AWR Racing would like to congratulate Team MER on their fine effort at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
It’s an MX-5 Cup car that’s been upgraded a bit with a Koni-Challenge fuel cell, RX8 Brakes, Differential, Axles, Hubs and Uprights, and Hoosier racing slicks on 18″ wheels. It ran a completely stock MX-5 engine and transmission!
The winning overall/ES car #19 was Charlie Putman, Charles Espenlaub and Jason Saini. The E1 winning # 29 car was Ken Dobson, Nick Mancuso, Tyler McQuarrie and Mike Harvison. We had three more E1 cars running, with the following lineups: #26: Tim Buck, Nathan Edmonds, Jeremy Barnes and Shannon McMasters; #30 Mike Jenkins, Mark Jenkins and Keith Verges; #31 Jamey Rhoades, Christopher Rhoades, Chris Cunningham, and Jeff Mosing.
The first year was a struggle, with the two MX-5 entries having mechanical gremins and a crash take them out. Year two was better, with one car finishing around 3rd in E1. For 2007, Team MER had worked hard to make sure the MX-5’s would go the distance and it paid off with an E1 win and 3rd overall with Charles Espenlaub, Eric Foss, Jason Saini and Marc Miller driving.
Finishing positions in 2008:
#19 1st in ES, 1st Overall
#29 1st in E1, 5th Overall
#26 4th in E1, 14th Overall
#30 5th in E1, 17th Overall
#31 6th in E1, 20th Overall
Daytona Prototype, Norma M20 Sports Racer, V8 Powered M3 GT car, Vipers, Vettes, Mustang Challenge cars, plenty of high powered BMW’s and Hondas. In fact, the MX-5’s probably ranked 55th of 70 cars in horsepower!
The race started with the #19 entry 9th overall and 7th in E3. The #29 was on the E1 pole, around 22nd overall. Charlie Putman started in the #19, and quickly settled into a nice rythm. The car dropped early, but as the faster cars stopped for fuel the MX-5 moved up the chart. Jason Saini took over for the second stint, with plans to run a double, a bit over three hours total. It would be the story of the day, the car would drop back for a penalty or a pit stop, and just work it’s way back up the chart. The #29 started strong, taking the lead with Tyler McQuarrie driving. He would engage in a battle with the Hooverspeed entries that would last into the final hours. About 8 hrs into the race, it was red flagged due to fog – with the race on an indefinite delay, the teams covered the cars on the front straight and waited for updates. Around 5AM, the race resumed with Charles Espenlaub taking over the #19 car. With a long stop for some mechanical repairs, the team thought they might have lost a shot – but with the DP car falling out, and all the other fast cars faltering, hope was renenewed. With about 4hrs remaining, the V8 powered M3 dropped out, and with under 2hrs to go, the Miller Mustang went out with a problem, giving the overall lead to the #19 car which had been running in 2nd place overall! After solid stints by all three drivers, the #19 took home the overall win, while the #29 car defended last year’s E1 victory with a win an 5th overall.
- Juliann Pokorny team manager, “I’m so proud of our crew – we had such an amazing group, with our core guys and then help from Tri Point and Hypersport crew members – there was some serious talent in the pits! The cars were prepared for the race, and again for the second year in a row we had all five cars finish the race. I can’t say enough about these MX-5’s, to beat all comers at a race like this is a huge accomplishment, and we couldn’t have done it without all the help and support of Mazda, Hoosier Tire and our crew!”
- Jason Saini, driver #19, “What an amazing day – we though we were out of this one, but nobody gave up and we just kept on going – this result far exceeded our goals coming in, and we’re just so thrilled. The Hoosier slicks were just amazing, we had so much grip we could pass anywhere! My teammates both drove flawlessly, and when the car crossed the finish line first, the celebration from the team was amazing!”
- Charles Espenlaub, driver #19, “The team did just a great job preparing for the race – we had the reliability and pace to keep going when all the fast cars started dropping out. Miatas have always been great at endurance races, but to have this win to add to their tally – overall win in basically an unlimited event like this is just crazy!
- Nick Manucso, driver #29, “I was so impressed at the preparation level of the team, they really were ready for this. The car was fast, and handled great and we just needed to keep it on the track. It was a great battle with the other MX-5’s and such a fun event to participate in!”
- Ken Dobson, driver #29, “This is just a great feeling – we thought we might be able to finish on the podium overall, but it was just great to get the class win and be in the top5 overall. All my teammes and the MER crew did a great job, and although the race was shortened it was still a long, hard fought battle! Mike Harvison drove really well, and helped make this all possible so a big thanks to him!”