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Friday, January 27, 2012

2011 Thunderhill 25 hours - Winnage

  It's taken me a while, perhaps too long, to sort of assimilate the win and what it means to me. In a word; huge. Certainly my greatest motorsports accomplishment. I say "my" with the significant qualifier that we had a 20 person team that made it possible. It's traditional for a team owner to offer some thanks to the team, "job well done" and all that, after a big win. In this case, it's simple, the team held us together when the shit hit the fan. The team fixed stuff that they hadn't trained for. The team went far above and beyond to ensure we had the best chance of winning. We would not have won if our team had not been the walking talking action heroes they are. There are forum posts sprinkled around the web by team members recalling their stories so I won't even try to tell them all here. Here are at least a few brief insights into the level of commitment and admirable skill displayed by everyone:

Good to the last drop
 The two fuelers, Manny Rodriguez and Murat Guruz were scheduled to switch off roughly 6hr shifts fueling. Early in the race they figured out that they could knock 12~15s off our pit stops by doubling up and fueling together. So, entirely of their own accord, decided to stay up the entire 25 hours in order to increase our chances of winning. Those guys moved 3000 lbs of fuel into the spec 5gal jugs. Filled both cars all week and made about 28 flawless fuel stops during the race for both cars. Not a drop spilled. To see the guys at 3am in full fire retardant fueling gear, helmet on, visor down, sleeping under a blanket in the pit right next to the wall.. inspiring. None of us wanted to let them down.

Hell Hour
  Between about 12:30-1:30am, we had a successive rash of failures and mechanicals on both cars. For an hour our crew was literally sprinting from the pit back across the wall to the paddock spot to perform emergency repairs. Shouted commands, tools clanging, guys diving under cars, frantic calls for spare parts. That some of the mechanics were asleep when the cars came it added to the confusion. Just before the chaos, we at about the halfway point in the race with a unassailable 10 & 12 lap lead over P3. Killin' it pretty much.

  We had a wheel fall off of Enzo after the improperly installed wheel studs sheared off. This after an unscheduled stop for front pads. A few laps after that, Crusher had a big brake fade sending William off the top of T9 onto the hillside. As it turns out, there is an access road there. Good thing because by the time he got the car slowed down, he was about 200' from the track edge. The in car video shows him about 100' up on the hillside above the track. He crept along about 1/4 mile down to T11 to rejoin. A lap later the brakes failed completely, just before the pits. He managed not to stuff it into anything and limp into the pits brakeless. Crew jumping on the hood to stop it.

When the dust settled around 1:30, the two cars were back on track, running fast but about 11 laps down on P1. Crusher spent more time in the pits so Enzo inherited P2.

   Just after the frantic repairs and getting the cars back out, our team collectively had a short phase of well, dejection. It was easy to get discouraged. A big lead evaporated, confidence in our entire effort seriously shaken. Me and a few key members made an effort to rally the guys back on point. The reality was that we easily had enough time to regain the lead considering our pace and track position before the mechanicals. The somber air was short lived. Everyonne quickly realized we were very much still in the race for the win. From there on out we all had this unspoken feeling that we were just plain going to win it. As if the mechanicals were some sort of test we had passed. Are we worthy? Damn straight we are.

In the end, we finished 1-3 in class and 8th overall. What's blew us away was that we beat every other class except ES. Huge.

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