Saturday at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca, it was sunshine from the moment the sun crested over the Turn Nine hill and bathed the paddock in light, bringing out the shades at 7:30am. Today there is more practice, an 8am warm-up for a 5:45pm race, qualifying and three races. Busy Day!
The day started out frisky and none of the morning sessions went uninterrupted. The drivers kicked up their heels … and a lot of dust and gravel. The corner workers got a work out with a rainbow of flags – Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, Yellow/Red, and White. The SFR E Crew were kept busy retrieving.
SCRAMP (Sports Car Racing Association of Monterey Peninsula) CEO, Tim McCrane and IMSA Driver Advisor, Elliot Forbes-Robinson visited, amused and educated us at the 7am morning meeting of the SFR SCCA Flagging & Communications Crew, with IMSA Official, Jo Ann Jensen, Jim Swintal, Pirelli Porsche Race Director Randy Buck and Driver Coach, Craig Stanton. Lots to go over with all the IMSA rules, ways and means.
In IMSA WeatherTech Qualifying, Jordan Taylor/No.10 Konica/Minolta Cadillac has the pole position for Sunday’s America’s Tire 250 Race for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. His lap was 1:16.181/105.758, a new track record – breaking the one set last June by his brother, Ricky Taylor – 1:16.853. There are thirteen Prototypes in the race. This was Jordan’s tenth (or 11th) IMSA pole, his second WeatherTech Championship pole, and his first pole at this Laguna Seca track since 2015. The team hasn’t won at Laguna Seca since 2013. Jordan and teammate Renger Van Der Zande are fourth in the Driver standings. Cadillac is leading the Prototype Manufacturer Standings. Thirty-four drivers qualified.
Jordan hasn’t had a victory this season, and hopes this pole will remedy that. He said “We’ve been putting ourselves in a good position to win all year. Getting pole certainly helps. I guess it’s time for us to get a win and get ahold of this championship.” He said “Action Express is our main competition.”
Jordan said “It was a good lap, we have had a good Cadillac all weekend. Renger was fast in practice all week. I had a good qualifying set-up that worked over one lap, but in practice we were working on a car that would handle for the whole race. It is nice to start from the pole. We will work from the front and see if we can control it. Laguna is always a low grip track, you are always sliding around. We focused on the handling toward the end of the stint. Renger is going to finish the race and developed a set-up that best suits him, so hopefully we have the car set-up right so he can battle for the win.”
Oliver Gavin/No.4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7 R took the GTLM pole position ahead of seven competitors. It was his first-ever pole position at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. He’s had more than 50 career poles in various series.
For awhile during the fifteen-minute Qualifying session, he and teammate, Jan Magnussen/No.3 were 1-2, before Dirk Mueller/No.66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT inserted himself to be the filling in a Corvette sandwich.
Gavin is the ninth different driver to get the pole position in ten races. He and teammate, Tommy Milner are fourth in the GTLM Driver standings with 252 points.Their fellow Corvette, No.3 with Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, is leading the standings with 269 points. Gavin and Milner won their 2015 IMSA class at Laguna Seca in 2012.
Gavin said “It was nice to get back to P1. It’s always great to get pole position here at Laguna Seca. Thanks to everyone at Corvette Racing and the crew. It takes a massive effort from everyone on the team to get back to P1. It’s nice to have this moment for the guys on our team. It gives everyone a nice little fill-up going into the race tomorrow.
“I’m thrilled, but this is only a small step in trying to achieve what we want to achieve tomorrow, and that’s a victory. Once the green flag drops tomorrow, this is all kind of forgotten. We have a very good race car; obviously it fell in nicely for qualifying. The Corvette C7.R has been strong all year. We’ve had an amazing team, great strategy and pit stops. We just need to execute tomorrow. The competition is at an all-time high in GTLM, and to be able to beat those guys is pretty satisfying. But the real work is ahead for tomorrow.
“We’ll be pushing like crazy at the start and we’ll work hard tonight to make sure we have everything covered and we’re fully prepared for the race.
On there being so many different GTLM pole winners, Gavin said “It speaks to the level of competition in the class. We’ve obviously got a good race car and an amazing team. It’s great for the guys. GTLM competition is at an all-time high and beating them (other competitors) feels good.”
Katherine Legge/No.86 Meyer Shank Racing w/Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX got her first WeatherTech IMSA pole position with a time of 1:24.456. She said it was nerve-racking the last five minutes waiting to see if anyone topped her time. She credited her team for giving her such a good car. “First pole in a GT car for me, so I’m over the moon over that. The team gave me a great car, so thanks to them. Now it’s all about tomorrow. We really need a good result here and Petit [Le Mans] to be in with a shot at the championship.”
Legge is in a tights point battle with Bryan Sellars and Madison Snow in No.48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3. Sellars and Snow are 18 points ahead of Legge. Her co-driver, Alvaro Parente is further behind in the standings.
IMSA WeatherTech sportscars had an hour-long morning practice. Ranger Van Der Zande/No.10 Konica/Minolta Cadillac was the fastest overall and the fastest Prototype, narrowly shading his Friday fastest overall time, to clock a 1:16.605/105.172 mph. His co-driver is Jordan Taylor. The No.911 Porsche Team Porsche 911 RSR with Patrick Palet and Nick Tandy was quickest in the GTLM Class, at 1:22.839/97.258 mph. The No.58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911GT3 R driven by Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen was tops in GTD, at 1:24.619/95.212 mph.
The Lamborghini Race was marred by a jarring accident at the bottom of the Corkscrew on Lap Four. LB driver Sheena Monk/No.7 had no brakes and drove straight into the tire wall and flipped, landing right side up. The SFR Emergency Crew and IMSA Medical Team responded to the driver, and the SFR Course Marshals and Track equipment arrived to repair the damaged tire wall. “Monk was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation, and she was awake and alert.”
The Red Flag lasted most of the race, which featured driver changes. The race restarted, there were driver changes, and then another incident so the Pace Car took the Checkered Flag ahead of Pro Driver, Taylor Prolo/No.50 US Race Tronics. His co-driver is Edoardo Piscopo, who qualified the car. Trent Hindman/No. 1 Wayne Taylor Racing turned the fastest lap in the class at 1:25.651. Unfortunately he and co-driver Johnny Cecotto DNF.
ProAm driver, Loria Spinelli/No.71 P1 Motorsports, had led until the restart after the Red Flag and their driver change to JC Perez. They won the ProAm class, finishing fourth overall. Spinelli turned the fastest class lap of 1:25.515
Brian Thiennes/No.17 US Race Tronics won the Am Class, driving alone. He finished sixth overall. Damon Ockey/No.09 US Race Tronics turned the fastest class lap of 1:27.302.
Mark Proto and Parris Mullens won the LB Cup Class, finishing eighth overall. Brett Meredith/No.66 P1 Motorsports drove alone and turned the fastest class lap of 1:27.776.
Fourteen drivers finished the race, with 13 on the lead lap. Only 15 laps were completed in the 50-minute race, due to the half hour or so Red Flag time. Two drivers were penalized time for short pit stops – No.67 PPM in the Am class and No.71 P1 Motorsports in the ProAm class.
Next up the two-hour race for IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and 45-minute race for Pirelli Trophy West U.S.A.