Team MER Thunderhill 25H summary

Team MER Scores BIG With Double Win At NASA 25-Hours of Thunderhill The championship winning Mazda team took ES, E1 and OVERALL victory CRESSON, TX (December 15, 2008) --- Team MER (Motorsport Enterprises Racing) returned to Thunderhill...

Team MER Scores BIG With Double Win At NASA 25-Hours of Thunderhill The championship winning Mazda team took ES, E1 and OVERALL victory

CRESSON, TX (December 15, 2008) --- Team MER (Motorsport Enterprises Racing) returned to Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, CA this December to not only defend their NASA 25-Hours of Thunderhill E1 class title (3rd overall) at the hands of drivers Charles Espenlaub, Eric Foss, Marc Miller and Jason Saini, but to take a shot at the overall title as well. The team scored big on both counts, as they brought home not only the E-1 class title for the second year in a row, but also won the race outright in their ES class Mazda MX-5 entry.

MER fielded five entries in this year's event, four in E1 and one in ES, yet they all had one thing in common. They were all Mazda MX-5 Cup cars. The race started with the #19 ES entry 9th overall and 7th in class with the driving trio of Charlie Putnam, Saini and Espenlaub taking turns behind the wheel. Putman started in the #19, and quickly settled into a nice rhythm. As faster cars stopped for fuel the MX-5 continued to move up the charts. Saini took over for the second stint with plans to run a double stint. In the end, the story of the race would be the #19 would pit yet continue to work it's way back up into contention, staying within a few laps of the overall lead for much of the race.

After eight hours of racing, the event was red flagged due to fog. With the race on an indefinite delay, the teams covered the cars on the front straight and waited for updates. Around 5AM, the race resumed with Espenlaub taking over the #19 car. With a long stop for some mechanical repairs, the team thought they might have lost a shot at victory, but with the competition also having problems with several fast cars faltering, hope was renewed. With roughly four hours remaining, the V8 powered M3 dropped out and with under 2 hours to go, the Miller Mustang went out with a problem giving the overall lead to the #19 MER ES Class car. After solid stints by all three drivers, the team took home the overall win and first in the ES class as well!

"The winning ES car is actually nothing more than an MX-5 Cup car that's been upgraded a bit with a Koni-Challenge fuel cell and RX8 brakes, differential, axles, hubs and uprights," said Shannon McMasters, MER team owner. "It was mounted up with very good Hoosier racing slicks on 18" wheels and ran a completely stock MX-5 engine and transmission. The beauty of it all is each part was a standard Mazda piece ordered from MAZDASPEED."

"What an amazing day," said Saini. "We thought we were out of this one, but nobody gave up and we just kept on going. This result far exceeded our goals coming in and we're just so thrilled. The Hoosier slicks gave us so much grip that we could pass anywhere. My teammates both drove flawlessly and when the car crossed the finish line first, the celebration from the team was amazing!"

That wasn't the only celebration however as the #29 Team MER entry defended their E1 class title from the 2007 event and finished first in class and 5th overall at the hands of Ken Dobson, Mike Harvison, Nick Mancuso and Tyler McQuarrie. The drivers put on a solid display by running among the top 3 overall for much of the last half of the race. The car also carried the www.RaceNowForAutism.org charity sponsorship to raise awareness for autism.

"I was so impressed at the preparation level of Team MER, they really were ready for this." said Mancuso. "The car was fast and handled great and we only needed to keep it on the track. It was a great battle with the other MX-5's and such a fun event to participate in!"

Obviously it was a special moment for the entire Team MER team and months of preparation for the event.

"I'm so proud of our crew," said Juliann Pokorny, MER Team Manager. "We had such an amazing group consisting of not only our core crew guys, but also help from members of the Tri Point and Hypersport teams. There was some serious talent in the pits! We cannot thank Mazda, Hoosier Tire and our crew enough for such a terrific job in accomplishing what we did!"

Team MER Entry Recap in 2008: 19 1st in ES, 1st Overall (Drivers: Charles Espenlaub, Charlie Putnam, Jason Saini) 29 1st in E1, 5th Overall (Drivers: Ken Dobson, Mike Harvison, Nick Mancuso, Tyler McQuarrie) 26 4th in E1, 14th Overall (Drivers: Jeremy Barnes, Tim Buck, Nathan Edmunds, Shannon McMasters) 30 5th in E1, 17th Overall (Drivers: Mark Jenkins, Mike Jenkins, Keith Verges) 31 6th in E1, 20th Overall (Chris Cunningham, Jeff Mosing, Christopher Rhoades, Jamey Rhoades)

Team MER is already focusing on the preparation of Mazda MX-5 Cup cars for the 2009 championship season. Testing programs are currently available throughout January and February. The team boasts an experienced staff, public relations & marketing services, design department, driver coaching and testing facility.

-credit: tmer

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