The No. 52 JFC Racing Wolf, co-driven by IndyCar legend Al Unser Jr. and his son, led the United States Air Force (USAF) 25 Hours of Thunderhill at the six-hour mark.
In the early going, Ivan Bellarosa had two off-track excursions while leading the race but handed over to Unser Jr. still in the overall lead. The two-time Indy 500 winner then posted fast lap of the race so far with a time of 1:37.789. Unser Jr. handed over to his son Al Unser III, after which the team continued to run laps consistently five seconds faster than its closest competitor.
“We are having some slight electrical problems that have taken away the dash, so I really didn’t know what times I was doing,” Unser Jr. said. “The car is running good except for our electrical issues. I hope the race goes a lot smoother. The issues we are having are surprises and the team is dealing with it the best that they can in the pits.”
In the competitive ES class, the No. 00 Award Motorsports Porsche leads the category. Tyler McQuarrie started the car and drove it to the lead in class.
“The start was pretty good,” McQuarrie said. “The polesitter went off the track on the warm-up lap and a few cars got ahead of us at the start, but I was able to get back by them. Everyone was being pretty good at the beginning. I was able to get out in front of all the production cars and make my way to second overall. We are double stinting our Yokohama tires and the car is real consistent.”
In the E0 class, the No. 31 Hankook El Diablo BMW M3 leads the class. Scott Smith started the car for El Diablo.
“I started the race and managed to spin on the opening lap and lost about 20 places,” Smith said. “I was able to recover and make up the positions. We are about five seconds a lap faster than our competitors. I was able to build up a lead and then a caution would come out and they would be back in it. With all of the safety cars it was tough to keep a gap. They are about 18 laps down now and we are hoping to hold the lead. We’ve had some small issues with the radio, but nothing major.”
In E1, the No. 27 Team Honda Research West Acura leads the category. Scott Nicol had the controls at the green flag.
“It was pretty hectic at the start with all of the ES cars,” Nicol said. “There are a lot of fast ES cars and they come up on you really quick. When you come up to slower traffic and you have the ES cars bearing down on you, you just have to figure out where everyone is going. We have a good strategy. We are looking pretty good. We are a little concerned about the Mazda Diesels, they are going a long way on fuel mileage. We are just optimizing our car as much as we can.”
The E2 class was headed by the No. 27 RDR Racing Mazda RX-8. Joel Miller had the controls for the 11 a.m. start.
“The opening stint went very well,” Miller said. “Our goal was to just keep circulating. We ended up three laps up when I handed over to Jeremy Barnes who is clicking away laps. The cool part is that we are ahead of the E1 class leader. On to the end of the night where all of the fun happens.”
In the E3 class the No. 05 949 Racing Mazda Miata leads the Miata packed division. Gordon Jennings had the honors of starting.
“It was great,” Jennings said. “I made a little mistake and managed to flat-spot one of the tires, but we got that changed and I was able to get a personal best time. Even better after my three-and-a-half-hour stint I was in the lead. I am our slow driver, so our fast guys are going to keep it upfront. It is looking good. If the car stays together it is going to be pretty straight forward.”
One of the interesting technology stories is playing out with the three 2014 Mazda 6 SKYACTIV-D Clean Diesels. The team made its first Mazda diesel pit stop around the four mark, while most of their competition had to stop twice.