Photo courtesy Flying Lizard Motorsports

Flying Lizard, Toyo Tires complete Thunderhill three-peat

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Flying Lizard Motorsports and Toyo Tires remained a force in this year’s NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill. The annual early December event held in Willows, Calif. saw the team and tire manufacturer win its third straight Thunderhill race, with the No. 45 Audi R8 LMS of Darren Law, Tom Haacker, Nate Stacy and Charlie Hayes capturing the overall victory (and in the ES class).

Adding to the spoils was the team’s second car, the No. 74 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport of Johannes van Overbeek, Mike Hedlund, Craig Watkins and Ross Thompson, adding a class victory (in Toyo Tires GT Challenge class).

The No. 45 Audi led early but following an in-race oddity when the pace car broke down, one of RYNO Racing’s Ginetta G57 prototypes moved to the lead. That car later broke down overnight and by 4:45 a.m., the Lizard Audi made up the lost time to overcome the deficit and take the lead back.

Darren Law, Flying Lizard’s program manager who still drives as often as he can, summed up the viewpoint from the Lizard standpoint after another exhausting, grueling but satisfying Thunderhill triumph.

“I really had a great time driving this weekend, the Audi R8 LMS was on rails, not only was the car preparation great but the Toyo Tires were amazing, you could place the car anywhere on track, we were double stinting tires throughout the night and able to keep the same pace as a fresh set, it just made it a lot of fun,” he said.

“None of my co-drivers put a wheel wrong the entire race and our car came through without a single mark on it. I am also really proud of the team and the extra effort we put in together for an entry for the inaugural Toyo GT4 class with the Porsche Cayman. Johannes, Mike, Ross, and Craig drove a flawless race and provided once again a winning effort for this class as well. Thanks to everyone involved!”

“What an amazing weekend,” added Marc Sanzenbacher, senior manager, motorsports, Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. “It was our third consecutive overall race win with Flying Lizard Motorsports in our Audi R8 LMS Ultra and there were Toyo Tires shod vehicles on the top step of four NASA 25 Hour race classes. I think we have proven once again that the Toyo Proxes family of tires is the only choice for those who are serious about winning.”

As they’ve demonstrated rather well over the last two years, Flying Lizard once exercised its social media channels to great effect at Thunderhill to provide enhanced coverage, team radio and constant fan interaction. A recap of its race can be found at its Twitter page for a further look back at how the Lizards tripled up.

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

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