One Car, 25 Drivers, One Hour Each
November 30, 2009 (Irvine, Calif.). Rick Weldon has options for the longest endurance race in America. More than he wants to count. Actually, Rick crunched the numbers to realize that he has over a trillion driver combinations… in just the first nine hours!
Rick Weldon will be managing the driver rotation for the Mazda “25 in 25” team. Mazda, which has the largest pool of road racers in the country, and quite likely the largest percentage of OEM employees with competition licenses, has assembled a very special team to cap off the 2009 season. 25 drivers will take a turn at the wheel of the same car, the largest driving team ever assembled for the annual NASA season ender.
25 in 25
The “25 in 25” team will be racing a Mazda MX-5 Miata that has competed in the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup series with a few modifications for the endurance race. The car and team was assembled with help from Mazda partners at BP, BFGoodrich Tires, and Mothers. This was an “after-hours” project where many of the employee drivers also contributed elbow grease to the car preparation.
The drivers range from Lyn St James, who has multiple class wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona to drag racer turned road racer Ed Bergenholtz who has never raced at night or in an endurance race. Open wheel aces John Edwards, Simona De Silvestro, Dane Cameron and Frankie Muniz will be sharing the seat with sports car veterans Eric Foss, Todd Lamb, Justin Piscitell, Patrick Dempsey, and Jason Saini. The team will also include a few journalists who have competition licenses and experience. It’s a diverse team like no other.
“The idea was generated by so many of our racers hearing about the Thunderhill race and simply wanting to come out and have fun. Make no mistake, the on-track action is very serious, but the atmosphere here is on the sport and having a good time” noted John Doonan, the MAZDASPEED business development manager who spent a great deal of his personal time helping to assemble the team. “It’s the Mazda way to help each other succeed. We’re happy to have so many Mazda employees as well as our partners at BP, BFG, and Mother’s collaborating together.”
The “25 in 25” team will be one of many Mazda MX-5s and RX-8s in the field. 19 of the 72 cars entered will be Mazdas including the defending overall race winners from Team MER.
The MAZDASPEED “25 in 25” Driver Lineup:
Mazda employees: John Doonan, Jim Jordan, Randy Miller, Weldon Munsey, Truman Pollard, and Ken Saward. Jeremy Barnes will be the “super-sub” in case anyone misses their flight to Sacramento.
Mazda racers from other series: Ed Bergenholtz, Simona De Silvestro, Patrick Dempsey, Brothers Mark & Mike Jenkins, and Frankie Muniz.
MAZDASPEED Ladder Alums: Dane Cameron, John Edwards, Eric Foss, Todd Lamb, Justin Piscitell, and Jason Saini.
Media Guests: Dan Edmunds from Edmunds.com, David Pratte from Modified magazine, and Aaron Robinson from Car and Driver magazine
Special guest racers: Deanna Brooks, Jim Holloway, & Lyn St. James.
Mazda Dealer and motorsports supporter: Richard Fisher
The car will also be carrying the names of four MAZDASPEED family members whom we lost in the past year; Carol Tremblay, Neil Warrior, Tom Thrash, and Takayoshi Ohashi.
Rick Weldon, Team Manager: “A normal race classifies winning as finishing first. Winning the “25 in 25” is having each of 25 drivers safely finish their individual stint with no incidents or hiccups. It sounds simple, but we also have several subsets that need to be worked into the equation: BFG tire testing as part of this race, with meaningful results and information to be gained by drivers who have never driven or even seen Thunderhill, drivers who have never driven an endurance race drivers who have never driven at night, and drivers who will not yet have driven this type of car.
Roberts Kukainis, Motorsports Manager, BFGoodrich Tires: “We’ve greatly enjoyed working with Mazda this season on the Playboy MX-5 Cup. Mazda and BFGoodrich Tires have shared great success in endurance racing in the past so this is a great opportunity to begin a new chapter with our latest technology. The BFGoodrich Tires g-Force R1 is a superior tire derived from decades of motorsports innovation, engineering and domination. The BFGoodrich Tires g-Force R1 features the ultimate in DOT technology and delivers the best results on the track. The tread compound offers quick warm-up, superior cornering power and consistent and predictable grip lap after lap. With the ability to be used at different vehicle wheel positions, and rotated in different directions, the g-Force R1 will maximize tread life with an even wear profile for the most possible laps at the track – a perfect characteristic for a 25 hour race.”
Dane Cameron, 2007 Star Mazda Champion: I ran the 25 Hours of Thunderhill last year in a MX-5 Cup car and it had to be the funnest race I have ever taken part in, every time I got out of the car I was smiling ear to ear. Running 25 drivers in a 25 hour race in a single car will be a unique challenge but it is a great group of drivers not to mention people, I cannot wait, it should be an absolute blast! I want to thank everyone at Mazda, BFGoodrich and BP for making it possible and inviting me to be a part of a very special team and program.
Todd Lamb, 2009 SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Champion: “I’m honored to be a part of such a prestigious driver lineup; it is going to be fun meeting drivers from different series and reuniting with drivers I haven’t seen for a few months. Mazda is doing something unprecedented at the 25 Hours, and it is a nice opportunity to pay a special tribute to members of the Mazda family that we have lost recently.”
Ed Bergenholtz, Two-time NHRA Champion: “Bergenholtz Racing and Mazda have been working together for a good number of years now and we have accomplished some pretty incredible things. Being part of the Team Mazda we have brought home two NHRA Drag Racing Championships, created a world-class championship caliber drifting campaign and now, we are venturing into road racing with time attack and the 25 hours of Thunderhill. I really feel that the successes in Mazda Motorsports are based on good people. Mazda Motorsports is also about remembering those who have passed away who are special to the Zoom-Zoom family. I am so excited to be one of the 25 Mazda team drivers, but more importantly, I get the special privilege to race along with “driver 26”. Being invited to hang out and drive with the Mazda family at the 25 hours of Thunderhill is a, once-in-a-lifetime event. I can’t wait to jump in the seat of that MX-5!
David Pratte, MODIFIED magazine: “Last year I drove one of the Hooverspeed MX-5 Cup cars during practice prior to the 25 Hour race. I found the car very easy to drive at the limit, which is a testament to what a well-balanced machine the MX-5 is and how nicely Hooverspeed had their Cup car sorted out. I could have driven that little roadster for hours without any fatigue and with a big grin on my face. I can see why the MX-5 Cup and Spec Miata racing are so wildly popular, because these cars really are hugely fun to drive.”
Justin Piscitell, 2008 MX-5 Cup Shootout Winner: “ I am an Endurance race rookie. I have never participated in a race longer than 45 minutes. Endurance racing is a whole new experience for me. I have never raced at night, which should be an exciting opportunity. Mazda has put together a team of 25 drivers, most of whom drive in different series. I am honored to race in such esteemed company.
Mazda is the brand of choice for road-racers across North America. More than 9,000 grassroots racers compete in various classes with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and the National Auto Sport Association (NASA). Racers who are years away from earning a driver’s license can now begin a professional motorsports careers in the Mazda family. A driver can begin in karts and progress through the Skip Barber series, Club Racing Formula Mazda, professional Star Mazda and finally to Formula Atlantic, all with Mazda. No other car company has ever connected the dots this way.
Celebrating its 40th Anniversary in the United States in 2010, Mazda North American Operations is headquartered in Irvine, Calif. and oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario; and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City
For more information on MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development, visit www.MAZDASPEEDMotorsports.com