The wide, smooth flowing ribbon of pavement known as Miller Motorsports Park was host to Round #3 of the 2015 N.A.S.A. Western Endurance Racing Championship and with rumors of closure swirling around the track, it may just be the last time endurance race cars light up the night sky in Tooele, Utah. The race was to last six hours, the second longest on the schedule, running all the way to midnight on Saturday August 08th. The track itself is an ideal place for endurance racing; the wide smooth surface and high speeds of the Outer Loop configuration lent to some great racing. Plenty of run off room and easy access for emergency vehicle also meant that the race would likely go the full six hours under green flag conditions.
Fresh off of a very productive test day at Willow Springs Raceway spent tuning and dialing in our new BC Racing ZR Series Triple Adjustable coilovers, the Yost Autosport team was anxious to get the car back out amongst the familiar field of endurance racing competitors. Friday’s four practice sessions were used primarily to get our three drivers familiarized with the track and start learning more about our new Achilles GS-328 race tires. Saturday the car sat dormant most of the day, prepped and ready for qualifying.
When it came time for the 20 minute qualifying session, I (Mike Bonanni) strapped in to the Yost Autosport M3 and set out to put in a good lap amidst the 26 car field. When the dust settled, we had achieved our best qualifying result yet showing that we are going the right direction with the progression of the car. Out of 26 cars entered we qualified 5th overall putting us on the inside of row 3 for the start; a great position to be able to break free with the lead pack on the start.
Driver and team principle Jordan Yost strapped in the car to take the green flag and our strategy was simple, go with the lead pack which included an Audi R8 LMS GT3, Porsche GT3 Cup car, Factory Five GTM Prototype, and a Ford Mustang FR500S Cup car. When the green flag dropped Jordan quickly made his way to 4th overall by Turn 2 dispatching the Mustang FR500S and running with the Factory Five GTM, Porsche Cup Car, and Audi R8 LMS. As Jordan’s first stint went on we found ourselves in a very comfortable 3rd position overall behind the Audi R8 LMS and Porsche GT3 Cup with a growing 35+ second lead over 4th place. That’s when lady luck decided she didn’t like us anymore. Just shy of one hour into the race our right rear wheel exploded off the car sending Jordan and the M3 spinning off track at nearly 100mph.
Thankfully Jordan was okay and in an area where safety crews could get to the car fairly easily. Unfortunately because he was so far off track the race officials kept the green flag out with only a local yellow near the incident which meant everyone out there kept putting more and more laps on us. It took the crew nearly 20 minutes to get Jordan and the car back to our garage where we could assess the damage. Fortunately for us, 5 new wheel studs and a new wheel were all we needed to get back in the race.
Being that we were now in our time frame for our first driver rotation, Barry Yost strapped into the car after the repairs were completed and with a full tank of fuel set out to make some of our laps back. It took 35 minutes from wheel failure to being back on track which is a huge testament to our amazing crew, but that setback put us in last place, laps down from the rest of the field. With the setting sun beating through the windshield Barry drove an amazing stint not only getting many of our laps back but getting us back up to 20th place overall. Best of all, the car was still able to run the consistent lap times we were running before Jordan’s incident in fact, Barry set the fastest lap of the race for our car during his stint. Our spirits were lifted when we realized that we still may be able to claw our way back to a good finish in the remaining hours of the race. Barry hit pit lane with a little over 3 hours remaining in the race for a routine driver change and fuel stop.
I got in the car just as the sun was setting and darkness was coming in with one clear mission, put in consistent laps and claw our way back up the ranks in the night. I settled into a comfortable rhythm under the dark Utah sky and after an hour and 15 minutes was able to get the car up a few more spots before getting the radio call from Barry; “Okay Mike, one more time past start/finish and then bring the car in for fuel, tires, and driver change.” Things were looking great as we were on the same lap as a big chunk of our competitors meaning that during the next stint we could likely find ourselves back in the top ten. And then…bang! Another wheel, this time the left rear departed from the vehicle. Fortunately this time it happened in a slower area on track and while the car was pointed almost straight so I was able to keep it on track and limp it back to pit lane on the three remaining wheels.
After five more new wheel studs and yet another new set of wheels & tires Jordan went back in the car for the remaining two hours of the race. We were lucky yet again that mechanically the car was able to still turn consistent fast laps, the only damage to the car being cosmetic but now we were back down toward the back of the pack again, despite the crew putting in a tremendous effort to get the car back on track in less than 10 minutes. Jordan put in work again coming in one last time for a splash of fuel and getting the car back up to 17th place overall. The checkered flag flew as we crossed the start/finish line on our 133rd lap of the race.
This race was a rollercoaster of ups and downs for us. On one hand the car was the best it’s ever been with a solid chance at an overall podium finish, but on the other hand bad luck denied us the chance to show our progress. We have built a car from a standard used E92 M3 street car into a top level endurance race car that’s competing with $250,000-$500,000 factory race cars. We had one of the fastest cars through the corners, a huge nod to our BC Racing Custom Coilovers and Achilles GS-328 tires. We have a team that, although small in comparison to our competitors, has tremendous heart. We have finished every endurance race we have entered, a huge ask for any team. It’s moments like this last race that motivate us more than ever to get back out there and prove what this car and this team are capable of. We’ve seen the car’s potential, now it’s time to show everyone else.
Make sure you follow the progress of our car on Instagram and Facebook to see us gear up for our next race; a 4-Hour enduro at Buttonwillow Raceway October 10th. And for more details on the car itself, read our build journal on MotoIQ.com.