We Finished the 25 Hours of Thunderhill!
I raced in the 25 Hours of Thunderhill last weekend, co-driving the Harrison Contracting Co./Tactical Flight Service MX-5 Cup car with Sarah Montgomery. We were part of the Sick Sideways team, who were amazing to work with.
The event had a lot of big accomplishments: it was the first time Sarah and I have competed in such a long endurance race together, it was the first time Sick Sideways had entered a 25-hour race, and both of the team’s Global Mazda MX-5 Cup cars finished!
Sarah and I got there on Thursday so we could participate in testing and qualifying on Friday. Our goal was to simply get familiar with the track, so we didn’t do too many laps.
The race started at 11am Saturday. I was the second driver in the rotation, which included me, Sarah, Christain Szymczak and Gresham Hamilton. I drove for about 90 minutes, brought it into the pits, and Sarah got in the car. So far, so good!
We got about eight hours into the race, and it was my turn to get in for a double stint, which would be three hours of driving. About halfway through my stint, we lost fifth gear.
We tried to get as far as we could with just third and fourth gear, but it’s a track that uses third through fifth. It was extremely difficult to drive the first 1.5 hours of my stint with fifth, then change my whole driving strategy and just use fourth. It was a challenge for sure!
After we lost fifth, I kept going for 45 minutes before we lost fourth and sixth gear, too. Not only that, but it got stuck in sixth, then I managed to get it into fourth, and then I lost that right as I was pulling into pit lane.
We swapped the transmission and put in a new clutch, which took about 90 minutes and put us a number of laps down at that point. We were just glad we could get it fixed and get back out!
I got to do the sunset and the sunrise stints during the race, so I got to see both of those transitions. The track is pitch black at night – it felt like walking into a haunted house, where you don’t know what’s around the next corner because you can’t see that far! To make visibility even worse, you’re constantly having several high-beam LED headlights from cars behind you shining in your mirror. You have to rely on your vision, which is what we always instruct to our students, and this scenario was a real exercise in that!
We had no problems after the transmission was fixed, and we kept trucking along. Sarah finished the race for us, and both of our cars took the checkered flag at the same time. It was really meaningful to Sarah to be able to do that since we were driving her Mazda.
I’m already looking forward to my next endurance race. Sarah and I will be back together later this month in a race at Sebring!