Returning to the scene of last year’s disastrous outing, Hammerheads Racing shook the monkey off its back and successfully completed the Lifeline 24 Hour Classic held August 10-11 at Virginia International Raceway. Guest driver, Roy Farfel, brought the #275 Autowerkes BMW under the waving checkered flag Sunday after 24 hours of hard racing.
A blistering hot Friday practice gave way to a weekend forecast for moderate temperatures with no threat of rain. The green flag waved at noon on Saturday under bright blue skies. Hammerheads regular drivers, Kevin Binkley and Darren Setlow drove flawless opening stints and the team settled into a rhythm they would hope to maintain throughout the race. Farfel turned a string of fast laps, Mike Grant turned in a steady stint and the Hammerheads BMW slowly gained positions as the afternoon turned to night.
The overnight proved treacherous for more than a few teams and as the night wore on, the Hammerheads car continued to rise in the standings. However, despite performing well above expectations, the team’s hopes for a top 20 finish were thwarted by a 6:00am suspension failure. An hour in the garage saw the team tumble down the standings, finally rejoining the race in 42nd position. With five hours remaining and stiff competition throughout the field, the Hammerheads crew knew they would need perfect stints to regain what positions they could. Binkley, Setlow, and Farfel delivered, moving up seven spots to finally finish 35th in a field of 79.
For Team Principal, Bob Grant, the race played out exactly as planned. Almost. “We knew we weren’t the fastest car out there. Our race strategy was pretty simple: no penalties, perfect pitstops, manage the tires, stay out of the garage.” A minor issue with a ball joint and the later suspension failure foiled the plan. “Mike told us over the radio that the car was developing a vibration at high speed,” Grant recounted. “We had him bring it right to the garage where we diagnosed and resolved the problem in a very short time. We didn’t even have Mike get out of the car and we only lost two positions. It was the rear shock mount failure that hurt . Worse was that it was the second failure of the weekend. Still, I’m proud of the way we handled those setbacks and how quickly we got the car back in the race.”
Hammerhead’s next race weekend is October 4-6 at Pittsburgh International Race Complex. The format will return to the normal 8 hour race on Saturday and 7 hour race on Sunday. You can follow the race preparation with updates from the team on Facebook and Instagram.
After last year’s disappointing VIR 24 race, we approached this one better prepared and determined to succeed. The event wasn’t trouble free, but when issues showed up we came together and solved them as a team. It was exhausting, tough and hot, but seeing the car cross the finish line was a victory in my book. I have a new respect and passion for endurance racing.
I felt the team prepared and was ready for this year’s 24 hours. For the most part, our pace was good and the car performed very well. We’ll take what we learned and move forward.
It would be hard to overstate the sense of accomplishment in finishing a 24 hour race. Considering this journey began one year ago with the sting of engine failure, and then to research, wrench, and bring the car to a finish is a definitely a win for us. But more than that, from being paired with super garage mates in Round 3 Racing, to the all out customer service experience with Charles at Chillout Systems, and fantastic new friend and driver, Roy Farfel, I think we really were blessed with the full fabric experience of all the best, most inspiring parts of grassroots motorsports.
When everybody lined up against the pit wall it brought tears to my eyes but I couldn’t celebrate until I crossed the finish line. What a team! What a car! What a great experience!
As the Team Principal I can’t impress enough how much work goes into prepping and pulling off a successful 24 hour race. It cannot be done alone. I’m so happy to have had the experience of seeing everyone pull together and operate with singular purpose. One team, one goal. As a driver, I am in awe of the beauty and challenge of Virginia International Raceway. And to have the chance to race into the night? Surreal.