Into club racing but feel like you don't get enough time on the track? Have three friends who are always asking to borrow your race car? Prefer the tenacity of Le Mans to the glamour of Formula 1? Then the World Racing League's endurance series is right up your alley.
WRL's 2016 calendar has 13 races, most featuring two 8 hour endurance races per event. One weekend hosts their 24 hour endurance race, in case you really just can't get enough time in the seat. League CEO Joey Todd invited us out to capture the championship racing in Austin this last weekend, and we were more than happy to oblige.
The US Endurance Championship was a two-day rain-filled event which tested not only endurance on the track, but patience with the weather and strategies for keeping dry. The torrential rain on Saturday resulted in lap times that were up to 30 seconds slower than during the merely heavy rains of Sunday.
But the rain didn't ruin the weekend. As a recovery truck track worker watching the action in (always high-drama) Turn 12 commented, "They're all sliding around through the turn...and you can tell they're having a pretty good time."
Saturday's grid features an eclectic mix of cars in 5 racing classes. Class is determined by the entry's power to weight ratio. GP1 for the highest rated to GP4 for the lowest. The additional GPX class featured 3 cars whose power exceeds the top class but were cleared to participate. While the grid waits for a break in the rain to get started, drivers find ways to keep the cars dry. The Steadfast Poorvette, and other open cockpit cars, tried hard to keep the cockpits comfortable before the start. Beanito Beandudo's 1970 Triumph TR6 from GP4 has the extra challenge of avoiding overheating while waiting to get underway. The car was ultimately fine and survived to finish both days. Vess Motorsports brought this BMW M235ir that competed in GPX. Conditions were soupy all weekend, but the BMW had no problem slicing through the heaviest rain. The 72 car was the overall leader, completing 145 laps on Saturday and 147 on Sunday. McNeil Motorsports Toyota Celupra hybrid brought amusement and bewilderment each time it passed. They went on to complete 120 laps on Saturday before recording a DNF. Cool G Racing brought this terrific looking 1972 Datsun 240Z to COTA. They completed both days' enduros in style. Roadkill Racing's 1997 Miata heads for Turn 10. The GP3 class is mostly Miatas, and WRL is working on a partnership to bring the SuperMiata series to the eastern part of the US. The mixed classes mean plenty of passing during the races. Here, five cars crowd into the tight confines of Turn 15 on Saturday. SCR Performance's 2013 Subaru BRZ finished 3rd in class on Saturday, but did not compete on Sunday. Outside the garages were countless fuel jugs all weekend. Rules prohibit storage of fuel in the garages and that means a constant shuffling of full and empty jugs from the paddock to pit lane. RRW Motorsports Miata recorded a DNF both days, but not before completing 237 laps over the weekend. Here the shark attacks Turn 11 with ferocity. The weekend's other BMW M235 plows through some of the heaviest rain on Saturday. This car went on to record the fastest lap time of the weekend in Sunday's racing and finished second in GPX to its teammate on both days. EcoBooze's '89 Fox-body Mustang finished 1st in GP4 Class on Saturday and 4th on Sunday. Here it throws lots of spray as it enters the main straight fresh out of Turn 20. Al Mallory Racing's 2008 Corvette finished 5th in GP1 on Saturday, but DNF on Sunday after 7 hours and 125 laps. The rain slowed for a for a few minutes, but the conditions were still soaking wet mid-day Saturday. A crowd launches out of Turn 20 and heads down the main straight and up the hill into Turn 1. Z-Ya's 1973 Datsun 240Z streaks through one of the wetter parts of the stadium section of the track. The flat black of the Poorvette's rear clip absorbs light like a black hole on an already gloomy day. It leans hard in Turn 15 on its way to win the GP2 class on Sunday. Endurance racing means frequent pit stops for fuel and driver changes. These aren't the frenzied and choreographed pits of F1 but still provide an energetic interlude from the on-track action. Lemonata Racing's 1990 Miata sported a Sprint Car-like panel over the cockpit, providing a measure of relief from the rain. They went on to finish 3rd in GP4 on both days. RennsportKC's 2008 Mustang was a DNF on Saturday, but bounced back to win GP1 Class in Sunday's race. White Lightning's 1994 Miata spits a little flame as it heads for Turn 3. It's the only Miata that competedin the quicker GP2 class and finished 5th in class Sunday after a DNF on Saturday. With all-day racing, garages are as much apartments as workshops. Teams share space with four cars per garage and things can get cramped quickly. Fortunately camaraderie among teams prevails throughout the weekend. Huskers1's Miata had a strong showing, placing 3rd on Saturday and 2nd on Sunday in the GP3 class. Skid Marks Racing's Nissan 350Z takes it's turn through the wetness betweens Turn 12 and 13. They finished with 133 laps on Saturday, but had a DNF on Sunday after 3 hours on the track. Mid-race and between-race repairs were, at times, major. Engine swaps and body part replacements happened along top-end rebuilds and suspension repairs. Bucket List Racing's Boxster would succumb and was a DNF on both days, but not after logging over 11 hours on the track and more than 650 miles. The Sector Purple and Minions In Charge Miatas race up the short hill to Turn 9 on Sunday. Sector Purple took 2nd in GP3 on Saturday. The Vess M235ir again. Normally's Austin's skyline would be visible in the distance, but the gloom messed with COTA's traditional views the city. The 72 car was 8 short of logging 1000 miles of racing for the weekend. The Laminar Racing Miata won the GP3 class both days, en route to becoming the 2016 season's US Endurance Champion. Drivers logged more than 15 and a half hours racing for 940 miles. Team LMR's BMW 328i shows us just how gloomy the skies were in Austin on Saturday. They didn't feel the effects much, though, finishing 2nd in GP1 on Saturday and 3rd on Sunday. The other LMR entry, another 325i which was 15 years older, fell victim to a blown engine halfway through Saturday. The team was prepared to swap the engine overnight, but a suitable replacement couldn't be secured in time. OHWOWRacing illustrates how knolling is an essential part of any good shop work as they tackle the top end of their Mustang's engine. They completed 45 laps on Saturday before hitting trouble, and only completed an hour on Sunday before recording their second DNF. Zombie Response's Ford Escort Zx2 looks as if it mowed down a pack of the undead on the back straight. The zombies got the best of it after almost 6 hours on Saturday, but the team and car recovered to finish Sunday's race. Team McQueen brought a pair of Nissan 240SX entries to the track and they finished 3rd and 5th in class on Saturday. Both cars failed to complete the race on Sunday, with this #95 one falling just a half hour short of the finish. The SD Faces BMW highlights the sense of humor found in the WRL. The car is a rolling ad for South Dakota that would have the state's actual tourist board squirming uncomfortably at the Mount Rushmore of mooning asses painted on the trunk lid. In the WRL, cars are "sponsored" by Duff Beer (and Krustyburger, etc), SUPERSLO and DINOCO. Teams include Code Brown, Jersey Village Idiots and Nismorons. There are rain tires, and then there are the kind of rain tires needed for Saturday's deluge. And if you don't have the latter, cutting deeper sipes in your Bridgestones with an angle grinder is totally an option.