Mazda Motorsports takes on America’s longest road race, once again pitting MNAO employees against dealers.
The National Auto Sport Association’s 25 Hours of Thunderhill Presented by Hawk Performance, taking place this weekend at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, Calif., continues to attract a host of professional racers and factory teams to the longest endurance racing event in the U.S.
Mazda North American Operations has often been among manufacturers fielding teams in the event to test and showcase new products. Last year was no exception, although they approached it with a little twist: The dealers would take on the factory guys in three modified-for-racing-but-otherwise-stock Mazda6s. One car was raced by Mazda employees, while the other two were raced by Mazda dealers. After 25 hours, the dealers earned the bragging rights, scoring the intramural win with a third-in-class finish. But because the factory always claims it’s right, the factory guys are calling for a rematch.
“Who’s quicker, Mazda dealers or factory guys? It was the dealers on top last year, but I’ve told the factory guys that I expect revenge this year,” proclaims Robert Davis, Mazda’s Senior VP, of the company’s official three-car Mazda6 clean-diesel entry. “After 25 hours, we’ll know who’s eating crow, who’s eating crayons and who’s eating the victory dinner. Revenge is expected, or my guys may be looking for new employment!”
The guys driving for their jobs in car 70, are Randy Miller (Mazda R&D), Ken Saward (Mazda Design), Mike Allen (Mazda Motorsports) and Jeremy Barnes (Mazda Public Relations and Brand Experience).
The dealers, though, have a couple of ringers on their side. Competing 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.), Camden Jones (Velocity Mazda, Tyler, Texas), Ben Robertaccio (Morrie’s Mazda, Minneapolis, Minn), Jason Meise (North Park Mazda, San Antonio, Texas) and Daniel Tremblay (representing SpeedSource, the official professional racing partner of Mazda Motorsports, Sunrise, Fla.).
The twice-around-the-clock-plus-an-hour race will be streamed live for all 25 hours from inside the Mazda6s at www.MazdaLIVE.com Additional live coverage will be posted to the Mazda Motorsports Facebook page and via the Mazda Racing Twitter account (@MazdaRacing).
Mechanically, the cars remain nearly stock, but the interiors were removed to accommodate an Anthony Woodford Racing roll-cage, 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 has seen some upgrades since last year, with help from Derrick Ambrose and the team at CorkSport, Mazda performance specialists. A cold-air intake, larger intercooler, aluminum radiator and custom tune should mean the Mazda6s will offer serious performance, as well as outstanding fuel economy, as they fight for the E1-class podium.
As last year, the cars put their power to the ground through a 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.
The three Mazda6s won’t be the only Mazdas in the event. Fourteen others will make up a big chunk of the 56-car field. Most of those will be E2 and E3 Miatas that will line up alongside 56 other cars competing in six different classes, as well as 14 other Mazdas. This race, now in its 12th year, attracts an extremely diverse entry list of teams, cars, and drivers from around the world, ranging from professionals to club racers, and from Mazda Miatas to prototype racers.