Mercer Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup - NASA photoEnlarge Photo
The National Auto Sport Association (NASA) United States Air Force (USAF) 25 Hours of Thunderhill ran over the weekend with 86 entries in six NASA classes. Conducted on the 3-mile Thunderhill Raceway Park road course in Willows, CA (near Sacramento), the race was held under clear and cool skies.
For the third straight year, the No. 75 Mercer Motorsports Michelin Porsche GT3 took the win, with drivers Johannes van Overbeek, Jon Fogarty, Tommy Sadler, Rich Walton and Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler at the controls. The team's sole incident in those 25 hours of competition was slight contact with the R1 class Scion in the waning Saturday sunlight, resulting in a broken right rear wheel.
The Mercer Porsche raced for 691 laps and 2073 miles, with an average speed of 101-mph. Incredibly, they set fastest lap of the contest on their 641st lap at 1:45.036, en route to a 41-lap margin of victory.
"Three in a row for Scott Mercer and the team is great," said former Grand-Am Daytona Prototype champion Jon Fogarty. "He puts together a great team for this event every year. All of our stings were good and we had great weather. Most of the drivers out there were very heads-up," Fogarty complimented, "using their mirrors, which meant no drama for us. We really had a clean run, except for that slight brush with the Scion early on."
The results for Honda Performance Development (HPD), working in partnership with Ohio-based Honda of America Racing Team (HART) didn't quite match expectations, but the 2012 Honda Civic Si entered by the cooperative group was deemed a successful competition debut.
After starting fifth in their E0 class - a field that included a half-dozen BMW M3s and an FFR Cobra Daytona Coupe replica, the Civic ran well through the first quarter of the event. At the six-hour mark, it was sixth in E0 and continued to run without any mechanical issues, HPD said.
Early Sunday morning transmission issues sent the Civic behind the wall for repairs, but the Civic Si returned to competition after transmission replacement and went on to a seventh-place result in class.
'This was an encouraging race debut for the 2012 Civic Si," said Lee Niffenegger, HPD senior engineer. "The HPD-developed parts and K-24 engine all ran flawlessly throughout the event." He noted the transmission issue developed after the equivalent of two Grand-Am race weekends, "which isn't completely unreasonable."
The 24 Hours of Thunderhill has become a cultural event for racers around the country and draws some of the best teams and drivers in the business. It's considered the final event of the competition season and is often the first opportunity to test before the coming season begins.
© 2011 Anne Proffit