Earlier this month at this year's 25 Hours of Thunderhill endurance race, one of C.J. Wilson's Mazda MX-5 racecars was in P4 with three hours to go when the engine went. Another team might have just said screw it. Not these guys.
Wilson — yes, the the L.A. Angels lefty — runs a tight racing ship. It was all hands on deck (and everywhere else), and an hour and 45 minutes later, the fresh engine was in and the Mazda was back out. No DNFs for this guy. Crew chief, Andris Laivins recalls what happened.
Conner Ford was in the car for his last stint when he radioed the pits with an engine temp alarm on the dash. He quickly aimed for the pits, but within half a lap he said the engine was 'done' and coasted in. The crew guys quickly re-filled the radiator on pit lane so we could assess the damage. A steady stream of water greeted us, emanating from the center of the radiator. Apparently, a piece of debris on track had punctured the radiator core, causing an instant loss of pressure. Our mechanic Erik quickly pinched the damaged section closed to stop the leak, and we cranked the engine over. Our worst fears were confirmed - zero compression and a free-spinning starter.
We pushed the car off pit lane to the trailer and had a quick discussion about our options. There were about 3 hours remaining in the race, so the temptation was strong to just call it a day... but we had a spare engine, a tired but enthusiastic bunch of mechanics, and Kyle Gimple still had one stint left. Jason agreed, and the crew dove in headfirst. The biggest challenge was that our spare engine was just that - an engine. It was not fully dressed with wiring, accessories, clutch, etc. so we had one group pulling the damaged radiator and engine while another went to work on the fresh one. There were a couple of minor troubleshooting issues once the car was fired up, but it didn't skip a beat once it re-entered the race. I couldn't be more proud of the grit and focus our crew displayed after being up for more than 24 hours.