SONOMA – Following the previous announcement and driver reveal of their first of two entries into the 2018 NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill Presented by Hawk Performance, Flying Lizard Motorsports today unveiled the driver lineup for the second car, the No. 45 Jester & Babbitt Racing by Flying Lizard Motorsports Toyo Tires Audi R8 LMS GT4 in the Toyo Tires GT4 Challenge class.
Drivers Christina Nielsen, Aurora Straus, Ashton Harrison, Laura Ely, and Erin Vogel will become the first women to compete under the Flying Lizard banner, and the second all-female team to compete in this year’s event.
Inspired by the October announcement of ShiftUp Now’s all-female 25 Hours of Thunderhill effort, Erin Vogel of Jester & Babbitt Racing contacted Flying Lizard Program Manager Darren Law, eager to also produce a racing program to provide more women the opportunity to get behind the wheel for the longest race in North America.
“I’m proud that Flying Lizard Motorsports is able support a program that provides more women with an opportunity to show their driving talent,” said Program Manager Darren Law. “Erin has put together a great driver line up, they have a good mix of professional experience in Christina Nielsen and Aurora Straus along with up-and-comers Ashton and Laura. We have a shot at not only a class win but potentially an overall podium. Having a second car racing on the Toyo Proxes slick will give us another opportunity to showcase the grip and durability of the tires.”
While this may be the first time Christina Nielsen has competed in the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill, the Danish race car driver is no stranger to endurance racing. In 2016, Nielsen became the first female to win a professional full season sports car championship when she clinched the GTD IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, as well as the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup. In 2017, she repeated her championship success, securing the title with seven podium finishes. In 2018 she officially became affiliated as a Porsche selected driver, earning at win at Road America and an additional podium finish.
“I am excited I get to take part in the event for the first time, and I cannot wait to meet everyone, get to know them and work with them,” said Nielsen. “It is a great opportunity for me to stay sharp during the offseason and I really appreciate Erin and the team giving me this chance. As a driver there are certain teams that come to mind when you hear the words; professional, championship winners and dedication. One of those teams is Flying Lizard Motorsport. I, therefore, know that we will be joining the race with a professional set-up and a ton of experience, which gives me reason to believe that we can be a strong competitor within the field.”
Professional racer Aurora Straus began her motorsports career at Monticello Motor Club at age 13, when her father got behind the wheel with her to teach her car control and defensive driving skills. By age 17, she became one of the youngest racers ever in the IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge. In 2018, she piloted her Richard Mille/Tiffany and Co BMW to second overall in the GT4 championship. She is also a full-time student at Harvard, a musician, and founder of Girls With Drive, a nonprofit that helps young girls succeed in male-dominated career paths like business, STEM, politics, and racing.
“I am elated to be partnering with Erin Vogel, Audi, Toyo Tires, and Flying Lizard for the 25 Hours of Thunderhill,” said Straus. “Getting more young girls excited about male-dominated fields, including the racing industry, is an issue near and dear to my heart. I can’t thank everyone in this program enough for supporting women. This is my first time ever at Thunderhill or in the Audi GT4, but I’m excited to hit the ground running!”
Twenty-four-year-old Ashton Harrison comes to the all-women’s team as the driver with the most experience at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. In 2017, Harrison made her 25 Hour debut in a Sick Sideways Global MX-5 Cup car, earning a 5th place finish. She began her racing career a decade ago, following an addicting driving experience at the Bondurant Racing School. Under expert coaching, Harrison began competing in NASA and SCCA sanctioned events, joining the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Series in 2016. That year, she became one of only three drivers to finish every race that season. In 2018, she came just a few points shy of being highest finishing female in MX-5 Cup history. Harrison’s racing efforts have been made possible by longtime partners Harrison Contracting, Atlanta Humane Society, Molecule Sports, and Thorne.
“I’m super excited to be joining Flying Lizard for The 25 Hours of Thunderhill,” said Harrison. “Last year I made my debut at the 25 Hours of Thunderhill with SickSideways, and I learned so much in addition to having a lot of fun out there. Now that I get the chance to drive with Jester & Babbitt by Flying Lizard Motorsports, I can’t contain my excitement. I went to my first IMSA race in 2012 at Petit Le Mans with my dad and the Lizard Porsche caught my eye immediately. Getting to tell my dad that I’m joining FLM was an opportunity I’ve been waiting to have for a very long time. Now that I’ve been able to do that, let’s go racing!”
Laura Ely began her motorsports experience in 2016, taking her Porsche GT4 on track. The following year, after participating in over 20 driving experiences, Ely purchased a 2016 Porche GT4 Clubsport and began her club racing career. In late 2017, Ely joined the Pirelli GT3 Cup, now known as the Pirelli Trophy West USA, earning nine wins and an additional nine podiums to date. While only competing in less than 40% of the races, she finished fourth in class. Completing 12 of the 14 events in 2018, Ely was crowned the 2018 Bronze class champion. Ely’s entry into the 25 Hours of Thunderhill is made possible by Black Sheep Racing, a driver co-op that mitigates the cost of racing.
“I’m truly honored to be joining Erin Vogel, Flying Lizard Motorsports and the all women team to participate at the NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill,” said Ely. “I first met Erin through the Porsche Owner Club when we both attended the POC Race Clinic at Buttonwillow Raceway Park. Her father Bill was also my coach at one of my first POC DE track day events. Erin and Bill are great friends, and with the Flying Lizard team for support I believe we will have a very strong effort and do well with the Audi R8 LMS GT4 in the 25 hour race. I’m looking forward to a great race weekend with all the other ladies on the team.”
Erin Vogel’s experience behind the wheel began as a family affair in 2009 when she joined Audi Club High Performance Driving Experiences with her parents and brother. She raced for two seasons in the Inde Motorsports Ranch Challenge Series, and in 2016 joined competition the Porsche Owners Club (POC), where she currently plans to continue racing in 2019. In 2017 Vogel finished third in the series’ Tribute to Le Mans mini-enduro, also on an all-female effort.
“I never would have imagined that in my 30s I’d start driving a race car, but it just goes to show that people get their start in motorsports in a million different ways,” said Vogel. “What started it for me it was through the superb instruction of the Audi Club HPDE program, where I was surprised to find so many great female role models, and one female instructor in particular who encouraged me to go racing, starting that the sport needed more women. It seems appropriate now that my first major racing effort should be in an Audi R8 LMS, and that it should be an all-female team with leading female drivers like Laura, Ashton, Aurora, and Christina.”
The ladies of the No. 45 Jester & Babbitt Racing by Flying Lizard Motorsports Toyo Tires Audi R8 LMS GT4 will race alongside the No. 74 Flying Lizard Motorsports Toyo Tires Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Wolf Henzler, Johannes van Overbeek, Justin Marks, Charlie Hayes, and Andy Wilzoch. The field will take the green flag on Saturday, December 1 at 11:00AM Pacific, racing around the clock to finish 25 hours later on Sunday afternoon.
“We are proud to support the Jester & Babbitt Racing by Flying Lizard Motorsports Toyo Tires Audi R8 LMS GT4 and its all-female line-up as they take on this grueling race. All of these ladies are accomplished racers and we are confident that the Toyo Proxes Race Slicks will give them the performance and consistency they need to get to the top step of the podium,” said Marc Sanzenbacher, senior manager, motorsports, Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp.
This race will mark the fourth 25 Hours of Thunderhill joint effort for Flying Lizard and Toyo Tires since the pair partnered for the Toyo Proxes race slick development program in 2015. Following the success at the 25 Hour, the team entered into the 2018 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb earlier this year, finishing second in the Lizards’ first climb.
Flying Lizard Motorsports first competed in the event with Toyo Tires in 2015, perfectly executing the race to win not only in class but overall by 35 laps over the next competitor. The team returned to defend the win the following year, bringing an Audi R8 LMS and Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Both cars finished in the top three overall, with the Audi again securing the top spot. In 2017, the team again ran a perfect race to claim the overall win and two class victories with its Audi R8 LMS and Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR. With a low number of caution periods during the race, the Lizards beat the all-time laps completed record of 761 by setting a new high of 780.
Known for its challenging weather conditions in the dead of winter, over 60% of the race will be completed at night, putting competitors to the test as they deal with varying levels of car classes. For event information, visit https://nasa25hour.com. The team will again attempt to broadcast the radio feed from at least one of the cars live on the Flying Lizard Motorsports YouTube page, which will also host a live chat, allowing fans worldwide to get exclusive access and interaction with team for all 25 Hours of the event. Subscribe to the team’s YouTube page to be notified when the broadcasts go live