Team MER & Mazda Win 25 Hours of Thunderhill in Mazda MX-5!
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CRESSON, TX (December 15, 2008) --- Team MER (Motorsport Enterprises Racing) returned to Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, CA this December to not only defend their NASA 25-Hours of Thunderhill E1 class title (3rd overall) at the hands of drivers Charles Espenlaub, Eric Foss, Marc Miller and Jason Saini, but to take a shot at the overall title as well. The team scored big on both counts, as they brought home not only the E-1 class title for the second year in a row, but also won the race outright in their ES class Mazda MX-5 entry.

MER fielded five entries in this year's event, four in E1 and one in ES, yet they all had one thing in common. They were all Mazda MX-5 Cup cars. The race started with the #19 ES entry 9th overall and 7th in class with the driving trio of Charlie Putnam, Saini and Espenlaub taking turns behind the wheel. Putman started in the #19, and quickly settled into a nice rhythm. As faster cars stopped for fuel the MX-5 continued to move up the charts. Saini took over for the second stint with plans to run a double stint. In the end, the story of the race would be the #19 would pit yet continue to work it's way back up into contention, staying within a few laps of the overall lead for much of the race.

After eight hours of racing, the event was red flagged due to fog. With the race on an indefinite delay, the teams covered the cars on the front straight and waited for updates. Around 5AM, the race resumed with Espenlaub taking over the #19 car. With a long stop for some mechanical repairs, the team thought they might have lost a shot at victory, but with the competition also having problems with several fast cars faltering, hope was renewed. With roughly four hours remaining, the V8 powered M3 dropped out and with under 2 hours to go, the Miller Mustang went out with a problem giving the overall lead to the #19 MER ES Class car. After solid stints by all three drivers, the team took home the overall win and first in the ES class as well!

The winning ES car is actually nothing more than an MX-5 Cup car that's been upgraded a bit with a Koni-Challenge fuel cell and RX8 Brakes, differential, axles, hubs and uprights, said Shannon McMasters, MER team owner. It was mounted up with very good Hoosier racing slicks on 18" wheels and ran a completely stock MX-5 engine and transmission. The beauty of it all is each part was a standard Mazda piece ordered from MAZDASPEED.
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