The 25 Hours of Thunderhill resumed on the first weekend in December after skipping the 2020 edition. The usual race distance was shortened by overnight fog that halted racing for 14 hours. While a Radical SR3 won overall, a singe 2008 Spec Ford Mustang represented the blue oval. DIG Motorsports entered the car with four drivers and came home second in class to a Honda Civic Type R.
Memories of a very wet and chilly 2019 race were still vivid for many in the paddock and they came prepared for anything and everything. Teams constructed pit areas with walls and heaters. Crews came with layers of clothing. Cars were prepared with lessons learned after rain-induced issues.
Mother Nature had other ideas. While she brought sunny blue skies and reasonably warm weather (at least warm for early December in Northern California), she spun the Thunderhill weather roulette wheel and landed on fog. Before the fog arrived, the field assembled on the front straight. Open to crews, drivers, friends and spectators, a crowded pre-grid had a festive atmosphere.
Ford Mustang at Thunderhill 2021: An Inauspicious Start
After the green flag waved above the field of 36, the #98 Mustang started in 16th position. A white TVI Racing Radical spun at the exit of the first turn on its own fluid and miraculously wasn’t collected by the full field charging just behind.
Fog Blankets the Ford Mustang at Thunderhill 2021
The field battled through the afternoon and into dusk, sunset and the darkness. A December race date means a sunset before 5pm, so darkness comes early and the sun waits for over 14 hours to return.
After the field battled for six hours and darkness fell, thick and heavy fog descended quickly on the track at 6pm. In a matter of minutes, corner stations disappeared and those on pit lane strained to see vague beams of headlights in the mist. Even Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer could not have charted a course through the soup. Cars stopped on the front straight and were tucked under covers for the night with no work permitted.
The fog receded sufficiently to enable a 5am restart. Crews and drivers, grateful for a few hours of unexpected sleep, welcomed sunshine that pushed through the fog. Anyone staying more than a few miles away from the track was amazed that Mother Nature had lifted the heavy fog that continued to shroud surrounding areas.
The 25 Hours of Thunderhill became the 17 hours of Thunderhill. Race rulebook section 7.11 explicitly allows officials to extend the scheduled end time for up to three hours if the race is interrupted by fog. The unique provision covers no other weather conditions—just fog. While the 2021 race was interrupted for eleven hours, section 7.11 was invoked and the race finished at 3pm instead of noon.
The Ford Mustang Resumes the Race at Thunderhill 2021
The car count was lower than recent years which lightened on-track traffic density. While there were speed differentials across the wide range of prototypes, Mazda Miatas, BMW 3 series, Honda Civics, and others in the field, contact was rare. Teams tracked their competition closely but all knew they were racing themselves and the clock first. The primary competition for the Ford Mustang was a Honda Civic Type R entered by the formidable Spoon Sports Honda tuning outfit and a BMW M3.
Endurance racing at this level does not involve unlimited resources. Pit stops are primarily for fuel and tires are not changed at every stop. Teams work with haste, but the priority is getting drivers changed and cars refueled without causing a problem or incurring a penalty.
At the checkered flag, the DIG Motorsports Ford Mustang took home second place class honors with a 12 lap gap to the winning Spoon Sports Honda Civic Type R. The Mustang outlasted many others across the field to claim an 11th overall finish.
The driver roster included Mikhail Butenko, Michael Whelden, Michael Fine and Troy Ermish. The win must be particularly sweet given that Thunderhill paddock is where the DIG Motorsports shop calls home.
The 25 Hours of Thunderhill prides itself on running a wide variety of equipment around a great natural terrain road course. Stay tuned to see what comes up when Mother Nature spins the roulette wheel on the first weekend of December 2022.