ENDURING SUNDAY

8-Hour Grid

Pace Car Burnout

PaceCar Smoke Trail

Sunday started out warm and sunny and just grew hotter as the day wore on. It was downright scorching mid-day, and a nearby brush fire blew a smokey brown cloud over the track. It was contained and the skies cleared somewhat with a late afternoon breeze.

The race got off to a rousing start, with the Pace Car doing a proper burnout worthy of a drag racer, leaving a smokey trail into Turn Two.

It was an Audi parade for the race, with an Audi always in the lead – with one brief exception. Often there were two or three Audi’s at the front.

Pierre Kaaffer, Markus Winkelhock, and Kelvin van der Linde

Pierre Kaaffer, Markus Winkelhock, and Kelvin van der Linde

Kelvin van der Linde of South Africa won the California 8-Hour International GT Challenge Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, driving the No.44 Audi Sport Team Magnus USA Audi R8 LMS. He made a daring pass in Turn Five on then-leader, Christopher Mies of Germany in No.29 Audi Sort Team Land USA Audi RS LMS. Pole sitter Team Land, with drivers Pierre Kaffer and Markus Winkelhock of Germany, had led the majority of the race including almost all of the first six hours. It wasn’t until the seventh hour that another car took the lead, but not for long. The No.11 Belgian Audi Club WRT from Belgium led at the top the hour, with Team Magnus and Team Land on his heels.

No.9 McLaren car art

No.9 McLaren car art - 2

No.9 McLarencar art - 3

Finishing third was Bryan Sellers of USA in No.9 K-PAX Racing USA McLaren 650S GT3, with co-drivers Alvaro Parente of Portugal and Ben Barnicoat of Great Britain. Their car was decorated with sayings from Pokemon Go, a favorite of the owner.

David Calvert-Jones, Tim Pappas, and Jeroen Bleekemolen

David Calvert-Jones, Tim Pappas, and Jeroen Bleekemolen

Winning the GT3 Pro-Am Class was its pole sitter, Jeroen Bleekmolen of The Netherlands, with teammates David Calvert-Jones of Australia and Tim Pappas/USA in the shiny metallic green No.54 Black Swan Racing USA Porsche 911 GT3 R. They led most of the race and turned four of the class fastest laps, finishing fifth overall, two laps down. The other fast lapper was class runner-up, No.77 Calvert Dynamics/GMG Racing USA Porsche 911 GT3 R with an all-America driver line-up: Michael James Lewis, Preston Calvert, and Andrew Davis. They finished eighth overall, six laps down. They were the only leader that wasn’t an Audi or GT3 car. This was in the first hour during a short-fuel pit stop.

No.54 Porsche 911 GT3 R

No.54 Porsche 911 GT3 R

Jeff Westphal of the US won the GT4 Class in No.26 Rearden Racing USA Porsche Cayman GT4-R, with fellow Yanks, Jeff Kearl and Sean McAlister. They finished eleventh overall, 28 laps down. Second in class was Andy Lee in No.8 HKG Racing/GMG Racing Porsche GT4 Clubsport MR, with an all American driver lineup: Carter Yeung and Jon Miller.

Winning the Invitational Class was one of the two MARC Cars from Australia – No.193 with Jake Camilleri, Hadrian Morral and Morgan Haber. They finished ninth overall, 20 laps down. They were the fastest once, but their teammates were fastest in class the rest of the race. That would be No.194 with drivers Keith Kassulke of Papua New Guinea, Ryan McLeod of Australia and Will Rodgers of USA. They finished second in class, tenth overall, also 20 laps down.

Jake Camilleri,  Morgan Haber, and Hadrian Morral

Jake Camilleri, Morgan Haber, and Hadrian Morral

To say there was great speed differentials in the cars would be an understatement.
It made for lots of blue flagging.

There wasn’t much in the way of position changes during the eight-hour race. Sixteen of the 19 cars finished with the top three cars on the lead lap – 314. Three cars failed to finish, due to mechanical problems.

I didn’t get to follow the race as closely as usual, as I spent much the day moving from corner to corner, relieving corner workers. I got to see the cars and track from new perspectives, and gained a new appreciation for standing on a corner in the blazing hot sun with no shade.

It was a safe race without much drama. Alls well that ends well. And the endurance series might be back again next year.

LET’S GO RACING!

MAZDA 787B

Saturday was race day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with seven races on the schedule, along with several qualifying sessions. The entry to the track has a new addition – a large mural of the NO.55 Mazda 787B sports car, driven by Johnny Herbert, Volker Weidler and Bertrand Gachot. It was the last Wankel racer. It is 32 feet wide and ten feet tall, was commissioned by SCRAMP and built by local artist, John Cerny.

The weather all day was sunny and clear, warm with some breezes. Ideal racing weather.

Christopher Haase

The California 8-Hour International GT Challenge had an hour-long qualifying session, followed by a 13-car Pole Shootout. The overall winner and GT3 pole sitter was the No.29 Audi Sport Team Lane Audi R8 LMS, with Christoher Haase of Germany setting the fastest lap of 1:23.961/95.96mph/154.43kph on the last of his five laps. His teammates are Connor De Phillippi/USA and Christopher Mies of Germany.

Jeroen Bleekemolen

The fastest GT3 Pro driver was Jereon Bleekemolen of The Netherlands in No.54 Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R. His teammates are David Calvert-Jones/Australia and Tim Pappas/USA.His lap was 1:24.766/95mph/152.96kph. They will grid seventh. He set his fast time on the seventh of his ten laps.

Brandon/Michael Davis

The fastest GT4 driver was Brandon/Michael Davis/USA in No.07 TRG USA Aston Martin GT4. His teammates are Greg Milzcik and Derek Deboer, all of the US. His lap was 1:31.655/87.90mph/141.46kph. They will grid 13th. His fast lap was set on the last of his four laps.

Jake Camilleri

The fastest invitational driver was Jake Camilleri of Brisbane Australia in No.193 MARC Cars Australia Marc Mazda 3 V8, with a lap of 1:29.086/90.43mph/145.54kph, set on the last of his four laps. They will grid 11th. His Aussie teammates are Hadrian Morral and Morgan Haber. They will grid eleventh. They have been the invitational team at two other races in Malaysia and Belgium. They are traveling around the world spreading the gospel on their unique cars.

Jake Pipal, PJ Groenke, and Canaan O'Connell

Jake Pipal, PJ Groenke, and Canaan O’Connell

Pirelli World Challenge Touring Championship had its classes divided into two separate races, a move which was applauded by all concerned. The TCA/TCB race was a barn burner and hotly contested. The lead changed several times officially and more so unofficially. Then-TCB Points leader, Jake Pipal/No.6 Honda led the most laps but in the end was beaten by P.J. Groenke in the No.25 Sonic, with the two of then ending up with 243 points to tie for the lead going into the last race. Race pole sitter, Canaan O’Connell/No.24 Sonic finished third, and second in the standings with 240 points. The grid for the finale race was set on the fastest race laps for each, so they gridded teammates O’Connell and Groenke, with Pipal starting third.

Kenny Murillo, Eric Powell, and Tom O'Gorman

Kenny Murillo, Eric Powell, and Tom O’Gorman

In the TCA race, the grid and finishing positions were similar, but there was a lot of racing in-between flags. Pole sitter Eric Powell/No.23 Scion took the checkered flag in the nine car field. However he was DSQ for being underweight, putting Kenny Murillo/No.33 Mazda MX-5 Cup in first, Tom O’Gorman/No.94 Honda now second, and Jeff Sexton/No.89 MX-5 in third. Powell had turned the fastest race lap of 1:42.286/78.76mph/126.76kph. The Championship went to Matthew Fassnacht/No.74 MX-5, who finished fourth overall.

The second race was more of a parade, with fewer passes or position changes. Groenke won and turned the fastest race lap of 1:53.269/71.76mph/115.49kph. Pipal finished second, and Jasper Drengler/No.01 Honda third. With the victory, Groenke, who has been racing TCB since 2012, won the championship by two points ahead of Pipal, and Pipal is in contention for Rookie of the Year. Groenke was over the moon about his standing start and winning the championship.

O’Connell finished out of the running with a DNF for transmission.

The TCA/TCB events at MRLS will be televised on Wednesday, 25 Oct 2017 at 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

This is just the third race weekend for young Murillo, and in six races, he’s amassed three victories, one pole, two runner-up finishes, and a fourth place. This must be a bittersweet weekend for Murillo and his family, with whom he lives. Their family home was burned to the ground this week in the horrific Sonoma County fires while they were coming back from Road Atlanta where the family runs an IMSA ST Porsche team – Murillo Racing with Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss. The team won its championship. Kenny works on the team. He’s just turned 21 so he can drink champagne on the podium.

Greg Liefooghe, Paul Holton, and Pierre Kleinubing

Greg Liefooghe, Paul Holton, and Pierre Kleinubing

In the TC race, Paul Holton again won, with Greg Liefooghe coming in second and Pierre Kleinubing/No.26 BMW finishing third. Mason Filippi/No.12 BMW finished fourth and won Hard Charger Award for gaining three positions – which he did early on, and held on for the rest of the 25-lap race. Mark Drennan, who had turned the fastest race lap in the first race, retired with mechanical problems.

Sunday’s schedule begins with the 9:15am local time start for the California 8-Hour International GT Series race.