Last weekend, Team Racing Bacon took a well-earned 6th place finish in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill endurance race. In only its second year competing at the world’s longest endurance race, the team’s Subaru STI, developed and supported by 034Motorsport, ran strongly through the night to finish the race just 14 laps off the podium. Pro drivers Christian Miller, Robb Holland and Gary Sheehan, plus amateur driver and car owner, Roland Pritzker, ran consistently quick laps even kept pace with the leaders several times in the race.
The result was validation for all of the hard work the 034Motorsport crew put in preparing the car for almost three months prior to the race, testing and pushing the car to find any possible weaknesses and optimize performance. The crew was comprised of Niles Williams, Dustin Harris, Adil Ali and outside crew including Izzy Sanchez, Lars Wolfe, Dave Modderman, Alex Nelson from NRG Motorsports, Joe Silva from Custom Alignment and Keith Andrews from 3Zero3 Motorsports, among others. Although this crew had never worked together as a unit before, they bonded quickly and executed some of the fastest pit stops of any team.
Although the car ran strong all weekend, there were some bumps along the way. Taking the first stint was Christian Miller who qualified the car in 19th place. He worked the car through the pack up into the top 10. Upon his driver change and fuel stop the crew noticed that the front tires were worn to the cords.
Dustin Harris noted, "As soon as we pulled the tires off we saw cords, this had to be dealt with if we wanted to finish the race with enough tires. The team's Continental Tires, which are identical to the ones run in the Grand Am series, have been able to run well over two hours without any issues, so we knew something else was causing the accelerated wear. We quickly determined that too much toe was the culprit and made adjustments to reduce toe to decrease the wear on the tire."
Although the reducing front toe meant that the car would not be set up for optimum handling, extreme tire wear like this would be devastating in such a long endurance race like this. A quick alignment change in the hot pits solved the problem and resulted in more normal tire wear for the remainder of the race.
"After talking it over with the driving staff we all agreed that I would finish out the final stint, there wasn't much to do but to keep the car running consistent laps and to keep it on track which I did. We were outside the range where we could easily catch 2 cars in front of us within 5 laps or so, and the P7 car behind us was about 10 laps out and falling back," summarized Miller. The final laps of the race were uneventful, as much as could be asked for a long race like this.
The only other issue to creep up during the race was with the transmission, which up until that point had been very reliable. At 3AM, with Holland at the wheel, the transmission stopped shifting into any gear but 5th. The team feared that the transmission would go out all together, so it planned a transmission swap. However due to a shortage of STI gearboxes in the US, the team did not have a spare. As luck would have it one of the teams loyal fans had driven his STI to watch the race and gave the crew permission for the team to pull the transmission from his street car to use as a backup.
In a fortunate twist of fate, just as the team was going to call Holland in so they could swap transmissions, the track went full red. "As I sat on track with the car off for over 40 minutes, the trans cooled down and I was able to re-engage 4th gear. As the race resumed I launched the car in 4th gear and began lapping using only 4th and never shifting," said Holland. The team actually finished like this, over 9 hours of racing, lapping only in 4th and running times as low as 2 minutes flat.
Miller continued, "After talking it over with the driving staff we all agreed that I would finish out the final stint, as there wasn't much to do but to keep the car running consistent laps and to keep it on track, which I did. We were outside the range where we could easily catch the two cars in front of us, and the P7 car behind us was about 10 laps out and falling back. The final laps were uneventful, which is as much as could be asked for a long race like this.”
Average lap times for the team were in the 2:02 range, very fast for any car. Gary Sheehan turned the fastest lap for the team with a 1:59.3, with all of the drivers turning fast laps within 1 second of Sheehan’s time, including “amateur” driver Pritzker. Such close ultimate lap times show the true depth of driving talent throughout the entire driver line-up.
034Motorsport owner, Javad Shadzi, concluded, "We are proud to have been this competitive in the longest endurance race in the world in only our second year of competition. The custom Cosworth built engine, the Precision 5857 CEA Turbocharger, the StopTech STR60 Trophy Braking System and all of the other products and systems that 034Motorsport sells to the general public for their street cars, held up wonderfully in our full race prepped STI for the entire 25-hour race. In addition our crew and drivers kicked ass, simply put. We are already making plans to be back stronger for next year's race."