Photo courtesy Flying Lizard Motorsports

Flying Lizard, Toyo Tires complete Thunderhill three-peat

Leave a comment

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.

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

Follow @KyleMLavigne