Live From the Twenty-Five

The Kumho Tire USA / BiggsB Enterprises / Miller Motorsports # 68 Spec Miata is on it's way to the track to secure a paddock spot for the 2006 running of the 25 hours of Thunderhill.

Team Press Release
Driver bios

Friday Morning, 8:30 AM:

Camp Kumho

Team principal Marcus arrived at the track before the gates opened Thursday morning, followed shortly after by Scott Miller,  Scott Lipton, Grant Conley, and Bob Wils. The team started setting up the paddock area, forming a "U" with the two RVs and Grant's horse trailer, hoping the vehicles would serve as a windbreak for the canopies in the center.   Tom Aiken arrived around 9PM, followed by Bryan Crall and Angie Balcomb an hour later.  As it was late and cold, the team decided to wait to unload until the morning.

First thing Friday morning, Scott Lipton was up and started unloading, helped by Marcus.  Tom joined them a short while later, and set up the second 10' x 20' canopy, and installed the canopy walls, forming a 20'x20' living area.  Tom and Scott Lipton took a table and 10'x10' canopy down to the pit stall and staked out one of the nearby RV hookups, providing electrical power for the pit stall. 

While setting up, Dean Thomas arrived with the spare car, and his wheels, which were promptly loaded in Tom's truck with the tires, which Grant Conley took to AIM Tire's shop to get mounted and balanced for the race.  Dean immediately went to work installing a screen in the front grille to protect the radiator.

Ron Swett was the most recent arrival, with his son Jason Hammons, and extra helping hand Adam Basilio.  Scott Miller went to work installing a set of cleaned and flow tested fuel injectors.  Next step, the drivers all need to go register for the test day. 

Friday Noon:

Dean Thomas in his office

The last driver, Dan Piña, arrived around 10:30, followed by Crew Chief Scott Neville who picked up special guest fueler Pat newton from the airport in Sacramento.  Pat flew in from Seattle to help out.  When the track opened for testing, Dean Thomas took the car out to scrub in the new Kumho tires, and bed the Porterfield brake pads, and was immediately quick, turning laps in the 2:13 range.  He came back in noting the water temps were high, but when the hood was opened, there were no signs of overheating.   Scott Miller hooked up the temp sender up to the stock temp gauge, and the problem went away.  Dean also noticed the steering wheel wasn't mounted quite straight, so he adjusted it.

NASA Grid Marshal Don Barnwell shows off his remarkable fashion sense.

Dean went back on track and dropped his time down to 2:10.

Dean also noticed the shifter felt a little notchy going in and out of gears, so the team checked and added more fluid to the transmission, and verified the shift linkage under the gear shift.

While the team was working on the shifter, Tom started installing surgical tubing on the belts (which will help greatly with driver changes), and Scott Neville worked to set up the pit box

Team Pit Box

Dan is next to go out and practice, followed by Marcus, then Ron and Tom.  After everyone gets a practice session, Dean will go out to do a fuel consumption test.

7:30 PM

Test day is over, as is qualifying.  Everyone got some time in the car, and so far everything is working.  Dean was fastest, Marcus and Dan were right behind him, with Tom and Ron bringing up the rear.  The team was also able to practice driver changes and fuel stops.  The only problem during testing was when one of the radio connectors failed during a driver change, so the radio harness was removed so it could be repaired.

Well-Oiled Machine:  Pat fuels, Ron gets out, Tom waits to get in while Grant connects the radio to his helmet.

Open testing was over at 4:00, switching over to practice and qualifying at 4:30.  Ron took the car out for practice just as the sun set, and drove into the growing darkness.   When qualifying began, Ron passed the car off to Dean, and Scott Miller reinstalled the repaired radio harness, restoring communications between the pits and the car.  Dean turned in a number of fast laps in heavy traffic, finally dropping to 2:09.7, which should be good enough for a top 5 starting position in class.  Dean pulled this off on tires that were almost gone, on his first time racing at night.  

Unfortunately, when Dean pulled in to the paddock, Tom and Pat immediately smelled gear oil.  As the drivers left for the drivers meeting, the crew started looking for the source of the smell.   Pat and the crew discovered one of the seals on the rear axle had failed, allowing most of the fluid from the rear differential to leak out.  Dean was able to scrounge a replacement seal, so the crew is hard at work taking the rear end apart to install it.

Photos from the Friday test day are available here:



Dean Qualified 4th in class, 28th overall.  Overall Pole is Team O'Connel racing in a 2004 GT3 Porsche 911.

The the 20'x 20' tent area pictured above no longer exits, it dies a spectacular death at the hands of a brutal wind.  Even tied down to anything heavy we could find, the aluminum frame suffered a catastrophic failure, and one of the 10'x20' sections folded up and collapsed, while the canopy did it's best impression of a sail.



Rebuilt Camp Kumho.

Aside from rebuilding the paddock after the wind induced mayhem, the morning went very smoothly.  One of the RVs was relocated to block the wind, and new canopies Ron sourced from the local Wal Mart were assembled for food and crew rest areas.   The final crew members Cindy Hammons and Catherine Swett arrived, followed by David Piña.

All the necessary equipment was delivered to the pit stall, all last minute details on the car were addressed, and the car was pushed out to grid on the front straight.

Driver lineup (front to back) Ron Swett, Dean Thomas, Tom Aiken, Dan Piña, Marcus Miller

Pushing the car to grid.

There was a brief show by an aerobatic pilot, then the presentation of colors by the Air Force honor guard.  Following the National Anthem and a low pass by three F-15 Eagles, the call went out "Drivers, start your engines". 

Once everyone was clear, the field rolled off behind the pace car, for two pace laps.  The first lap the pace car brought the field down the pit road, to demonstrate the pit lane speed limit.  This is important as few of the cars have speedometers.  At the end of the second pace lap, the starter threw the green flag, and the race was underway. 

Cars gridded on the front straight.

Dean is driving the first stint, he came in for fuel and went back out for another hour.  He will then come in and pass the car off to Dan, who will also do a double-stint.

Pictures from the morning, and most of the cars on grid here:


We are currently running  23rd overall, 5th in class.  Overall leader is the O'Connell Racing Porsche, followed by the Alliance Financial Mazda prototype, and Lost 'N Spaced Porsche (who won overall last year).

4:00 pm

Dan took over from Dean 4th in class, but the team had it's first setback about 40 minutes in to his stint.  Dan was forced off the track in turn 6, but was able to gather it up and continue.  Unfortunately the exhaust was leaking after the off, and the exhaust pipe fell off the car entirely in turn 10.  It separated  from a slip-fit joint just behind the muffler, and Dan ran it over it.  He made it to the pits, where Pat dumped in a jug of gas, before Dan drove the car behind the wall to repair the exhaust.

Luckily for us, the exhaust pipe ended up on the track, bringing out a pace car session for the crash crew to pick up our "debris".  Luckier still, Ron was able to run out to pit road and intercept the crash crew as they came off the track, and managed to recover the pipe.  Scott Miller and Bryan Crall beat the pipe back in to shape, reinstalled it, and Grant welded it in place before the clamp was put back in place.  Scott Miller and Marcus also fabricated a cable safety hanger, in case it came loose again, it wouldn't (well, shouldn't) fall off.

Pat, Bryan and Scott M. repair the exhaust

Unfortunately the time behind the wall took about 25 minutes, and dropped the team back to around 13th in class.  Dan pushed hard when he returned to the track for the remainder of his stint, and made back a couple places.

Overall leader is still the O'Connell Racing Porsche, followed by the Lost 'N Spaced Porsche, and the Car & Driver BMW diesel.

Dan switched over to Marcus at the end of his stint, currently running 11th in class, 33rd overall.

11:30, Half way.

Marcus turned the car over to Ron, who's stint went well, for us at least.  Half way in to his session, a Miata spun on the front straight, and hit the tire barrier at pit entry.  He spun down the track a ways, where he has torpedoed by a Spec Racer Ford.  It was a big shunt, but both drivers walked away.  The pace car came out for several laps while the debris field was cleared.  Ron ended his stint early, suffering from nausea and a headache, Putting Tom in the car 15 minutes ahead of schedule.  At the end of Tom's stint, the team had moved up to 6th place in class, 19th overall.

Dean Thomas took over from tom, and the second half has begun.
Overall leader is still the O'Connell Racing Porsche, followed by the Alliance Financial Mazda prototype, and the Lost 'N Spaced Porsche.


10:00 AM

Dean and Dan took the car forward during the early morning shifts, and passed the car off to Marcus in 4th place in class.  Marcus advanced another position when one of the E2 front running Acuras retired with crash damage.    Ron was still feeling poorly, so the the team skipped his stint and put Tom back in the car early, just as the sun was coming up.  Tom's session ended with the team solidly third in class, 11th overall.

Day Shift

Shift change

Dean Thomas is back in the car for his third stint, which should take us to the checkered flag.

Overall leader is still the O'Connell Racing Porsche, followed by the Lost 'N Spaced Porsche, and the Car & Driver BMW diesel, but the Alliance Financial Mazda prototype is closing fast on the third overall spot.




Watching the live Timing feed

Dean settled in for the last stint, with the finishing order all but decided.  The team was solidly in Third place, 6 laps up on the 4th place car, and 5 laps behind the second place E2 car.  Dean did the first half of his stint and came in for the final fuel stop, and rolled off pit road for the last time.  Just after the fuel stop, the second place E2 car , the #44 Market Scan Motor Sports Miata came in to the pits with a fluid leak.  After a long stop, they reentered the race, but did not finish their out lap.  They broke on the back straight, and called for a tow in.  Unfortunately for them, two other cars had problems that lap, and the crash crews were had already been dispatched to recover those disabled vehicles. 

The crew anxiously hovered around the Timing and Scoring feed, watching the number of laps behind second place count down, and the #44 car was stuck on the back straight.  Dean kept grinding out laps, and took over the second spot just as the #44 car made it back to the paddock.  They did return to the track, but lost 8 laps, and fell to 4th place in class.

Dean took the checkered an hour later, driving the last of the team's 615 laps.  The final finishing position was 9th overall, second in class.

Overall winner was the O'Connell Racing Porsche, setting a new distance record for the 25 hour race of 705 laps.  Second place went to the Lost 'N Spaced Porsche 911.

Congratulations to O'Connell Racing, winners of the 2006 25 hours of Thunderhill

Clockwise from lower left, Fueler Pat Newton, Drivers Ron Swett, Tom Aiken, Dan Pina, Dean Thomas,  Marcus Miller

More Photos from Sunday:

Miller Motorsports Gallery

More photos, Video and commentary to come.

Final standings: