The UFD 250, incredible racing action and strategy made for an awesome race
LAS VEGAS, NV – The United Fiber and Data 250 was the EXR Series first endurance race of the season and as expected the 3 hour raced proved to be full of action. 18 drivers on 9 teams raced for 250 miles into the night at Exotics Racing’s racetrack at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Sprint Series championship saw drivers racing twice for only thirty minutes, however, in the UFD 250 drivers had to drive for multiple thirty minute stints sharing time with a co-driver.
The EXR Series welcomed back Burt and Caitlyn Jenner, along with Bill Hynes, Richard McIntosh, Sammy Valafar, Michael Halverson, Gerard Thievin, Romain Thievin, David Perisset, Mark Baruth, as well as, professional racers Alex Premat and Tristan Vautier. New drivers included Kyle Kaiser, Collete Davis, Tom Manchester, and Jack Baruth.
During qualification drivers practiced holding fast and consistent times rather than fighting to get through corner one the fastest. “I’m trying to be consistent so I can bring the car back safe and intact for David so that he can bring it home,” said Michael Halverson after Q1. David Perisset pointed out that lap times overall were improving as drivers focused on being smooth instead of fast. “Bill and you are within 2/10ths of second,” Perisset told teammate Halverson after qualification.
At the start of qualification track conditions were near perfect for the drivers, Shaodan Zhao noted, “it’s perfect right now, it’s not hot but it’s not cold, so I am very comfortable. The car is responding very well too. The crew has been super helpful setting up our car, it is handling great. I really love racing here.”
Overtime, track conditions during qualification became slick as temperatures and humidity increased. Bill Hynes noted, “As time went on I lost more and more grip but I’m sitting in P4 so I can be happy with that. We will see what Alex Premat can do.”
Global Rally Cross racer, Collete Davis, found that track conditions were perfect, allowing her to lay down a fast lap time which was incredible consider she has not raced in an EXR LV02 before. “It was great; I turned in my fastest lap so I feel good and happy. This car is a ton of fun and staying consistent is going to be the key. I’m still learning so I hope to improve a bit more during the race,” said Davis.
Burt and Caitlyn Jenner raced as a father son team, as did Romain and Gerard Thievin, adding a special element to the competition. Caitlyn and Burt raced with the series in Circuit of the Americas and know the EXR LV02 racecars rather well as both were on podium for our first race weekend of the season. “We were fast out there, I’m not sure where I stand on the grid but the car is straight and handled great,” said Burt Jenner. At the time he didn’t know it but he was the fastest during the first half of qualifying. Burt continued, “As far as Las Vegas goes these conditions are a 10.5 out of 10, it’s not hot and it’s not cold, perfect for racing.”
Also racing in the UFD 250 were brothers Mark and Jack Baruth. Mark is a contributor to Road & Track magazine and an avid GT racer. “I’m still getting use to the car and how it behaves, but feeling great about it. I’m use to racing sports cars which are more forgiving but less powerful. I’m figuring out the grip and once I do my lap time will improve. I’m not as fast as I want to be yet but I’ll be ready and confident for the race,” said Mark Baruth.
The start of the UFD 250 was tight, nearly the entire field stayed together for 5 or 6 laps, battling in every corner but not acting as aggressive in the past as teams want to preserve their cars for the duration of the race. Leading the pack was Indy Car and GT racer, Tristan Vautier, who battled hard with Supercars racer Alex Premat for the first position.
“I figured I would let them battle and hold my place, the only downside is that they were kicking gravel on the track but I avoided it, but the car was great. It’s a long race and if we can maintain our pace this should end well for us,” said Caitlyn Jenner. Some of the drivers enjoy the obstacles that arose in the endurance race of the season, Tom Manchester said, “we got drive through some gravel and maneuver around some cars which isn’t something I get to experience in most sprint races, it was a lot of fun. Rudy is out there now, the car is great and he’s putting down some fast laps so we should do okay.”
Adding to the challenge of a long race were mandatory timed pit stops and refueling. Each team needed to pit during the race 6 times to switch drivers or fix small issues with the car. Calculating the correct time to pit during the pit stop window forced teams to strategize about when to come in and how quickly they could switch drivers, something the sprint series racers haven’t had to do in previous races. “I made a mistake and waited too long to pit; I should have come in as soon as track went yellow. I hope we can make up that time but I think we might be out of it, said Indy Lights Champion, Kyle Kaiser.
“Yeah, it’s a lot of fun out there early on. The start was tight and Sammy was fast but I was able to pass him coming out of turn 2, the banked turn, which was good. Then Premat was right behind me, we had a fun battle, I would pull away and he would catch up. We managed to battle while still preserving the tires. Our only mistake so far was pitting too late during a caution flag, the track went green while were in the pits, but we can make that time up,” said Vautier after his first pit stop of the race.
Early on in the race Alex Premat in the #57 UFD car had trouble with the throttle, in the middle of the racetrack the car came to a halt leaving Premat with no choice but to switch into a spare car, keeping him and teammate Bill Hynes in the race. “I had a great start, just behind Tristan Vautier; we were in a great battle until lap 18 or 19 when the throttle stopped working. They are fixing the car now but thankfully we had a spare car so Bill is out there now and we are all good,” said Alex Premat after the incident. Sammy Valafar also ran into an issue with his gearbox, but the issue was quickly resolved. “That was a little frustrating because the car is great, I was settling in too, but then I wasn’t able to shift for a lap. Premat and Vautier were pushing hard but I kept reminding myself that this is an endurance race and need to stay smooth. They pulled away and when I went to battle the issues with the gearbox slowed me down,” said Valafar after his first stint during the race.
“Although the car was not that good at the beginning, we had a decent start. I avoided a mistake by pitting as soon as the track went yellow and I saw the safety car so I’m sure we saved a lot of time. We are leading now so if we can maintain this pace and strategy we will be just fine. My dad is in the car now and he is doing well so things look good for us but it’s still early,” said EXR Series Sprint champion points leader, Romain Thievin.
Racing at night also added to the heightened level of difficulty as drivers had to contend with reduced visibility, high winds, and cooling track temperatures.
Mid way through the race, the drivers had settled in and lap times were improving just as they did during the extended qualification session. Tristan Vautier set a new record with a 1:02.623 lap time. But as night replaced day the track started to get slippery. “The track is starting to lose grip as the tires have been working harder than usual. Still I was able to pass two of three cars and benefited from other teams issues. I think Mike and I did a good relay at the pit stop, he got into the car quickly and out on track in a perfect amount of time. The race is long, so my fingers are crossed at the sun begins to set and night settles in. It’s going to be interesting with reduced grip and less light,” said David Perisset.
“We are at the point of the race where the drivers are settled, the only challenge is to maintain position and avoid some of the dust that’s blown onto track. There is no grip where there is dust and someone could spin for sure but overall the track conditions are great,” said professional drifter Rudy Ibanez.
In the final laps of the race, teams gathered inside to watch live timing results before the last driver switch and pit stop of the race. Series driver Richard McIntosh was beamed as he left his teammate, Sammy Valafar in good position after their last switch. “It is unbelievably good out there,” said McIntosh, who continued, “everyone on track is picking up speed. There are track records being broken right and left. I laid down the fastest lap ever, a personal best, 1:04.600 dead. Endurance racing, that’s the racing of the future.”
At the end of the UFD 250, when the checkered flag dropped, everyone celebrated the top 3 finishers even though no race penalizes had been assessed. Bill Hynes and Alex Premat took first, followed by Tristan Vautier and Collete Davis in second, and Caitlyn and Burt Jenner in third. By the next day, after the race director had reviewed all the on-board videos, verified lap times, and assessed penalties, the official race results were certified. Burt and Caitlyn Jenner won the race, followed by Vautier and Davis in second, with McIntosh and Valafar in third.
See full UFD 250 race results here:
See UFD 250 race photo here:
Check out the previous Fontana race highlights:
UFD 250 Special Awards
UFD 250 Race
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