Following a successful two-race campaign in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Josh Bilicki went back to his roots in sportscar racing at the nation's longest endurance race of the year, the 25 Hours of Thunderhill, in Willows, California. This year's 25 hour race brought professional and amateur teams and drivers from across the globe. Cars ranged from Ginetta LMP3 prototypes, to FIA GT3 spec cars, to brand new Honda Development Racing Civics, to Spec Miatas.
Bilicki drove the number nine Trim-Tex Drywall Products Mazda Global MX5 Cup car in the competitive E1 class, with teammates Cameron Cassels, Brit Casey Jr., Joe Koenig, and Keil Zornow. The weekend got off to a great start for team Trim-Tex when all drivers showed great overall pace during both test days. Brit Casey Jr. qualified the car in third position in class and 28th overall out of a total 60 entrees.
The race went green at 11:00AM on Saturday. Brit Casey Jr. drove a great opening stint and kept the car in third position. The team soon moved to second at the two and a half hour mark. Unfortunately, fuel spillage during the second pit stop cost the team a five minute penalty, moving them back to 11th position in class. From here, it was a game of catch up. There could be no mistakes if team Trim-Tex wanted to finish on the podium.
All five drivers cycled through their stints and gave it one hundred percent while driving, while at the same time conserving the car. Soon, Bilicki and the rest of the team found themselves back in the top-five.
During Bilicki's first double stint in the middle of the night, the team was issued a sound violation warning, going above the 99dB sound limit. Josh had no other option than to pit and check on the issue, but the crew found nothing wrong with the car. This meant the drivers would have to short shift while driving in order to keep the sound down. Another major set-back came later in the night when the Trim-Tex MX5 lost fifth gear due to a mechanical failure.
The team kept their eyes set on the podium and overcame these issues and soon found themselves back in the mix in third position. While Josh was in the car for his final stint, he began to experience a strange vibration in the drivetrain. Soon after radioing the issue to the team, he lost every gear except for sixth, meaning he would have to limp the car to the finish for the remaining hour and a half using only sixth gear. This also meant that the team would have to perform the final pit-stop for fuel and get the car rolling again, using only sixth gear.
Bilicki came into the pits for a splash of fuel with only twenty minutes remaining. The entire Trim-Tex team was on hand to help get the car rolling in sixth gear while pushing it off of pit road. Despite burning the clutch, Josh was successfully able to get the car rolling again and finish the race.
Despite the many issues, team Trim-Tex ultimately finished the 25 hour race in a very respectable 17th position overall and 3rd position in class, just one minute and 45 seconds ahead of fourth position.
"The idea to race this 25 hour race came up just over one month ago after Joe, Keil, and I raced the ALM 12 Hour Enduro at the Autobahn Country Club, so we did not have much time to prepare. We weren't really sure how we were going to stack up to our competition coming in to the race either, since we were classed with several cars that are much faster. After the test days, we knew the BMWs in our class were going to be strong. The cars were quite a bit quicker than our MX5 Global Cup Car, so we knew we had to minimize or mistakes and give it everything we had in the race," Bilicki says.
"I have driven with Joe Koening and Keil Zornow before and both are great drivers and even better guys. This was my first time driving with Cameron Cassels and Brit Casey. Both drivers were very fast and consistent, which is exactly what we needed. We made almost no mistakes during the race and managed to overcome the problems that we faced that were out of our control. After all said and done, we were the highest finishing Mazda in the field which feels like a win. Jesse Anderson did a great job calling the shots and giving us a great strategy. Guest Driver Racing performed our pit stops and did a great job, as always. I also want to thank Trim-Tex Drywall Products and Joe Koenig for giving me the opportunity to race with team Trim-Tex. I was a late addition to the team because the BMW I was going to race had a mishap in a test session and could not compete. Overall it was a great weekend."
Flying Lizard Motorsports took the overall win for the second year in a row with their Audi R8 GT3 car, but it did not come easy. The team took the lead late in the race after the Ginetta LMP3 car that had led the race for nearly 23 hours had a drive shaft failure.