Sunday afternoon at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, California, Flying Lizard Motorsport and Toyo Tires again clinched the overall title at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. The No. 45 Audi R8 LMS earned its third consecutive class and overall win at the endurance event, completing over 2,100 miles. The No. 74 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport also earned its class win, making Sunday’s three-peat a double race win event. The team also beat the all-time record of 761 laps by completing 780 laps.
“What an amazing weekend,” said Marc Sanzenbacher, senior manager, motorsports, Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. “It was our third consecutive overall race win with Flying Lizard Motorsports in our Audi R8 LMS Ultra and there were Toyo Tires shod vehicles on the top step of four NASA 25 Hour race classes. I think we have proven once again that the Toyo Proxes family of tires is the only choice for those who are serious about winning.”
After winning the 25 Hours of Thunderhill together in the same car for the last two attempts, this year Darren Law and Johannes van Overbeek ran in separate cars, with Law staying in the Audi R8 LMS, and qualifying on pole position in the ES class, and sixth overall. In the Toyo Tires GT Challenge class, Johannes van Overbeek qualified the Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport in first, 18th overall. Two cars spun during the pace laps, moving both cars up two positions before the green flag. Law and the Audi kept third position as van Overbeek and the Porsche jumped from 18th to 12th in the opening lap. By lap two, van Overbeek climbed to ninth overall, retaining the GT Challenge class lead. Both drivers ran double stints, with Darren Law and the Audi R8 climbing into the top three, and van Overbeek cracking into the top ten. Tom Haacker and Craig Watkins were the next pair to take over, each maneuvering through traffic as they climbed up the charts. Haacker maintained the one lap lead he held in class over the #73 Calvert Dynamics Porsche as he climbed to the second overall position.
After starting his stint in the Audi R8 LMS in second, Nate Stacy wasted no time climbing to the overall lead in lap 153, just before the five hour mark. Stacy dug in, complementing the team on the Audi’s set up and choice of Toyo Tire pressures and compound. As dusk settled over Northern California, Stacy extended the Audi’s lead to three laps. Craig Watkins and the #74 Porsche maintained the class lead, finishing his stint in tenth place overall. Mike Hedlund took over at dusk and quietly brought the Porsche up two more positions as the leaders completed 200 laps.
It was at the 200 lap marker that the pace car broke down during a caution period, providing entertainment as the darkness settled over the track. The field went back to green and raced into the night. As Sean Rayhall led the ERS class in the No. 5 Ryno G57 Ginetta, he charged through the field, coming within a lap of Stacy. Stacy finished his stint in the lead, and pitted for Charlie Hayes to turn his first laps. The Ginetta took the overall lead and the prototype pulled away, leaving the Flying Lizard Audi to keep the ES class lead while charging after the overall lead. In the ninth hour of racing, Hedlund bought the #74 Porsche to eighth position, and Ross Thompson took over with 30% of the race complete, climbing to seventh overall before the conclusion of his stint.
The pair of Flying Lizard Motorsports and Toyo Tires led their classes into the night, undergoing fifteen hours of night racing. At the fourteen hour mark, the No. 73 Calvert Dynamics Porsche took the ES class lead, moving the Flying Lizard Audi to third place overall, while the No. 74 Porsche fan just three positions behind. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the Flying Lizard Audi took the lead back from the Porsche, creating a twelve second gap before pitting for a standard brake pad change, giving the position and a lap back to the Porsche. In the 3:30AM pit stop, the Audi beat the competing Porsche out of pit lane, gaining a lap back on the class leader. The Audi continuously put in competitive lap times, and an hour later, Charlie Hayes took the ES class lead back, with 545 laps complete.
At 4:45AM, the No. 5 Ryno prototype pitted with mechanical trouble, and came into pit lane for lengthy repairs. The Flying Lizard Audi quickly made up the two laps necessary to obtain the overall lead, but a mechanical issue brought trouble for the sister Porsche forcing the team to take the car behind the walls for repairs.
The sun rose over Thunderhill Raceway with five hours remaining, and the Audi worked to keep its five lap gap over the #73 Calvert Porsche. The Flying Lizard Porsche rejoined the race in tenth overall, still leading the GT Challenge class.
After 25 grueling hours, the Flying Lizard Motorsports / Toyo Tires Audi R8 LMS led the field to the checker flag, earning its third consecutive win at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. The Audi crossed the finish line alongside the team’s Porsche, each securing their own class wins. The pair of class wins marked Flying Lizard’s 32nd and 33rd wins, and 155th and 156th top five finishes in 155 races since 2004. With the pair of victories, Flying Lizard closed out the 2017 season, with the 2018 season plans to be announced at a later date.
Darren Law | No. 45 Audi R8 LMS
What an amazing race for us, it isn’t easy getting through 25 hours of racing and to win this event overall for the 3rd year in a row shows the ability of our organization. I really had a great time driving this weekend, the Audi R8 LMS was on rails, not only was the car preparation great but the Toyo Tires were amazing, you could place the car anywhere on track, we were double stinting tires throughout the night and able to keep the same pace as a fresh set, it just made it a lot of fun. None of my co-drivers put a wheel wrong the entire race and our car came through without a single mark on it. I am also really proud of the team and the extra effort we put in together for an entry for the inaugural Toyo GT4 class with the Porsche Cayman. Johannes, Mike, Ross, and Craig drove a flawless race and provided once again a winning effort for this class as well. Thanks to everyone involved!
Tom Haacker | No. 45 Audi R8 LMS
The team had one goal in mind: A third consecutive overall win at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. The focus was set and carried out with incredible precision and commitment from top to bottom. I want to extend a huge thank you to Marc and Toyo Tires for the opportunity and their equal commitment to the goal. What an incredible experience!
Nate Stacy | No. 45 Audi R8 LMS
It was a great race, and the team worked flawlessly. My teammates on the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports / Toyo Tires Audi R8 LMS were great to work with!
Charlie Hayes | No. 45 Audi R8 LMS
This was one of the best weekends I have had driving. We had a solid car that could have ran this race straight out of the trailer. The crew did phenomenal pit stops and drivers did not put a wheel wrong. It’s crazy to get a taste of driving a true GT3 car. It was so much fun to drive and at this race it’s like playing a video game with the overtaking.
Johannes van Overbeek | #74 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport
Flying Lizard and Toyo Tires is becoming synonymous with success at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. This year marked a new challenge for me driving the Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport on Toyo RR DOT tires. It’s a new class concept for this event that should only grow due to the durability of the Toyo RR tires and the relatively low price combined with the ubiquity of GT4 cars.
Craig Watkins | #74 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport
Any long endurance race is a lot of work, for everyone involved – there are no shortcuts. For this year’s 25 Hour, the Flying Lizard Motorsports crew did their usual thorough job and gave us a solid and fast car to compete with. I have to admit working with the FLM crew as a driver was a good as it was being their engineer, and I knew the protocols and what to expect. Thomas Blam was excellent on the radio with traffic and strategy and the crew had perfect pit stops time after time; Crew Chief Matt Barbaree even remembered to give me the piece of coffee candy I wanted at each fuel stop! We had a good run, no on-track incidents, no penalties of any kind and my three other driving teammates all got along as though we’d raced together for years. We all liked the car’s behavior, which is easy to do with a Porsche. My thanks goes out to every member of the Flying Lizard team, Toyo Tires and our other sponsors, and to NASA for putting on a tough but very well-run event. Winning is definitely a cool thing!
Mike Hedlund | #74 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport
Driving with Johannes, Craig, and Ross was a lot of fun! As always the entire Flying Lizard crew did an impeccable job getting us ready for the race and running the car for 25 hours straight. Due to the excellent fuel economy of our Porsche Cayman, our driver stints were in the three to four hour range when double-stinting, which we all did for the entire race – my co-drivers are beasts! It’s a shame we had a small hiccup with a mechanical problem on our car at the end of the race, but I think we showed the new Toyo Tires GT Challenge class has the ability to mix it up with the faster classes while being economical on the tire budget! It was great to be a small part of the Toyo Flying Lizard team executing a three-peat and I hope we can get the gang back together next December!
Ross Thompson | #74 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport
Thank you to Darren Law and the entire Fling Lizard Toyo Tires crew for this past weekend’s efforts at the 25 hours of Thunderhill. I had awesome teammates, we had great pit stops, and a great race strategy for our Porsche Cayman GT4 thanks to Thomas Blam. We had great pace throughout the first 20 hours of the race which earned us P6 overall. Unfortunately, we had a mechanical issue that put us behind the wall and lost about 20 laps, but fortunately, we were able to score a class win in the inaugural GT challenge class.
Source. Flying Lizard Motorsports