Richie Hearn Podiums in First Endurance Event LAS VEGAS, Nev., December 23, 2004 -- Richie Hearn is an experienced and successful race driver. He has dominated karting in California, won the 1995 Toyota Atlantics' championship and the 1996 Las...
Richie Hearn Podiums in First Endurance Event
LAS VEGAS, Nev., December 23, 2004 -- Richie Hearn is an experienced and successful race driver. He has dominated karting in California, won the 1995 Toyota Atlantics' championship and the 1996 Las Vegas 500 IndyCar Series race. But, this four-time Indianapolis 500 starter made his debut in endurance sportscar racing recently at the longest sportscar race in the country; the National Auto Sport Association (NASA) sanctioned 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Hearn made a strong first impression. As lead driver of the No. 23 Elder Benner Team One Mazda Miata, the Las Vegas, Nev. resident helped the three-man team to second in the E2 class, ninth overall. Splitting driving chores with Christian and Justin Elder, Hearn completed the full 25 hour distance.
The NASA E2 class, the equivalent of the Sports Car Club of America's SM division, is for street machines only slightly modified for racing. The three-mile Thunderhill Raceway Park facility in Willows, Calif. is one of the country's most challenging courses particularly when coupled with over 90 entries of various classes. The competition was so intense in the E2 class that a single, 20-minute delay in the pits was enough to cost Hearn and his teammates a shot at victory. The stop was brought-on by a vibration in the car that was eventually traced back to a bad set of tires. The team would finish two overall positions behind the class winning entry of Team PDQ Motorsports. The No. 23 was the highest finishing Mazda Miata.
Beyond his work as a driver, Hearn also took the step into team ownership this season. His two-car Hearn Motorsports effort debuted in the Star Mazda Championship in 2004. Hearn guided series' rookie Raphael Matos (Belo Horizonte, Brazil) to two podium finishes including a pole position and second-place at Mosport International Raceway. The No. 70 Showtime/ Samsung/ Skip Barber Mazda of Matos finished seventh in the season championship despite missing the season-opening round. The No. 77 Thienes Engineering Mazda of Brian Thienes (Huntington Beach, Calif.) finished 14th in the championship after joining Hearn mid-way through the season.
(about endurance racing): "This was my first time racing at night and it was a lot of fun. It was a pretty long night but I was really into it. I just wanted to drive; I never wanted to get out of the car. What surprised me was how much I enjoyed driving at night. I wasn't expecting that. At night I was within a second of my daylight lap times. I was very happy with that. At a lot of the sportscar races that I have watched, they have lights in key corners. At Thunderhill there was no light out there except in pit lane. It's pitch black and you can't tell what's behind you until they're right on top of you. I really wanted to do this to get some endurance experience. I'm looking forward to doing more of this."
(about the race): "That Miata was so much fun to drive. Overall it is a great endurance car. We never had to change brakes and we never had any other problems with the car. We did have a tire problem and that kept us in the pits about 20 minutes looking for a vibration. Otherwise, I think we could have really pushed the leaders at the end of the race. The Elder Benner guys were great to work with and we had a lot of fun. I don't think I slept all night. It was a lot of fun to get out there and race for 25 hours with all of these different classes. The different speeds and different braking abilities of each car really taught me a lot about sports car racing. I had never done anything quite like this before but it is definitely something I would like to do again."
For more on Hearn Motorsports and its 2004 Pro Formula Mazda Series' effort please visit www.richiehearn.com.