PETERBOROUGH, U.K. – With five class wins over the years, Radical Sportscars is considered a fixture at the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill, but an outright victory has evaded the British marque since the event’s inception in 2003.
Reigning ESR champions CrowdStrike/One Motorsports are hopeful this year could be the year to change that, however, while for rookie Radical entry Turn 3 Motorsports, the first priority is simply to take the checkered flag.
Both teams feature star-studded line-ups, including 2013 Freedom 100 Indy Lights winner Peter Dempsey, Indy Lights driver Victor Franzoni, 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona LMPC class winner Kenton Koch and 2017 Pirelli World Challenge GTSA Champion George Kurtz.
The sixteenth running of the grueling 25 Hours of Thunderhill – the longest automobile race in the United States – takes place Dec. 1-2. At least three Radical SR3s are entered in the expected 50-plus car field made up of GT and prototype machinery from amateur and professional drivers and teams alike who, if they finish, will have completed a distance equivalent to driving across the United States from coast to coast.
Leading the charge is the No. 44 CrowdStrike/One Motorsports Radical SR3 entry of Spring Mountain Country Club members Kurtz and Gerhard Watzinger, along with pro driver Kenton Koch and One Motorsports team principal Jeff Shafer.
For Kurtz, this will be his sixth attempt at an outright victory, while for Shafer, this year will be his 10th attempt at the title, either as a driver or as team manager.
“This is a special event for us as each person has competed in it for some time,” said Kurtz, who by day is the CEO and co-founder of cybersecurity company CrowdStrike. “Each year we have come up a little short of the overall win. We are hoping to put an outright victory in the books in 2018!”
The team’s second car, the No. 67 One Motorsports Radical SR3 of Dave House, Paul LaHaye, Mikel Miller and Ethan Stone, will undoubtedly also be in the running.
House was part of last year’s class winning driver line-up, and LaHaye and Stone both have multiple Thunderhill starts to their names.
Like last year, One Motorsports has chosen Radical’s diminutive 1340cc powerplant to power its pair of SR3 chassis, while upgrades to the car include bespoke endurance lighting and electrical system, long-range fuel tank and real-time telemetry, so the team can see exactly what is happening out on track.
“We know from the Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup how reliable the 1340 engine is,” noted Shafer. “Last year, we proved less really is more, when the 1340 lasted the distance and we won the ESR class.
“There are always faster cars,” Shafer added. “The Radical SR3 is one of the fastest, but speed alone never seems to win this race. Reliability does. Thunderhill has a way of throwing a new problem at you every year, and we’ve learned from every one of them. Hopefully this year we’ve got every eventuality covered.”
Shafer’s extensive knowledge has been tapped into by Thunderhill newcomers Turn 3 Motorsports, which is led by former Indy Lights racer Dempsey, the son of Cliff Dempsey, owner of the famous UK-based Cliff Dempsey Racing Formula Ford 1600 team.
“As a team we have reached out to One Motorsports to assist us with the build of the car,” said Dempsey. “We have [also] teamed up with Newman Wachs Racing for this event, and they have also brought a lot of experience to the table. [Chicago Radical dealer] Team Stradale have been very helpful with supplying us with all the parts to make this come together.”
The driver line-up of the No. 10 Eastern Shipping Worldwide/Turn 3 Motorsports Radical SR3 entry also has a wealth of experience, not to mention a truly international flavor, with Eric Wagner (USA) joining Antoine Comeau (Canada), Franzoni (Brazil) and Dempsey (Ireland).
Wagner, the president of Eastern Shipping Worldwide, and Comeau, an index options trader at Optiver, are Autobahn Country Club members and Radical Cup North America graduates, with Comeau claiming the 2017 SR3 1340 Class Championship.
For Comeau, who is one of the winningest drivers in Radical Cup history, “The goal is the same as every race before, to win it!”
However, Dempsey – who is famous for recording the second-closest finishing margin in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history – knows better than most that winning sometimes involves a little luck, as will surviving the ‘25’.
“Our first goal will be to settle into the race and stay out of trouble while looking after the car. It will be a huge achievement to get to the finish of this race,” said Dempsey. “Hopefully if we do that, we will have a chance of standing on the podium.”