Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Thunderhill 25 Hours: Rotek Racing seals Audi’s maiden 25-hour race win at Thunderhill

Rotek Racing Press Release

Rotek Racing sensationally sealed Audi’s first ever 25-hour race victory, taking a commanding and faultless win in the 2013 United States Air Force (USAF) National Auto Sport Association (NASA) 25 Hours of Thunderhill in Willows, California (7-8 December). 

The ‘super-enduro’ – held at Thunderhill Park Raceway, just north of Sacramento – is regarded by many as one of the sternest challenges in North American motorsport, but Rotek had an encouraging start to its weekend on Thursday (5 December).

Rob Huff was first to venture out onto the 4.83km-long Thunderhill Park Raceway in crisp, cold conditions – the Mercury hovered around the zero mark – quickly acquainting himself with the Californian venue and lapping consistently in the 1m43s bracket.

Both Kevin Gleason and Jeff Altenburg – the 2013 Dominican Republic Touring Car Champion – also ran solidly until the striking Oakley Racewear and OCC LASIK-liveried TTRS came to a halt with an electrical gremlin that was later cured with assistance from Audi Customer Racing.

ECU issues curtailed Rotek’s running on Friday (6 December) but, having ironed out initial teething problems, the outfit felt set for the start of the 25-hour enduro at 11.00 local time on Saturday (7 December).

With an eclectic entry of more than 80 cars all vying for space around Thunderhill’s high-speed confines – the track combines three blind crests and boasts an average speed of over 100mph – and an 80 per cent chance of snow on Saturday, traffic and the weather dominated conversation.

However, the predicted winter storms failed to materialise and Huff – the 2012 FIA World Touring Car Champion – completed the initial stint under clear blue skies, recording a best time of 1m45.491s on lap three and battling his way from ninth to first during the opening laps.

A straight-line deficiency was negated through the corners although exceptional fuel consumption was the TTRS’s best asset and allowed Rotek to run considerably longer between stops than its nearest competitors.

Huff spent his initial two-hour stint embroiled in a frenetic fight with the Barrett Racing and TruSpeed Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entries, the Factory 48/Crowdstrike Radical SR3 and Team Quick Racing Products’ Superlite SLC, while carefully negotiating slower-moving traffic.

Gleason picked up the baton and ran consistently during two double stints, while American tin-top star Altenburg admirably fought illness and sub-zero night time temperatures during his outings.

Roland Pritzker, meanwhile, faced the perilous task of piloting the TTRS as day merged into night and night into day, but proved to be a master of adaptation and lapped competitively as light fluctuated despite a notable lack of practice time.

Finally, a valiant effort from Robb Holland ensured Rotek Racing held second place for much of the night, until Team Quick Racing Products surrendered the lead with terminal steering problems during the 18th hour.

As the prototype contingent – originally regarded as Rotek’s stiffest opposition – fell out of contention, the GMG Racing 1 Audi R8 LMS emerged as a strong threat in the latter stages after a determined and persistent charge up the order.

However, faultless drives during elongated stints from all five of Rotek’s top-line drivers helped the Nurburgring and Sonoma-based team draw out a 30-lap lead with three hours to run.

Huff completed a nail-biting final double stint and therefore had the honour of bringing the fast and dependable Rotek Racing Audi TTRS across the finish line after 705 tours of Thunderhill Park Raceway.

"It’s a remarkable achievement and to win the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill with such a huge margin is just unbelievable,” said an ecstatic Holland. I must thank the German and American crews and all of our drivers for their amazing work throughout the weekend – it’s such a relief to finally get the job done after so many years of trying and it’s particularly satisfying to give Audi its first ever 25-hour race win!

“It was a struggle on Friday. We had an ECU problem, the car didn’t run all day and we missed qualifying. It affected our seat time, so we came into the race with a real conservative strategy. We just wanted to go out and run fast laps. We knew we would be consistent and that some of the other teams would have problems.  The Audi TTRS ran great throughout, the drivers all drove faultlessly and we ran a textbook endurance race.”

For more information on the USAF NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill, please visit the official www.nasa25hour.com website.

And more for on Rotek Racing, visit the official www.rotekracing.com website, ‘like’ the team’s Facebook page or follow @rotekracing on Twitter.

Photo credit: BAM Motorsports Group