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25 From The 25 Hours of Thunderhill

I have participated in, or photographed, hundreds of races over the years, but this was a first.  The first time I’d ever gone to an endurance event with the intention of staying the duration.  Not just the race itself, but practice and qualifying before, and the awards presentation after — the whole nine yards, the full monty — whatever you want to call it.  What I call it is a long weekend at the track.  I’m not complaining.  It beats the heck out of my other option…sitting in my cubicle at my “real” job.  An existence I wouldn’t wish on my least favorite people.  Come to think of it, I’m already guilty of wishing it on my least favorite people.  A lot, actually.  Whatever.

So this was my first endurance event and I was pretty excited for it.  I even decided this would be a great opportunity to break in the newly acquired My Life at SPEED, Solano Speed Shop, mobile headquarters.  Nothing fancy – a small Coleman tent trailer that was a recent hand-me-down from my Dad.  Pretty cool.  And better than paying for a hotel room for a few nights that we’d probably spend a scant few hours in.  And WAY better than sleeping in the truck.

We showed up early Friday morning and get our trailer set up in a prime location.  Just a handful of steps away from the short chute between turns ten and eleven, we were home.  Time to get to work.  A short few hours into the morning and we’d gotten camp set up, had credentials in hand, and were walking through the pits in search of the next interesting shot.  Checking in with old friends, and trying to make few new ones.  This is my idea of paradise.

25 hours of racing, plus another hour of qualifying, means plenty of opportunities to get some great photos.  And My Life at Speed photographer Eric Gearhart, Larry Chen of Speedhunters fame, and Lifeblasters’ own Andrew Bohan got plenty.  I put on my favorite “pro shooter” disguise and did my best to keep up with this most impressive, and exceedingly talented group of REAL professional photographers.

Here are the favorites that I took at what has to be one of the most interesting, and enjoyable races I’ve ever had the good fortune to attend.

I’ve made no secret that Robb Holland is a favorite of mine, not to mention a good friend.  Luck would not shine on Robb and his teammates this weekend.  A gearbox failure (specifically a seal in the box) forced an early retirement. I’m not going to lie, my mood changed considerably after the Audi made it’s way back to the pits. Expectations were pretty high for this car, and seeing it parked so early gave me the same disappointed feeling I got when my beloved Rangers lost the World Series…twice.

The Audi TTRS.  This happens to be the only copy ever let out of Germany.
The Audi TTRS. This happens to be the only copy ever let out of Germany.

One of my absolute favorite car’s the 1969 Datsun 510.  The Team 510/Dublin Nissan entry looked great here in qualifying exiting turn 8.

TheTeam 510 / Dublin Nissan entry.
TheTeam 510 / Dublin Nissan entry.

The Hoverspeed Miata basking in the glow of the headlights of the car following just behind.

Glow of sunset, glow of headlights
Glow of sunset, glow of headlights

Race cars streaking by as the sun set on Friday evening qualifying.

Sunset on Thuderhill.
Sunset on Thunderhill

I love logos.  And this was one of the coolest.  The Fiat 500 Abarth from Rimicci Corse had it’s share of trouble over the weekend.  Including a roll over in practice.  And yet, it still managed to finish the grueling 25 hour race.

Logos are cool...
Logos are cool…

Formula Drift standout, Tyler McQuarrie, and his teammate discuss strategy as they practice driver changes on Friday afternoon.

Tyler McQuarrie
Tyler McQuarrie

The Motorsport Solutions GT3 cup car getting up on three wheels here during the last practice Friday evening.  The 64 car would run well and even contest the lead, but would be forced to retire with just a few hour to go.

Three legged racehorse
Three legged racehorse

A beautiful sunset colored the evening sky on Friday.

Prototypical sunset
Prototypical sunset

Robb Holland is all smiles on the grid.  Just minutes to go now before the race and the Audi team is confident.  Robb is no stranger to endurance racing, or the 25 hours, having raced here last year with teammate and Owner of the Audi, Roland Pritzker.  Look for a feature next year on the new venture Robb and Roland are putting together. You’ll be impressed, and entertained!

Touring car driver Robb Holland.
Touring car driver Robb Holland.

Finding interesting locations to shoot from at Thunderhill aint’ easy!  Who knew up a tree would be an option.  The Audi getting light over the bypass at turn 5.

I think that I shall never see, a Poem lovely as a tree...
I think that I shall never see, a poem lovely as a tree…

Ahhh, the gentlemanly nature of endurance road racing.  Well, except that.  Here James Stevens in the Achilles Motorsports/Hoosier Tire BMW E46 gets a salute from a fellow driver for a fine pass.  James admits he used the Miatas to set a pick on the Acura coming out of the 11-12-13 complex.

Hi there!   Nice work!
Hi there! Nice work!

Shortly before being forced to retire, the Audi was picking off other cars with relative ease.  Seen here coming down the back stretch under the foot bridge.

Yes...I'm quick.
Yes…I’m quick.

A pair of Miatas playing a close game of follow the leader through 14 and 15.

One Red Miata...ah, ah, ah...Two, two Red Miata...
One Red Miata…ah, ah, ah…Two, two Red Miata…

The Hankook Tire El Diablo BMW M3 is hooked up going through 14 and 15.  Look closely at the right front tire…yes, it’s well off the ground.  Yikes.

Hankook Hook and go!
Hankook Hook and go!

Who wouldn’t like the look of the Factory Five GTM speeding its way up the hill towards turn 9?  Super-slick and making a beautiful noise, this car was one of my favorites.

Sexy. Slick.  Quick.
Sexy. Slick. Quick.

Tyler McQaurrie…Driving his car alone in a field.  The sun begins to set on Saturday.

The double-ott with a clean cushion ahead and behind.
The double-ott with a clean cushion ahead and behind.

The #00 Motorsport Solutions/Ehret Family Winery Porsche and the #18 Davidson Racing RCR Eagle battle for position through turn 14.  These two would spend quite a bit of time filling each others rear view mirrors.

The mandatory "glowing rotor" shot.
The mandatory “glowing rotor” shot.

The Lynam Racing Chevrolet Silverado had some serious heart-burn spewing from the Jaeger bottle all night.  This two man team (yes, just two drivers to cover 25 hours), would lead the race for an impressive 8+ hours overnight.  A few problems late would cost them the lead early Sunday morning.

Now that's a fire!
Now that’s a fire!

Night time repairs always bring out the big hammers.

Is that hammer for the engine, or the trans?
Is that hammer for the engine, or the trans?

The #39 Miata from A+ Racing was forced to swap an engine in the wee hours after a rod did it’s best impression of Harry Houdini.  The result was a block with a sizeable picture window.   The new power-plant showed marked improvement over the one that had the big hole in it.

Miata wanna new bullet.
Miata wanna new bullet.

Late night stint…in the bag.

Refreshing...
Refreshing…

The 00 leads a pack and the race on it’s way to the overall victory.  If you’re wondering where all my awesome sunrise shots are…yeah, I was sleeping.  I woke up briefly at sunrise and saw an incredible orange sky…and 15 photographers all huddled in the infield jockeying for position to get the awesome “sunrise behind the car” shot.  Seeing that they had it well in hand…I dragged my tired ass back to bed.

left, right left...and relax...but just for a second.
Left, right left…and relax…but just for a second.

Our favorite little Fiat crests the hill through the chicane.  Fun car to watch…really fun to photograph.

You can't help it...
You can’t help it…

And there she is again…coming down the hill from 9, into turn 10.  Coming or going, this little car is pretty cool.

And now from the front...
And now from the front…

It was all down hill from here.  Hiked around the track a bit more, on my very tired feet, then retreated to the media center to relax before the checkers, and finally the awards presentations.  Here’s my last fun shot of the day.

I'll leave you with this.
I’ll leave you with this.

I had a great time out at the race.  As I mentioned, I was pretty bummed to see my friends in the Audi not finish well.  I”m hopeful that Roland, Robb, and the whole team at 034 Motorsport will decide to bring the Audi back next year.  And I certainly hope I’ll be here to see it.  Thanks to everyone at the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill.  You put on one heck of a show.

Written by Ken Stouffer

Ken Stouffer

I've been around some form of racing since I was a kid. First hanging around Ascot in Southern California. Then, after moving to Texas as a teen, I got hooked on drag racing and did that for almost fifteen years. In between I have raced Dirt bikes and Quads.
2011 Marked my 8th and final year racing up Pikes Peak: Five in the Pro Quad division and three in Time Attack. Future racing plans are in the works, but until then I'm at the track shooting for My Life at Speed as much as I possibly can.

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