unstrap belts and quickly run off the grid to keep the momentum rolling.
Team Lexus Racing brought out the infamous IS-F CCS-R commanded by a dream team consisting of Jeff Westphal, Ken Dobson and Tom Dyer. Initially starting behind the pack in 14th place, the CCS-R quickly battled into 7th position within the first driver’s stent. Capitalizing on their competitors’ fatigue, the well-practiced team remained vigorous throughout the witching hours bumping up to 5th through the duration of the morning. Minimal mechanical issues sans a cracked axle that was quickly repaired in the pits, combined with overall crew/driver consistency throughout the challenge, amounted to a 4th place finish in their class and 5th place overall allowing the team to successfully and safely complete over 600 laps!