- Team Honda Research-West builds massive E0 Class lead in opening 12 hours, recovers from transmission issues to finish third
- Tom O'Gorman claims E0 Class pole in #18 THR-W Honda Civic Type R
- #17 THR-W Honda Civic Type R runs second before retiring with brake issues
Team Honda Research West – a group of Honda associates from Honda who race and crew in their spare time – claimed a third-place finish in the E0 class for the Honda Civic Type R at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill after a tumultuous race that featured constantly-changing weather and track conditions.
In qualifying on Friday, Tom O'Gorman earned the class pole in the #18 Civic Type R, one of two Civic Type R's being fielded by THR-W in this year's premier National Auto Sport Association (NASA) endurance race. This year's event was the 18th running of the 25-hour contest held at Thunderhill Raceway Park, a fast and challenging three-mile road course near Willows, approximately one hour north of Sacramento, CA.
Rain and gusting winds presented additional challenges to the 45-car starting field, but the #18 THR-W Honda dominated the first 12 hours. The driver lineup of Mike Tsay, Corey Taguchi, Calvin Tam, Kevin Boehm, and O'Gorman built an impressive, 19-lap class lead as well as running in the top-10 overall.
Meanwhile, the #17 THR-W Civic Type R moved from fifth in class to as high as second in the hands of drivers Doug Chan, team Project Leader Lawrence Hwang, Todd Chiappino, Alyn James, Jeremy Lucas and Scott Nicol. But in the eighth hour of the race, just as the #17 Honda closed the gap to second, brake issues resulted in THR-W retiring the car.
The #18 Honda continued to lead the E0 class with flawless pit stops as night fell, even as track conditions continually changed from wet to drying-but-damp to wet again, with mud on the trackalso becoming a factor as more rain fell. But in the early hours of the morning, drivers reported the loss of fourth gear. After several hours of running with less than the full complement of gears, the THR-W team made a decision to take the car behind the wall and change out the transmission.
The resulting 90-minute stop for repairs took THR-W out of the fight for the class victory, but team members continued the battle, returning to the track just after dawn and turning some of the fastest laps of the race in class to claim third place at the finish.
Lawrence Hwang (Project Leader, Team Honda Research-West and driver, #17 Team Honda Research-West Honda Civic Type R) on this weekend's 25 Hours of Thunderhill: "It was a hard fought, well-earned podium finish with teamwork and determination from a crew of global Honda associates. We chose to focus on building the lead on car #18 after the mishap of #17. It was one of the most grueling 25-hour racing conditions our team has experienced and overcome."
Tom O'Gorman (Driver, #18 Team Honda Research-West Honda Civic Type R) finished third in E0: "These were, by far, the toughest driving conditions I've ever seen. By morning, there was a single dry line. Offline, it was either wet, muddy or both! You had to stay in that one dry lane or else you had no grip at all. So, you'd end up with these crazy 'conga lines' of cars all following one another. It was something else. But our car was fast. We had a huge lead in our class and were running 10th overall when we lost fourth gear just past the 12-hour mark. Eventually, we had to replace the transmission, and that put the class win out of reach for us. But the THR-W guys were great, and never gave up the fight. We're all exhausted, but very proud of our third-place finish."
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