TO PIT OR NOT TO PIT – That must have been going through the minds of the No.99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP Sunday afternoon, while leading in the waning laps of the Rolex Sports Car Series race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. To pit it had to be and the pole-sitting team of RICHARD WESTBROOK and ANTONIO GARCIA/No.90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP took the lead and won the Continental Tire Sports Car Festival feature race. The Margin of Victory was.3.878 seconds. The Spirit team also turned the fastest race lap of 1:22.478/97.684 mph on Lap Four. The team earned its third victory, making it the only DP team with three wins this season.
Third in class were RYAN DALZIEL and ALEX TAGLIANI in No.8 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley DP. After the fact, during post-race inspection, Grand-Am found the width of the front dive planes to be excessive. “If there are to be any penalties, they will be announced next week.”
In the GT class, it was DANE CAMERON/No.43 Team Sahlen Mazda RX-8 who brought it home – co-driving with MATT BELL, just ahead of JEFF SEGAL and EMIL ASSENTATO/No.69 AIM Autosport Team Ferrari 458. Third in class were ANDY LALLY and JOHN POTTER/No.44 Magnus Racing Porsche GT3.
Westbrook extolled the virtues of racing at Laguna Seca. Garcia spoke of the difficulty in passing. They both discussed tire strategy. They conserved, the tires held out pretty good, and it paid off right at the end. The tires were sensitive to temperature changes. The team didn’t have much practice with long runs due to so many black flags earlier in the weekend. “I think we were the two best cars on tires.”
The No.99 team, with ALEX GURNEY and JON FOGARTY, really wanted to win Sunday’s race – the team’s ninety-ninth race on the date 9/9. Alas, it was not to be. Close but no cigar. The team not only had to pit near the end of the race, earlier Gurney left the pits with fuel/spray spewing from the left side of the car. He pitted next time around. In describing it from his point of view, Gurney said it was a little spill. Fogarty was quick to correct him, saying it was “gushing.” The door didn’t close on the fuel loader. The team was worried that the fuel could have ignited. A tap and the door reset itself. Fogarty said “It was a tragedy narrowly averted.”Whatever it was never happened before.”
Gurney wasn’t happy with an assessed penalty for going over the red line, saying he was pushed over there by SCOTT PRUETT/No.01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley DP, and Gurney had no place to go. A third point he made concerned having “some trouble with GT traffic at a critical point in the race with fifteen minutes to go.”
Fogarty said “Even with issues we were able to battle back to finish second. I was a little concerned after qualifying that we wouldn’t have the pace for the 90 car. I had a bad start but made up the positions.”
Dalziel was really pleased with his team. He had them take the car apart several times during the weekend, including right before the race. And they did. Tagliani agreed that it had been a struggle with the car all weekend, with the team working constantly on the car right up to race time.
In comparing and contrasting open wheel indycars and sportscars, Tag said the last time he raced at Laguna Seca was in 2004, and the last test was in 2007. He did a 1:04 flat. The open wheel cars are faster, and require a different technique which takes getting used to.
When asked about how was his race, Cameron said “I have no idea what happened. I was pretty nervous at the end that there might be a caution. I was hoping the Ferrari would have to pit and they did, so we got back the lead. Nonnamaker pointed out how competitive is the GT class, and was very proud of the team getting its first Rolex Series GT victory. “Now we’ve won in every class of Grand-Am.
Segal and Assentato finished second in GT, but clinched the 2012 GT Championship, with one race remaining.
Assentato said Laguna was a tough track and the GT’s were a competitive class.
Segal said the race was more exciting than expected, with lots of tense moments. “It was a dog fight with Andy (Lally) and the 44 car at the end. It hasn’t hit me yet that we clinched the championship. I’m still thinking about the last few laps.” Segal didn’t eaxctly have on his happy face with those remarks, obviously referring to Lally’s remarks which came earlier in the media session – which starts with third place finisher, moving up to second and then to the winners.
Lally admitted to tapping the Ferrari while going wide in the Corkscrew, hoping it would move him up the line for the finish. It didn’t. He pointed out it was his team’s fourth podium this year. Co-driver Potter said they had tire wear issues, but it paid off at the end.
The concept to include fans in the paddock for the post-event media sessions was interesting, but is a work in progress. For the post-Rolex race interviews, the GT’s had to compete with the blaring of the DP Victory Circle festivities right next door, and the GT’s went up against the PA blaring and the Star Mazda race. Tag was the Time Monitor for the DP post-race media session, reminding folks that they had a minute 38 to get in their questions for the noisy Star Mazda cars raced.
The race had but two cautions for eight of the 111 laps in the timed race, with Grand-Am records set for the fewest cautions and most laps at the Monterey road circuit.
There were eight DP lead changes among seven drivers who led in six cars; and nine GT driver lead changes among seven drivers in six cars.
The Rolex Series moves on to Lime Rock Park at the end of the month, for the season’s finale race.