The strategy Friday night was largely the same from team to team in the minutes leading up to the 4:45 p.m. practice and 5:15 p.m. qualifying sessions for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill presented by Hawk Performance. Cars were up on jack stands and teams were waiting for the weather to make up its mind.
The forecast called for the rains to come in during practice, but halfway in, it was nothing more than a mist, and the cars remained on jacks, waiting for the right tire choice. Teams went out on dry tires and intermediates hoping to make the most of a dry or at least a drying racing line around the track, but then just after the 5 o’clock hour the rains set in and began to intensify.
Teams shuffled in and out of the pits to change tires to earn the best starting position on Saturday’s grid. Of course, at the end of a 25-hour race, qualifying position is no more relevant to your finishing position than your car number. However, it helps drivers of faster cars avoid having to dice through slower cars in the early laps, and perhaps a race-ending incident. In a rain-soaked race, that is relevant to your finishing position.
By the time qualifying was over, Team JFC Racing had nabbed pole position in its Lola B12/80 (pictured above), a former SpeedSource Team Mazda Prototype campaigned in IMSA racing just a few years ago.
Knowing the team was going to be starting the race and enduring an evening of rain Saturday night, JFC Racing team manager Brian Roberts was relieved to finally get some rain so the team could judge how the car was going to handle in the wet.
“Qualifying is qualifying. The whole focus is the 25 Hour,” Roberts said. “We thought we were going to get rain all day today and it’s dry the whole day, and we’re like, ‘How do we get ready for a race in the rain when you can’t practice in it?’”
The team put driver Tom Dyer behind the wheel for qualifying. Dyer clocked the only sub 2-minute lap time of all the cars at the year’s race. Dyer has competed in Indy Lights, the NASCAR Southwest Series, the K&N West Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series.
“Tom is awesome. He did a good job. He’s basically relaying a lot of feedback for the guys for the rain driving,” Roberts said. “It’s basically taking the knowledge he has and giving the feedback to the rest of the drivers on what the rain is like. We were going to give all those guys rain time today during the morning practice but it just ended up being dry all day.”
JFC Racing’s 1m59.406s bested Team One Motorsports, which came in second with a 2m00.121s. Turn 3 Motorsport will start third after posting a 2m00.411s.
Rain or shine, the 25 Hours of Thunderhill will start at 11 a.m. Pacific Time Saturday, Dec. 7, and run continuously until noon Sunday. Teams will log nearly 2,000 miles on the 3-mile-long road course during the endurance race.
The forecast is predicting on-and-off showers with strong wind throughout the day and into the night, adding a challenge for drivers.
The 25 Hours of Thunderhill is open to the public at Thunderhill Raceway near Willows, Calif. Watch the live stream at https://nasa25hour.com/