Dec 4, 2010 was the 8th running of the worlds longest endurance race at Thunderhill Raceway Park, and the first endurance race start for half of the newly formed AE Performance Team. AE Performance consists of 4 Drivers that love cars, love to race and have a great time doing it. This 25 Hour event was the kickoff for Roger Rodas, Paul Walker, Carl Rydquist and Jeff Westphal together and it was nothing short of memorable.
Thursday and Friday were open practice, with qualifying to commence later Friday evening, and race start was Saturday at 11am. Westphal and Rydquist took the responsibility of setting up the car early on Friday as they have both competed in multiple endurance style events, Thunderhill 25hr, Daytona 24hr, and Nurburgring 24hr respectively. As Thursday day got started, The #74 MER MX-5 had a new engine let go after 45 minutes of running. “The motor blowing was a big shock to all of us, as we picked this car to run for it’s supreme reliability. But we were assured the engine had a build defect from MER’s engine builder, and the spare was fitted to the car. Not even one lap later, I confirmed that this new motor was much more healthy and testing program continued for the day” explained Westphal.
The better part of Friday was spent getting Carl, Paul and Roger seat time in the car to acquaint themselves with the MX-5 Pro Cup car as Westphal atleast knew the track, but the others were gracing Tunderhill for the first time. As the sun set on the paddock filled with over 80 racecars, Roger Rodas was up to qualify the #74 for Saturday’s start. Rodas is no stranger to qualifying as he’s been racing his Porsche GT3 Cup car with Westphal coaching him in the Porsche Owners Club. “I leaned over and told Paul and Carl, he’s either going to get out of that car and hate us, or love us for letting him experience this.” said Jeff. That was for not telling Roger about the darkness and rain that was minutes away full well knowing Roger had never experienced it before behind the wheel of a racecar. “Sometimes you have to take baby steps in motorsports, and every now and again it’s okay to take a leap of faith. This was one of those leaps…..I feel i may have set Roger up a little bit, but on the positive side he passed!” Westphal joked.
Starting on the 21st row of the grid, the AE Performance drivers helped strap Carl Rydquist in, and then prepared for the long 25 race ahead of them. “The race started without a hitch but after 4 hours, we began to have mechanical issues which we thought we would disappear but we were plagued all 25 hours. It really crippled our efforts.” said Westphal Throughout the rest of the event, the team lost a differential, 2 wheel hubs, one radio harness, 2 transmissions, and one more motor. “Roger, Paul and Carl did a heck of a job all race, despite our car’s unwillingness to cooperate. It may not have been what we hoped for, but it was good to get a race under everyone’s belt as a team, i’m really proud of everyone involved.” said Jeff
Finishing 7th in class, it was a hard fought race and AE Performance would like to thank everyone who made this possible. Paul Jho at Hankook, Jason at MER Motorsports, Reach Out World Wide Foundation, everyone at the track for helping with food and logistics and all the drivers for dedicating a solid 36 hours straight with little to no sleep!