Tag Archive for spec miata

2010 25 Hours of Thunderhill – Miatacage.com Preview

The Miatacage.com Endurance Racing Team has won the “21 Hours of Thunderhill” two years in a row – and there isn’t a trophy for that.  The first week in December we will be heading south to do the 2009 result one better and win the bloody thing for a change. 

2009 Post Race Photo - all fingers and toes intact...

2009 Postview

Sean Hedrick (Mr. Miatacage.com) is a longtime supporter of amateur sports car racing, in general, and Spec Miata, specifically.  “The White Car” was built by members of the team with the purpose of winning this race in 2008 – we blew it… up. 

The short version (long version is in here somewhere) is that the throttle body broke while we were leading the ultra-competitive E2 class by what I recall being as much as 5 laps.  By the time we found a replacement we were down 5 laps and not much interested in finishing second.  While 2 laps down, we decided to skip an under hood check to add some oil to the motor which was consuming lots of it.  We don’t know exactly how much oil came out of the four holes made in the block when the connecting rod separated itself from the piston – but it was most of the rest. 

In 2009 we were again enjoying a comfortable 5 lap lead when a rear hub sheered itself in two – yes, that IS weird… the car was towed back to the paddock where drivers Ken Sutherland and Will Schrader made repairs which allowed us to finish – in 15th overall and 2nd place in class E2. 

Putting on the pressure late in the 09 race.

During 2009, I had raced the car a couple of times – so it was already well sorted when it came time to do the Thunderhill preparations.  It really is one of the best Spec Miata’s I have ever driven.  It has a safe cage with a nice roomy cockpit; it’s easy to see out of and is generally comfortable to drive quickly. 

In 2010, the team made The White Car available as a rental (to increase the 25 Hour budget) and it was returned molested to the extent that it needed some real “body shop” kind of attention.  The shakedown that followed resulted in more damage (which was easily repaired) and then the fresh enduro motor nearly suffered a catastrophic failure which required a complete rebuild after just one lap.

Everything is okay now as the team packs for the trip to Willows, California.  Hopefully the strange luck has played itself out and this 3rd time will be a charm.  The team of previous years is mostly intact and the driver’s roster contains only Oregon Region Spec Miata Champions (amongst other substantial accomplishments) – all of them are championship and race winners. 

As last year, drivers Sutherland and Schrader are joined by Jon Davies and newly crowned Oregon Region SM champ Bruce Wilson.  Brian Clemons will again serve as Crew Chief and Carrie Sutherland as Den Mother. 

The entire team has been through this exercise at least once.  Jason Rawlins (the owner of my 2007 Championship winning car) and his wife Cheree will be with us again.  Kevin “Big Hands” Clark and Josh McKinney are back for the second time – this time possibly with Josh’s wife Holli and their newly born daughter (start them young…). 

Perfect Pit Stops in 2009 - The Team Returns

Sam Davies will be joined by her younger sister Claire (neither of them are strangers to race cars, and Dave Sutherland and Ed Pavone (both longtime crew members of team leader Ken Sutherland) will provide “over-the-wall” experience.  In addition Ed brings financial support to the team – you might say he is fully committed to the program… 

I’ll be there to fill in when needed, file and defend protests, annoy competitors and report here on the team’s progress.  If there is any doubt that we race because it’s “hard”, the fact that we are returning again, should put that debate to rest.

Everything I’ve written about our previous 25’s is here.

Oregon Raceway Park – Founders Grand Prix

You wouldn’t think of the Mid-Columbia region as motorsports hot bed, but we have quite a bit going on here (drag racers, circle track, speed record and lots of road racers).  At one time there were six Spec Miatas living within several miles of my home in Hood River (I think there was one for every 1,000 people that live in town)…  And living in Hood River makes us the closest active road racers to ORP.  Several years ago Jonny Davies and I drove out to the field in Grass Valley, Oregon where a race track now exists – If you build it they will come…  

the view of Oregon Raceway Park from the road outside of Turn 2

Back then ORP was merely an inspired field of dreams, but nobody was sure how the venture would turn out – they have now held a sanctioned sports car race.  That is a massive accomplishment.   

activity around the registration trailer

I had planned to drive out to the track on Sunday of the Founders Grand Prix to see how it had all worked out, when I received a phone call.  Holly Remington, who seemingly has had every responsibility at every car club in the Northwest, called to ask if I would drive the Pace Car…  Really?  Wasn’t I recently, banned, fined and then un-banned and then un-fined for some sort of unacceptable behavior..? …never mind that, and could I also bring a Pace Car?  As it was Holly that had asked, I said  yes. 

My first thought was to call Tim Urness at the Chrysler / Dodge dealership in The Dalles to ask if he was interested in being the “communications” guy (and if HE could bring a Pace Car).  Tim is an easily certifiable motorhead and is also the guy who organizes the summer drag races that happen at the Dallesport airport (which is also the location of the top secret Team Hoodwinked test facility).  We’ve been talking about a trip out to Grass Valley, and this seemed like a perfect excuse to go.  Tim called me back from the veranda of a beach house in Virginia to tell me about the 80 degree weather he was enjoying, and the appropriately cooler temperature of the cocktail he was sipping – and, to tell me that he would arrange for the Pace Car.  

The Urness Motors supplied pace car

Tim and Mike (Tim’s brother) had recently taken a 2010 Dodge Challenger R/T with a six speed transmission on trade – he thought that car could handle whatever pacing might be necessary.  And it did.   

There were a couple of notable highlights for me over the course of the weekend.  Importantly, nothing bad happened – although I was “Red Flagged” while giving rides to the Medivac crew.  I, of course, ignored the flag because the man holding it was not displaying it from the proper location…  there are rules about these things and I know better than to disregard rules at a Conference race.   

the medivac paramedic about to go for a ride

It was an honor to be asked to drive the pace car at such an historic event.  And, it was a huge privilege to be able to drive a couple of laps with Bob Caspell (the man who shepherded the track into existence).   

It was fun to take the crew members of the Medivac Chopper on tours of the track and I enjoyed spending some time with Bill Harris (who I know from working at ProDrive) who shared the Pace Car work load by handling communications.   

one of Sunday's races entering the track

ORP will be a great Drivers School / HPDE track.  Not having raced there, I’m not sure how I feel about it as a race track yet.  It is very “turny” with a lot of elevation change – it is certainly technically challenging.  Some tracks are very “racey” (meaning that they practically beg for you to attempt passes) – ORP is not one of those places.  It may be nearly impossible to pass a skilled driver with a “wide” car – we’ll see.   

The setting is spectacular and the weather in that part of Oregon is much drier than on the west side of the state.  It is little more than a two hour drive from Portland – a small price to pay for access to a very interesting race track.   

Well done ORP!!!  

Video from one of the races: