There have always been rivalries: Yankees vs. Red Sox. Beta vs. VHS. Coke vs. Pepsi. Tom vs. Jerry. In the automotive retail world, that rivalry is Factory Guys versus Dealers. To finally put to bed who’s faster, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) has thrown down the gauntlet, entering three specially modified-for-racing 2014 Mazda6s in the longest endurance race in America, the National Auto Sport Association (NASA)’s US Air Force 25 Hours of Thunderhill.
Taking place on Dec. 7-8 at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, Calif., the twice-around-the-clock-plus-an-hour race pits two teams of Mazda dealers against one team of MNAO employees, along with nearly 80 other teams participating in the event, for massive bragging rights.
“Mazda is a small company, but what has always stood us apart from our competition is that we are a car company full of real car people,” says Robert Davis, MNAO Senior Vice President, US Operations. “Given that we have less than 600 employees and about the same number of dealers around the country, we have a disproportionately large number of employees and dealers who have competition licenses and are real racers. These people spend their weekdays working with cars professionally, just to spend the weekend working with cars as their hobby. To finally put to bed the age-old question of who’s faster, dealers or factory guys, it’s finally time to cut the conversation and put everyone’s talent where their mouth is.”
The three Mazda teams will race brand-new 2014 Mazda6 SKYACTIV-D Clean Diesel racecars. These are not the same SpeedSource cars that won the 2013 Grand-Am GX Manufacturers Championship – these are far-more production-based. Working on nights and weekends over the past three months, an all-volunteer Mazda employee team transformed three brand-new European-specification Mazda6s into racecars ready to contest the event in NASA’s E1 class.
Mechanically, the cars remain nearly stock, but the interiors were removed to accommodate an Anthony Woodford Racing rollcage, a Sparco Pro-ADV racing seat , Safecraft racing seatbelts and plumbed-in fire systems and AIM MXL Pista dashes and data acquisition. Under the skin, the SKYACTIV-D diesel engine (which is fueled by Dynamic Fuels’ unique diesel blend) and six-speed manual SKYACTIV-MT transmission put their power to the ground through custom-designed ProParts USA suspension utilizing Koni dampers and Hypercoil springs, and custom ProParts rear stabilizer bars. Connecting all this to the track are 17×8” Enkei Kojin wheels wrapped in 245/40R-17 BFGoodrich g-Force R1 tires. And when it comes time to slow down, the experts at StopTech delivered their four-piston STR-40 calipers and AeroRotors, backed by custom braided lines.
On the driving side, representing the Dealers in cars 55 and 56 will be Richard Fisher (The Autobarn Mazda, Evanston, Ill.), Joel Weinberger (Continental Motors, Naperville, Ill.), Taz Harvey (Dublin Mazda, Tracy Mazda, Dublin/Tracy, Calif.), Chris Wilson (CJ Wilson Mazda, Countryside, Ill.), John Finger (John Finger Mazda, Greenville, S.C.) and Taylor Hacquard (Wolfe Mazda, Chilliwack/Surrey, B.C., Canada).
The Factory Guys will be in car 70, represented by Randy Miller (Mazda R&D), Ken Saward (Mazda Design), Dave Coleman (Mazda R&D), Nathan Edmonds (Mazda Technical Services), Mike Allen (Mazda Motorsports) and Jason Meise (Mazda Gulf Region).
The three Mazda6s will line up alongside 70 other cars competing in six different classes, as well as 13 other Mazdas. This race, now in its 11th year, attracts an extremely diverse entry list of teams, cars, and drivers, ranging from professionals to club racers, and from Mazda Miatas to Porsche GT3 Cup cars and beyond.
The action will be streamed live for all 25 hours from inside the Mazda6s at be www.MazdaUSA.com\ThunderHillLIVE. Additional live coverage will be posted to the Mazda Motorsports Facebook page, and via the Mazda Racing Twitter account.