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Diverse Grid for 25H Thunderhill

Teams gear up for this weekend’s 25H Thunderhill…

Photo: Ken Stouffer

Photo: Ken Stouffer

The 2015 NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill presented by Hawk Performance will run this weekend at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, Calif. The 13th running of the now 25 hour classic will take the green flag at 11 a.m. on Saturday.

The event will see a field of 63 cars racing in seven classes (ES, ESR, E0, E1, E2, E3, NP01) going twice around the clock plus an hour over the 2.86-mile, 15-turn track located 90-minutes north of Sacramento.

ENTRY LIST: 25H Thunderhill

After two years, with the score tied between the dealers and employees, this year is about the bigger picture of teamwork and debuting the new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Cup race car.

“While we joke about the rivalry between the factory guys and our dealers, the truth is that our success is directly linked,” said Robert Davis, Mazda’s senior vice president of U.S. Operations, of the company’s official four-car 2016 Mazda MX-5 Cup entry.

“For 2015, we are allowing a very select group of dealers AND employees to race alongside each other in the new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Cup car.

“While the development testing by Long Road Racing has been superb, nothing compares to a bunch of club racers beating on each other for 25 hours to really test the hardware.”

The team will race four brand new 2016 Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup spec cars, with the only changes being the installation of additional lights for the very dark Northern California track.

One of the 15 drivers that will be piloting the recently introduced Miata MX-5 is Mazda dealer and seasoned sports car driver Taz Harvey (Dublin Mazda, Tracy Mazda, Dublin/Tracy, CA).

“I have run a dozen or more 24 hour races over the years, but the NASA 25 hours is always special,” Harvey said. “Thunderhill has become my home track, I love that place! My last win was in 2010 in a MX-5. My most memorable was when Roger Foo and I won the NASA Timex 12 hour race in a 120 horsepower Civic thanks to the rain and cold.

“The new MX-5 should be faster than the previous generation as it is lighter and has about the same power. The BMW’s will have horsepower on the MX-5 so we have to beat them with fuel economy, better handling and skill.

“Thunderhill is a fun race with a great mix of cars and drivers from all over the world. The night time running and harsh conditions make it tough and memorable.”

Randy Pobst was a part of the overall Davidson Racing winning team last year and is returning with the same goal this year.

“I am thrilled to be back in the Davidson Norma to defend our overall win last year,” Pobst said. “To win again will take brains, we’ve got the speed. If we push the Davidson Norma too hard, we’ll tangle with slower cars and invite mechanical trouble.

“Racing smart is keeping risk low and having lots of patience. On the driving side we will have to have a lot of discipline finding a pace that’s quick enough with low risk, and the patience to stick to it.

“Our unintentional secret last year was shifter problems early. That issue led us to a minimal-shifting strategy, which I believe was a big part of our mechanical survival, along with terrific prep by team Davidson.

“Our competitors kept waiting for the sports racer to break, which truthfully, they often do, but our well-built car kept right on rolling. It was great to have team owner Bob Davidson take the checkered in the last stint.”

The group at Team Honda Research is back this year with a three-car effort.

“This year we have rebuilt our tried-and-true Honda Civic,” John Whiteman, team leader said. “We will race one Civic along with the two Acura ILX’s that we have raced for the last two years.

“This is an in-house effort comprised of Honda associates from around the world. We work on the cars in our spare time and on weekends. It is great to take a street car and make it race ready to take on 25 hours of great competition.

“Our team is made up of crew chief Mike Aylward and our driver line-up includes Doug Chan, Kevin Boehm, Kazuo Omura and Calvin Tam.”

Jerry Kunzman, NASA executive director, is ready for the event.

“The teams are starting to file in and park, which means our 13th running of the 25 is upon us,” he said. “The Mazda grudge match is back with the all-new Mazda MX-5 and there are great cars and teams in each of the seven classes.

“We have added a seventh class this year with our new NP01 prototype competing. The car is getting rave reviews in the press and I am very interested to see how it performs over 25 hours this weekend.”

Professional drivers listed on the entry include: Al Unser Jr., Ryan Eversley, Kyle Marcelli, Randy Pobst, Bert Frisselle, Dion von Moltke, Colin Braun, Kurt Busch, Johannes van Overbeek, Guy Cosmo, Darren Law, Tommy Sadler, Sean Rayhall, Taz Harvey, Jeremy Croiset, Will Faules, etc.

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