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Thunderhill 25 Road Trip

Jim Yu December 9, 2014 Hooniverse Goes To... 10 Comments

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On Sunday, I decided to make the two-hour trek up to Thunderhill to check out the 25 hour race put together by NASA. To prepare myself, I studiously listened to Bradley and Eric’s informative podcast on the race and filled up the Volvo’s tank with Venezuela-crushingly cheap gasoline. Make the jump to see the automotive oddities I discovered on the way there and back.

The drive up early Sunday morning was boring and uneventful, except for a big billboard on the side of a parked Toyota Dolphin RV that read: Saturday is the Sabbath, Sunday is the mark of the beast. As I took the Willows exit for the racetrack, I saw this lifted Subaru Brat in the Walmart parking lot. I pulled a u-ey just to take this picture to share with y’all.

As I parked my car at the track, I passed by a mini graveyard. I spotted this former safety car and three Porsche 928s. As our European editor replied to my Twitter post, there are “[o]ver six meters of cambelt not doing anything.”

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On the short stroll to the paddock, I came across this racer, which ended up being a Panoz.

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Fortunately, they replaced the old Maxima safety car with this new Mazda.

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I’ll let Bradley and Eric comment on the race, but Mazda brought nearly stock Mazda 6 diesels to race. This one, fresh from the showroom, became a parts donor for the grueling and muddy race.

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Mazda was not fooling around. They had a lot of resources.

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Before I went to the track proper, I snuck a peek at the support vehicles. The track, by the way, is operated by the San Francisco Region’s SCCA chapter.

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We’ve had record setting rain for days, and the dirt trails for the spectators were boggy. Nevertheless, there were some cool cars running. I saw a very reliable twin engined Mini Cooper, a NASCAR-prepped Silverado pickup truck, an Acura ILX that was in the top five for a while, and many Miatas.

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This was as close as I got to pit lane.

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I always enjoy checking out the cars of the crews. At previous races, I’ve seen a first gen Ford Probe and a mid-90s Buick Roadmaster. This year’s winner, in my eyes, is this Civic wagon.

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On my way out, a guy was letting people dyno their passenger cars (three runs) for $60. I’ve never seen this in action, and it looks fun. The kid bought this auto Thunderbird for $700 and spent $4,000 on it, including a manual transmission swap.

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Finally, on the way home, I spotted this yellow car on top of a container. I thought it was a Trabant at first, but it’s actually a Herald 1200. It was at the entrance to a large and very orderly dismantler. There were tons and tons of oddball cars and parts. I walked around for a while, but didn’t take any pictures. Despite all the gates being open, there was no one there. I got a creepy vibe (totally unreasonable) and just left. Who knows, the owner is probably a cool guy.

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This was my first road trip in the Volvo. I averaged 76 mph and got around 26 mpg. It was a bit loud in the cabin. Needless to say, the Phaeton would have been excellent for this trip. I miss it. A lot.

Images source: Copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Jim Yu

  • r_toaster

    A truly Thunderous post!

    • Maxichamp

      I see what you did there.

  • Eric Rood

    That BRAT rules. So does the Civic Wagon.

    The race was pretty decent, following from afar. Davidson won, but it was their Norma that won instead of the Eagle, which I thought was the car to beat. Interesting tidbit: The Norma was designed to FIA CN-class regulations and as far as I've been able to figure out, it was the first time a CN car won an endurance race.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Group_CN

    My pick to win, the Ehret/Award Porsche GT3 Cup, finished second overall. It ran flawlessly but didn't have the pace for the Norma.

    BMWs won E0 and E1, Mazdas won E2 and E3 with the E3 class (again) the closest in the field. The final margin of victory in the class was 40 seconds, I believe.

    • Maxichamp

      Where did the ILX end up?

  • longrooffan

    Not surprisingly grasshopper, this olelongrooffan felt extremely comfortable reading this post. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    • Maxichamp

      I was just thinking how much of my writing was influenced by you.

  • daveB

    What a great tale!!

    So well rounded. Racing + road trip, euro/US/UK/asian cars, runners and wreckers.
    From a Panoz to a Herald !!

    There's more than enough material here for several articles, or even a TV series.

    Excellent work (even if the Alfa / italian & swedish/Volvo content was a bit low :-))
    Keep it up.

  • steex

    You just made my month with that Brat photo. And, yes, I know this month includes Christmas.

    • Maxichamp

      Ho ho ho.