I have been fortunate enough to attend famous American endurance sports car events throughout the years, like the 24 Hours of Daytona (8 times), Petit Le Mans (7 times), Sebring 12 Hours, Sahlen 6 Hours, 6 Hours of Austin, etc; but there was always one event that stood out for me, and I always looked forward to being part of it each year. That was the 13 Hours of Virginia. An SCCA sanctioned club endurance event hosted at the famed VIR circuit in Alton, Virginia.
There was something about the event that always got my attention. Maybe it was the temperature. Or the time of year, where all the leaves turned bright red and orange. The ridiculous amount of darkness during the night practice session at the track, where all the lights you had were literally the bright headlights from the race cars when they passed by you. Or the ridiculous amount of Spec Miatas that were listed on the events' entry list (nothing wrong with that; the more Spec Miatas the better!). But guess what? There won't be another running ever again!
Yup, that's right. It's over. One of the most pristine club endurance races in America, and it will be no more. How do you kill an event so important to the club endurance community like this? Don't ask me.
Look, I'm not going to point out fingers here and blame anyone for the dimise of this event, but something needs to be done, because this event has too much potential for growth. Just take a look at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. A club endurance race in the west coast that keeps attracting big teams and manufacturers each year such as Honda/Acura, Mazda, etc. The organizers have really done a good job in growing their product, so why can't the 13 Hours grow too? I'm afraid I don't have all the answers to that question, but one thing I can tell you is that I heard absolutely nothing about this year's running until late August. No info, no links, no pictures, nothing. That by itself is not a good start.
Let me mention however the WERC (Western Endurance Racing Championship) as it is a fantastic example of what should be done in the east coast as a whole. The WERC is a club endurance championship that hosts several enduros throughout the year. You've got the 6 Hours of Utah, the 3 hours of Willow Springs, and the 25 Hours of Thunderhill which also counts as a championship round. I'm a bit surprised this still hasn't been done on the eastern side of the U.S. as you already had the 12 Hours of New Jersey and the 13 Hours. All you probably would've needed is perhaps one more event at one different location and you would've had your very first SCCA eastern endurance racing championship. Now I say that not knowing all the difficulties that the organizers go through in order to make these events possible, but this isn't impossible either. The market is there, the teams are there, the tracks are there.
There are teams that came all the way from Vermont, Florida, and even Canada to race in this year's running of the 13 hour. Teams that only exist to run the enduros. Teams that race maybe one or two sprint races throughout the year, but never skip both the 12 Hours of Jersey and the 13 Hours. Professional teams like Fall-Line Motorsports, Bimmerworld, and Phoenix Performance who strive on endurance races like these (just ask the winner of this year's event).
I'm sorry, but you simply can't kill events like these. Not for the sake of the sport. I really hope the decision to cancel the event is reconsidered heavily as it would be a tremendous loss for the American endurance racing scene. Events like these is what makes the American endurance community the best in the world.
As to how the event went, it was really competitive. Phoenix Performance started the race dominating in style, until clutch issues ruined their run for victory just three hours in. Fall-Line Motorsports then took the lead in their Porsche 997 GT3 Cup car, and kept it until the end. It wasn't all easy for them however, as they had fierce competition from Radical teams, heavily modified BMW M3s, and a very impressive and fast Subaru BRZ from Gear One Performance.
There were a few black flags throughout the race though, bringing the event to a halt a few times due to incidents, but everyone did a tremendous job in at least making it to the finish.
I'm hopeful we'll have another 13 hours next year, and if not the 13 hours at VIR, I know we'll have another big enduro at some other track. In fact, I really do believe we'll see an Eastern Endurance Racing Championship soon. We'll see what happens, but for now, enjoy my take on the 2016 13 Hours of Virginia, and thank you to all the men and women, who worked hard over the weekend, especially to all the corner workers who made this event possible.
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