Despite the ground hugging fog greeting early arrivers at WeatherTech Laguna Seca Friday morning for the Continental Monterey Grand Prix, the schedule started on time with Porsche Pirelli Trophy West U.S.A. The drive into the track on South Boundary Road was downright scary, but upon cresting the hill overlooking the paddock it was clearer…enough so that it was picturesque but clear enough to race.
It soon lifted and the sun shone, with blue skies and light breezes. It was low seventies, warmer than Thursday.
Four series are competing this weekend – IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, IMSA Lamborghini Trofeo, and Porsches. Friday calls for Practice for all, and Qualifying for Lambos and Porsches.
The IMSA race has been held at Laguna Seca 1974 when it held the Inaugural Monterey Triple Crown. Just now “experts from USA Today and fans” voted the Continental Monterey Grand Prix the fifth Best Motorsports Race in the World, behind such International events as the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Monaco Grand Prix and 24 Hours of Le Mans. This race on the iconic 2.238-mile elevated road course is traditionally the penultimate race of the IMSA season. Ten International races made the list, and the only other American venue besides Daytona was the USGP at COTA. Next year the fiftieth Anniversary of IMSA will be celebrated as the featured marque at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.
Several of the sessions were punctuated with Red Flags to bring in the cars, while their fellow competitors were being retrieved out of gravel pits mostly in Turns Two and Eight/Corkscrew area. The lunch-time on-track activities were mostly canceled so that track maintenance could be performed in the Corkscrew area, removing three Dissuaders after one was taken out at Turn Eight.
The Konica Minolta Cadillac No.10 DPi was the fastest WeatherTech IMSA Prototype and overall sportscar in the morning practice, with drivers Roger Van Der Zande and Jordan Taylor, turning a 1:16.882/104.794 mph. Second and third Protytpes were Dane Cameron & Juan Pablo Montoya/No.6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi; and Johannes van Overbeek & Pipo Derani/No.22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi.
In the GTLM class, Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook were fastest in No.67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT at 1:23.644/96.322 mph. Second and third were Joey Hand & Dirk Mueller in the No.66 team Ford GT; and Earl Bamber & Laurens Vanthoor/No.912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911.
Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow were the top GTD team in No.48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 at 1:25.403/94.338 mph. Second and third in class were Ben Keating & Jeroen Bleekemolen/No.33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes; and John Potter & Andy Lally/No.44 Magnus Racing Audi.
Left to Right: No.10 Konica Minolta Prototype Cadillac; No.67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GTLM Ford GT; and No.38 GTD Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini.
In the afternoon Dane Cameron/No.6 Team Penske Acura pipped his teammate,Helio Castroneves/No.7 Team Penske Acura at the very last minute – literally, with a time of 1:16.885 – just barely not quite as fast as the Konica Cadillac from the morning session. Castroneves was second in the afternoon, with No.5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac in third with Filipe Albuquerque and Joao Barbosa.
In the GTLM class, the No.66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT was tops with Joey Hand & Dirk Mueller at 1:23.427/96.670 mph. Second and third in class were teammates Briscoe and Westbrook in No.67; and Oliver Gavin & Tommy Milner/No.4 Corvette Racing Corvette.
Park Place Porsche was the fastest GTD team with drivers Patrick Lindsey and Joerg Bergmeister in No.73 Porsche at 1:25.148/94.620mph.
Left to Right: Dane Cameron/No.6 Prototype Acura; No.66 GTLM Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT; and No.73 GTD Park Place Porsche.
Watching this group go through the Turn One radar trap near the end of the first hour-long session, I saw 149 mph pop up on the cross-over bridge sign.
In the Continental Challenge Group, practicing for Saturday’s WeatherTech Raceway Laguna 120 race, Gary Ferrera and Kris Wilson were fastest overall in the morning session and in the Grand Sport Class at 1:33.123/86.517 mph in No.99 Automatic Racing Aston Martin. Second and third in GS were Dillon Machavern & Spencer Pumpelly/No.28 RS1 Porsche Cayman; and Alan Brynjolfsson & Trent Hindman/No.7 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang.
Quickest in the Touring Car Class were Roy Block and Pierre Kleinubing/No.75 Compass Racing AudiRS3 at 1:35.501/84.363 mph.Second and third in TCR were Russell Ward & Damien Faulkner/No.33 Winward Racing/HTP Mercedes AMG and Robin Liddell & Andrew Davis/No.71 Rebel Rock Racing Camaro.
Mike LaMarra and Matt Pombo were the fastest of the Street Tuner class cars,in No.73 MINI USA Mini JCW, at 1:39.853/80.686 mph. Second and third were Nick Galante and Devin Jones in No.81 Veristor/Logistics BMW; and Colin Mullan & Mark Pombo in No.52 Mini USA JCW.
The Porsche group was the largest field, with 38 entries. They have six categories within the series: Diamond, Diamond Masters, Platinum, Gold, Bronze and Silver. In the first practice, Michael Zukeack/No.2 GT3 Cup was fastest overall and in Diamond Master at 1:31.013. Sean McAlister/No.00 GT3 Cup was the fastest Platinum at 1:31.405; Jonah Yokubatis/No.43 GT3 Cup in Diamond at 1:31.538; Will Lin/No.5 GT3 Cup-Gold at 1:34.347; Steve Goldman/No.9 Cayman-Bronze at 1:35.564; and Chris Bellomo/No.67 Cayman at 1:36.897.
In the second practice, a somewhat different cast topped their respective classes, as the times got faster. Loren Beggs/No.08 GT3 Cup was the quickest Porsche and in Diamond at 1:19.934. Preston Calvert/No.7 GT 3 Cup-Diamond Master at 1:19.152; Mcalister in Platinum at 1:29.841; Lin in Gold at 1:32.845; Laura Ely/No.09 Cayman-Bronze at 1:34.887; and Bellomo in Silver at 1:35.853.
In the Super Trofeo series morning practice, Trent Hindeman and Jonathan Cecotto/No.1 Wayne Taylor Racing were the fastest in the Pro Class at 1:24.211/95.673 mph. JC Perez and Loris Spinelli/No.71 P1 Motorsports were the fastest ProAm Team at 1:24.380/95.482 mph. Brian Thienes/No.17 US Race Tronics was the fastest Am driver at 1:26.240/93.422 mph. Brett Meredith/No.66 P1 Motorsports was the fastest in the LB Cup Class at 1:28.990/90.535mph.
In the afternoon, the speeds were a tad slower. P1 Motorsports drivers Perez and Spinelli were fastest overall and in ProAm at 1:25.264/94.494 mph. The fastest Pro drivers were Brandon Gdovic and Shinya Sean Michimi/No.46 PPM at 1:25.845/93.852 mph. Damon Ockey/No.09 US Race Tronics led the Am class at 1:26.429/03.218 mph. Sheena Monk/No.7 Wayne Taylor Racing was the fastest in LB Cup at 1:29.195/90.327 mph.
Thursday was the Promotors Test Day, which included the Porsches, Lamborghini’s and Continentals. At day’s end, the IMSA sports cars fueled in pit lane, with the Emergency Crew and Pit Marshals from San Francisco Region Sports Car Club of America standing by. While this was ongoing, those team members not involved with fueling went for their Track Orientation Walk.
Saturday’s schedule calls for Practice and qualifying for IMSA and Continental Series, as well as three races – Lamborghinis, Continentals and Porsches. The day starts at 8am and goes to 6:30pm, with a 50-minute lunch. The excitement never ends!