SHAKY SUNDAY

IndyCar Paddock

Well, the good news that Sonoma Raceway in Northern California’s Wine Country survived the early morning 6.0/6.1 magnitude earthquake centered a few miles away. The track has surveyed the facilities and it’s all systems go, as planned.

Some spectators may have a bit of a detour getting to the track as some roads are closed, such as parts of #37 and #121, both major arteries to the track.

Nearby Napa, Vallejo and American Canyon suffered physical damage including broken water and gas mains resulting in fires and no way to put them out, lots of things falling and breaking, and a few injuries in facilities.

Many of the teams and drivers and other race participants were staying on the Vallejo/Napa side of the track and felt the quake much more. Team Penske gathered in its parking lot after everything including a well-stocked bar off-loaded to the ground. For some of the non-locals, this was their first earthquake, and quite unsettling to say the least.

The United States Geological Survey said this earthquake is first big one in the Bay Area since the really big 6.9 Loma Prieto Earthquake in Oakland in 1989. That explains why this is the first earthquake I’ve felt since that fateful day.

Sunday’s Sonoma Raceway’s schedule calls for Warm-Ups for Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires and Verizon IndyCar Series, followed by the second Indy Lights Grand Prix of Sonoma Race, the 85-lap GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma IndyCar Race, and the second SCCA Pro Racing Pirelli World Challenge Race.

Saturday saw the season’s finale for two of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder series – Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda and Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires. Both series had exciting races to the finish for the championship.

RC Enerson leading Florian Latorre. Photo by Jeff Burghardt

RC Enerson leading Florian Latorre. Photo by Jeff Burghardt

RC Enerson No.7 Team E Racing won the USF2000 Race #1, while title contender Florian Latorre No.10 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing had contact while the two were dicing. Enerson continued and Latorre retired.

Latorre had a comback in Race #2 by winning, ahead of Enerson, and collected the title championship as well. The races were much more exciting than I have time to elaborate.

Jack Harvey of England won the Indy Lights race, his third in four races. He races for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and is now second by 12 points behind Championship leader, Gabby Chaves, who finished second in that race.

Spencer Pigot

Spencer Pigot

The most exciting series to follow was the Pro Mazda Series, which had two contenders going for the brass ring and that goes with including incentives to facilitate graduation to the Indy Lights Series, the next step of the Mazda Road to Indy. Spencer Pigot No.7 Juncos Racing was leading the points ahead of Rookie Scott Hargrove No.3 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.

In Mazda Race #1 Pigot and Hargrove were racing/dicing, with Hargrove leading and Pigot second, until they had body contact. Hargrove continued, Pigot, who led a lap, did not and retired.

Spencer Pigot's No.7

Spencer Pigot’s No.7

Pigot made an amazing comeback in Race #2. He started second, had yet another contact on the first lap, involving five other cars, leading him stranded. He got restarted at the back and charged his way to fifth place. Meanwhile Leader Hargrove had mechanical problems starting on Lap 15, and he fell back and retired. Pigot’s Juncos Racing teammate, Jose Gutierrez won the race, and Pigot won the championship.

The fog mostly lifted by the time the first race cars, Indy Lights, and the clouds parted to make room for the welcome sun.

It’s going to be another great day.

IndyCar Paddock

INDYCAR QUALIFYING BACKSTORY

Verizon P1 Award

Leading up to the final Fast Six qualifying run for the Verizon IndyCar Series at Sonoma Raceway’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, there was drama in the first three runs.

In the first of the two Qualifying Groups for Round One, Josef Newgarden No.67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing prevailed with a lap of 1:17.7653. The top three drivers made the 1:17′s – Ryan Briscoe No.8 UFD, and Helio Castroneves No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet. Fourth through sixth were Scott Dixon No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, Rookies Carlos Munoz No.34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Andretti Autosport Honda and Mikhail Aleshin No.7 SMP Racing Honda.

JPM shortcut the track and lost his fastest lap, so he missed the cut in Group One. He didn’t feel he actually did a shortcut – going over the line exiting, so Montoya rode posthaste on his scooter to Race Control. “It was very IndyCar-like. I’m not over the line, they say I’m over. There was no advantage, and they don’t always see it.” IndyCar made no adjustment in any of the qualifying times.

Simon Pagenaud No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda had brake problems in Group One which kept him from the pole many favored him to win.

In Group Two of Round One, the times were faster. Power led twice, in two runs, turning a 1:17.2393, and broke his (2012) existing track record of 1:17.2709. All six drivers ran in the 17′s, and the top four were faster than Newgarden’s top time in Group One.

Round Two of IndyCar qualifying saw Newgarden fastest, with a time of 1:17.2851, not as fast as Power’s qualifying record. Also making the cut were Dixon, Hinchcliffe, Castroneves, Power, and Briscoe.

Most drivers ran one hot lap, pitted and swapped for option red tires.

Castroneves drove wide and off-course on his first out lap, which negated that lap and the next one, as penalty.

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Jeff Burghart

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Jeff Burghart

The third run, Group Three for the top six from each of the first two groups saw Newgarden, Dixon, Hinchcliffe, Castroneves, Power and Briscoe advance to the final showdown – the Firestone Fast Six.

Power gambled and won by turning his pole-sitting lap on his first run. This was his fourth Verizon P1 Award this season, and back to back from last week’s pole on the Milwaukee oval. This makes 36 career poles, making him sixth on the all-time pole award list.

Second was Newgarden – matching his best-ever qualifying runs at Texas and Mid-Ohio. Dixon was third, his fifth top-five this season. Fourth through sixth were Hinchcliffe, Briscoe and Castroneves.

This weekend IndyCar TV broadcaster Jon Beekhuis will be in Race Control as a Race Steward. This is part of IndyCar’s new 2014 program to include a Race Steward as part of the ‘independent steward’ triumvirate comprised of IndyCar Race Director, Beaux Barfield, and IndyCar Vice President of Competition, Brian Barnhart. When warranted, these three adjudicate competitor on-track sporting infractions.

Aleshin and Marco Andretti No.27 Snapple Andretti Autosport Honda had an incident in Group One, which went to Steward’s Review. The young Russian had led briefly during the session, but ended up sixth, while Andretti missed the cut in P7. Upon review, the Stewards took no action.

Beekhuis will also be in Race Control for the MAVTV 500 season’s finale at Auto Club Speedway next weekend.

Derrick Walker

Derrick Walker

Derrick Walker, IndyCar Director of Competition, said the program will be expanded next season, with IndyCar Series competitors able to nominate drivers and independent stewards. They will be ‘drilled on sporting rules and regulations, and have no affiliation with any of the competitors.’

The NBCSN TV broadcasters this weekend are Brian Till as host, with Paul Tracy and Sam Hornish Jr also in the booth. Pit Reporters are Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Kelli Stavast and Robin Miller.

Before qualifying, Will Power was asked what was it about the track that made him so good at Sonoma. He said “We’ll see after qualifying how good I am/how good the track is for me.

“It’s a very technical track, very difficult to drive. I’ve definitely had good runs here for sure in the race, for whatever reason. Sometimes I’m on pace, and last year I had good restarts.

Power starts on the pole for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, aired live on NBCSN at 1 pm PDT/4 pm EDT.

POWER TO THE POLE

Will Power and Pole  Award.  Photo by Pablo Matamoras

Will Power and Pole Award. Photo by Pablo Matamoras

Will Power is on pole for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma Verizon IndyCar Series race at Sonoma Raceway, despite losing his fastest lap for going off course. His qualifying lap of 1:17.4126/110.912 mph wasn’t as fast as his earlier lap, nor even his qualifying record set in 2012.

On the front row with Power is Josef Newgarden in No.67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Honda.

Third through sixth were Scott Dixon No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, James Hinchcliffe No.25 UFD Andretti Autosport Honda, Ryan Briscoe No.8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Helio Castroneves No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet.

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Jeff Burghart

Josef Newgarden. Photo by Jeff Burghart

The top Rookie was Carlos Munoz No.34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com/HVM Andretti Autosport Honda, who qualified ninth.

Power said There definitely is less pressure starting up front. It’s the best possible position to win the race. You think about what you can control and just go about the race.”

Newgarden, definitely starting better than his two previous runs at Sonoma, said “This is my worst track, up to now. It’s very difficult to understand this track. The feedback to the engineer is so critical here, and I’m getting better at it. It’s so cool to see the progress.”

Dixon prefers the three-day IndyCar format for Sonoma. “No time for lunch and a nap” with this weekend’s schedule. Dixon has been in the Fast Six 49 times, and is the only driver to have completed every single race lap at Sonoma Raceway.

Hinch, in his eighth Fast Six run this season, said his qualifying run was “a record-setting improvement from my practice session. I spun twice on the same lap, five times in practice, and I’ve been backwards in Turn Seven three times. We’ve got a great team. My thanks to the Andretti teammates for their help. We just put our heads down and didn’t let it get to us. A clear lap is always good, but if you run into one of five guys in a six-car session, then something’s wrong. The wind caught me out a different way than Helio.”

Briscoe said “Power feels like this track owes him (after his huge crash). He’s had an amazing partnership with his race engineer, Dave Faustino. You know coming here he’s the one to go after. This race is kinda like maintenance, and Fontana is the championship.”.

Castroneves said “I want to try and make Roger (Penske, team owner) happy. Our team is having a good day. Unfortunately the (significant) wind shift caused me to have an off last lap. I pushed a little bit harder to pull off a miracle. We know what we need to do for tomorrow.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, who qualified tenth in No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda was disappointed that the big gamble they made on setups didn’t work, but feel they can make it up Sunday.

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoras

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoras

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoras

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoras

Power won last year’s Sonoma IndyCar race. Sunday IndyCars half-hour Warm-Up is set for 10 am PDT, with the 85-lap race set to start at 1:40 pm PDT. The live NBCSN broadcast begins at 1 pm PDT/4 pm EDT.

DANCING WITH HELIO

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Helio Castroneves was fastest driver for the second Verizon IndyCar Series practice Saturday afternoon in his No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet with a time of 1:18.6582. That time would have placed him eleventh in the morning session.

Ryan Briscoe in No.8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was second. He said “The car was running well, and we have a lot of Japanese fans here this weekend. It’s going to be down to one good lap on the tires for qualifying

Ryan Briscoe. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Briscoe. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Third in practice two, and overall for the day so far, was Ryan Hunter-Reay, who was fastest in the morning session in No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda. His speed in the morning session was 110.381 mph. Fourth and fifth in P2 were Scott Dixon’s No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, and Sonoma qualifying track record holder, Will Power in No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

The fastest Rookie was Carlos Munoz in No.34 Cinsay AndrettiTV.com HVM Andretti Autosport Honda, in eleventh place.

James Hinchcliff. Photo by Jeff Burghart

James Hinchcliff. Photo by Jeff Burghart

James Hinchcliffe had a moment, but he continued on after his spin.

Only Rookie Carlos Huertas was faster in the afternoon session, in No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda. Often times drivers in a variety of series find Sonoma Raceway getting slower as the day progresses. As with the morning session, the same drivers drove the fewest/most laps. Generally speaking, those drivers highest in the standings went out the latest and ran the fewest laps, which just so happened to put them up top.

Rookie Mikhail Aleshin

Rookie Mikhail Aleshin

Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato

In-between the two IndyCar practice sessions, all the drivers sat at tables in the IndyCar Fan Village, for the long queues of fans getting up close and personal with their faves.

IMG_2818

IMG_2815

IndyCar Driver Autograph Session

Qualifying for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma is 4:35 pm PDT.

RHR TOPS INDYCAR P1

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Ryan Hunter-Reay put his bright sunny yellow No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda at the top of the charts after his fourth of eight laps. He was one of the very last drivers to go on track Saturday morning at Sonoma Raceway. He was the first driver to get into the 1:17′s, turning a time of 1:17.7150.

Although the session started mostly overcast, by the end of the session full sun had broken through, and the almost non-existant breeze made the mid-sixties temperature almost feel warm.

Second fastest and the only other driver to break into the 1:17′s was 2013 IndyCar Champion, Scott Dixon, who was the very last driver out on course with 16 minutes to go. His time was 1:17.8990.

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Helio Castroneves. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Third through fifth were Tony Kanaan, who led at the half-way mark, setting his fast time of 1:18.1895 after three laps in No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet; Helio Castroneves at 1:28.2732 in No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, and current points leader, Will Power in No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet with 1:18.4046.

Mike Conway. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Mike Conway. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Turning the most laps were Rookie Carlos Heurtas in No.18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda and road racer Mike Conway in No.20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet -18. Conway, who only runs the road and street courses, finished P20, and Huertas in P22.

The top five were all late starters, and turned fewer laps than most. RHR and Dixon ran eight laps, and Penske teammates Power and Castroneves ran nine.

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Will Power. Photo by Pablo Matamoros

Power was one of the last to go on track – 27 minutes into the 45-minute session. He moved up to fifth by his third lap, where he remained.

Power is a favorite to do well this weekend. He still holds the IndyCar track qualifying record of 1:17.2709/111.116 mph set in 2012. Three is his magic number: He’s won at Sonoma Raceway three times, twice from pole, and been on pole three times this year. At this track, the Aussie led 217 of the last 320 laps. He’s leading the Drivers’ Standings by 39 points ahead of his teammate, Castroneves, and has finished in the top 15 in every race so far this year. Power certainly hopes this is his year, after finishing second in the Drivers Championship three years in a row, 2010-2012. Last year he finished fourth overall.

IndyCars run their second 45-minute practice session at 1:15 pm PDT.

UNSUNNY SONOMA SATURDAY MORN

Saturday morning at Sonoma Raceway, the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock has more hustle in the bustle as the 22 cars are prepared for their first practice session at 10am PDT.

IndyCar Paddock

Penske Crew polishing wheels

Empty IndyCar Tech Center

The Scrutineering Bay is totally devoid of activity as all the IndyCars completed their initial Tech Inspection Friday. They will, however, be coming back time and again during the weekend to check on things.

The teams get busy early, as the garage opens at 7am PDT. The teams off-load their race cars from the transporters. Each night the cars are lift-gated to their transporter bed.

Ryan Briscoe's car lift-gated up

Ryan Briscoe's car lift-gated up

Ryan Briscoe's car lift-gated up

Chevrolet announced that it has won the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Manufacturer Championship, with two races remaining in the 18-car schedule. In the 22-car field, Chevrolet has ten cars and Honda has 12. Chevy’s statistics so far this season include winning ten of the first 16 races, and starting on pole 12 times. Chevrolet rejoined the IndyCar Series in 2012 and has won this championship every year since. Chevrolet previous involvements in indycar racing were 1983-1993 and 2002-2005. During those years it’s won seven Indianapolis 500 races and six Driver Championships.

Saturday’s busy on-track schedule has two IndyCar practice sessions with qualifying last session of the day. Other series competition include Warm-Up and Race #2 for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Series powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Series presented by Cooper Tires, Qualifying and Race #1 with no Warm-Up for SCCA Pro Racing’s Pirelli World Challenge Series, and Race #1 with no Warm-Up for Indy Lights powered by Cooper Tires.

The weather started out cold and foggy with no breeze. It’s forecast for full sun by Indy first practice, and working up to a high of low eighties by mid-afternoon.

Team Penske Prep

WINE COUNTRY GREETINGS

IndyCar Pit Lane

It’s bright, sunny and warm at Sonoma Raceway for the first of the three-day race weekend in the famed Northern California wine country. The feature race is the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, starring the Verizon IndyCar Series. The support races are SCCA Pro Racing’s Pirelli World Challenge Series with all the GT classes, Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Series presented by Cooper Tires, and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Series powered by Mazda. The usual afternoon brisk breeze cut the mid-seventies temperature.

This weekend has a different schedule than in the past. IndyCar is only on track Saturday and Sunday, which means its two forty-five minute practice sessions on Saturday are mid morning and early afternoon. The 70-minute qualifying starts at 4:35pm Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning half-hour warm-up is at 10am, with the 85-lap race starting at 1:40 pm, all Pacific Coast Daylight time.

Juan Pablo Montoya's No.2 Chevrolet

Ryan Hunter-Reay's No.28 Honda

Tony Kanaan's No.10 Chevrolet

On Friday, the IndyCar teams were unloading, prepping and teching the cars. Drivers were scarce. Several drivers were at the Presidio Golf Course for a Charity Golf Tournament. One IndyCar foursome was Rookie Mikhail Aleshin of Russia, Josef Newgarden/USA, Simon Pagenaud/France, and Sebastian Saavedra/Colombia. Although I heard points leader Will Power and Penske teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya were at the track, the only IndyCar people I spotted in the paddock were IndyCar Director of Competition, Derek Walker; IndyCar Series Race Director, Beaux Barfield; Andretti Autosport Honda Rookie, Carlos Munoz was tooling around on his bicycle; Schmidt Peterson Hamilton team owner, Davey Hamilton; and Ed Carpenter, who owns his Ed Carpenter Racing Team, but is not driving this weekend. He runs the oval track races, and Mike Conway of England races on the road and street courses.

Recently announced was the merger of the Carpenter and another single-car team, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Its driver is Josef Newgarden in No.67 Honda. No details so far on which engine package, driver line-up, or personnel absorption. Both teams want to get through this 2014 season, which ends Labor Day weekend. Then plans will become more apparent.

Will Power's No.12 Chevrolet getting a final dusting

Will Power in No.12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet is leading the IndyCar Driver Standings with 602 points. His team seemed to have everything under control as the only person I saw was someone dusting the car. Power’s teammate, Helio Castroneves in No.3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet is second, 39 points behind. Simon Pagenaud in No.77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda, 92 points behind. Power’s Penske teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya in No.2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet, is fifth, 114 points behind the leader, and 16 points behind fourth placed 2013 IndyCar Champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay in No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda.

For the other series, there was practice, qualifying and races. Each of the support series has two races this three-day weekend on the 12-turn 2.38 IndyCar configurated road course.

Rumor has it that Honda challenged Chevrolet to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. That should prove interesting. Stay tuned.

The paddock had a few fans, and some unexpected, to me, visitors. TUDOR USCC driver, Scott Pruett had an off day as his DP class was not on the schedule for this weekend’s race at Virginia International Raceway. This is the second weekend in a row that he showed up as a relaxed spectator. Last weekend he enjoyed his first-ever Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Pruett, who lives in Northern California, was again relaxed and low profile.

Another familiar face – to me – was Michael Smith all the way from Melbourne, Australia on a ‘working holiday.’ He is the CAMS (Confederation of Australian Motor Sports) F1 Secretary of the Meeting at the annual Formula One race in Melbourne. Smith was at the track just for the day before heading East. He is also on the FIA Commission for Volunteer and Officials, which happens to be having its quarterly meeting this Friday. Smith’s good news from Down Under was that the date for the 2015 AGP has been announced as 12-15 March 2015, and it will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of the race being in Melbourne. The race had its contract extended for another five years, and guaranteed to be the first race of each F1 season during that time.

IndyCar Paddock

GROUP-B RACE RECAP

The sun broke through the fog mid-morning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and the rest of the day was beaut. Because of the fog delay, the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion Group B cars got a late start, so all eight groups had shortened qualifying races.

Race Group 1B – 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars under 2000cc was won by Brian Orosco in his No.36 1959 Huffaker Genie Mk IV. He took the lead almost immediately, from his P3 start based on his finish in the morning race. Brian Orosco turned the fastest time on the last lap of eight, with a burst of speed to 75.638 mph.

Orosco’s Margin of Victory over Frank Zucchi in his 1960 Piranha Sports Racer was 09.118 seconds.

Pole sitter from the morning race, Edward Lamantia’s 1962 Huffaker Mk V Genie, never ran.

John Wilburn’s No.259 1959 Peerless AmBo gave out on his on the first lap, necessitating a flat bed tow, and three pace laps before the Green Flag. Another casualty was Tom Tuttle and his 1961 Huffaker Genie Mk IV. He started second, and was running fifth when he pitted and retired.

The average race lap was 56.965 mph. Thirty-four cars of 39 ran the morning qualifying race, and twenty-eight in the feature.

Group 2B in Corkscrew

Race 2B for 1963-1972 FIA Mfg.Championship Cars was won by Gray Gregory, who was the pole sitter based on his morning’s finish.

Runner-up was John Goodman and his 1972 Ferrari 312SP Spar, after starting fourth. The Margin of Victory was 09.510 seconds. Third starter and finisher was Cameron Healy and his 1970 Porsche 908/3.

Gregory turned the fastest race lap of 84.502 mph on Lap 2 and 82.584 mph was the average race lap.

The track has two radar gun ‘speed traps’ which measure the car’s speed at that given point. The Zoom-Zoom display on top of the Start-Finish bridge measure the speed going uphill into Turn One. For Group 2B the top speed was 127 mph. The other radar is between Turns Four and Five.

Gregory led almost the entire 13-lap race. At the start, the second-placed starter, Harinda De Silva and his No.196 1965 Elva Mk 8 got the jump on Gregory, but spun out on course in Turn Three, and had to wait out the field before rejoining the pack. He went from back to P6 in no short time, and finished fifth, just ahead of veteran racer, Lyn St James. She started seventh and finished sixth.

St James also was awarded the Rolex Award for excellence in her class, in 2B. The award is selected for each race group by an independent and anonymous group of judges.

Seventh was veteran sports car and endurance racer, Gunnar Jeanette in the REVS car, No.526 1965 Ferrari 250 LM Berlinetta, after starting tenth. Wonder how that will show up on the data for which he is wired all over.

No.54 1967 Porsche 911 S

Patrick Long

Porsche factory driver, Patrick Long, started P16 and finished in the No.54 1967 Porsche 911S owned Alan Benjamin out of Boulder, Colorado. The car was a class winner in the 1967 Daytona 24 Hour race. Long described it as small, short wheel base and no aerodynamics. “It’s a bundle of fun and a lot of work.” This is Long’s first Reunion race. He ran Rennsport a few years back, and walked the paddock introducing himself to all the Porsche owners, saying if they ever wanted someone to drive their car, Long was ready, willing and able. It worked and a year or so later, he got the call. He helped set up Benjamin’s other Porsche, an Andial last weekend. Maybe next year Long will drive the Andial.

Craig Bennett and his 1974 Shadow DN4 won the Group 3B race for 1963-1974 Can Am and USRRC Cars, and set the fastest time of 92.604 mph on Lap 3, the top lap time of the day. Car creator, Don Nichols, was at the track this weekend, keeping a low profile. He said he’s 90 years now, and it’s nice to see his Shadow cars still racing.

Group 3 B was fastest all around. The Margin of Victory in the 13-lap race was 18.095 seconds, the average race lap was 85.383 mph – the highest of the day, and the Zoom-Zoom display highest speed was 152 mph – highest all day. Because the cars are out of sight it’s not easy to determine which car sets which speeds.

Thomas Steuer started and finished second in the 1970 McLaren M8C owned by friend, Spencer Trenery, as Trenery’s still in a wheel chair with a broken left leg. Steuer is also racing his own Chevrolet Corvette in another group.

Rick Knoop's No.3 1972 McLaren M8F

Rick Knoop’s No.3 1972 McLaren M8F

Rick Knoop and his wild blue 1972 McLaren M8F came in third. Knoop wore his father’s race suit to drive his father’s car. Knoop just spent the last 31 months putting together an hour+ long documentary on “The Last Race in The Forest” referring to the Pebble Beach race in which his late father, Fred Knoop raced. Many other local SFR SCCA and professional racers were from the area and are featured. The film had a private showing earlier this week, hosted by Pebble Beach. It’s getting good reviews from those who have the good fortune to see the movie.

Chris McAllister's No.5 1971 McLaren M8F-1

Chris McAllister’s No.5 1971 McLaren M8F-1

Chris McAllister and his No.5 McLaren M8F-1 started twenty-second, and moved right on up to fourth place. He received the Rolex Award of Excellence for his race group.

On the cool-off lap, Lilo Zicron crashed his 1966 Lola T70. He got two wheels off Driver’s Right past the Start-Finish Bridge, and shot across the track and hit the concrete wall on Driver’s Left, scattering parts and sending at least one wheel careening across track. The second and third place McLaren’s narrowly avoided the incident and threaded their way through the wreckage. The driver appeared shaken but otherwise OK.

Race 4B was won by second place starter, Mike Miller and his 1970 Chevron B19. World Champion Motorcycle rider, Eddie Lawson had the pole in his No.17 1975 Osella PA 3/5 and led much of the race, until it appeared that he fell back to fourth when he slowed for an Emergency vehicle and those behind did not. He moved back up to finish third by dogging Wade Carter’s 1974 Lola T294. Lawson set the fastest lap of 91.828 mph on Lap 5.

Miller’s Margin of Victory over Carter was 00.847 seconds, and the average race lap was 85.22 mph. The Zoom-Zoom speed was 134. Sixteen of the 22 entrants raced.

Race 5B for 1947-1955 Sports Racing and GT cars was won by the pole sitting car, No.25 Tatum Special from the UK, driven by Rob Manson of the UK. He also set the fastest time of 72.704 mph on Lap 3.

The Margin of Victory was 00.241 seconds, the closest of the day. The Zoom-Zoom speed topped out at 104 mph.

Second was Cameron Healey, who started in his 1953 Porsche Cooper Pooper. The Margin of Victory was , Third was John Buddenbaum’s 1949 Jaguar Parkinson Special, which started second.

The average lap time for the 11-lap race was 71.03 mph. The Zoom-Zoom speed was 104 mph. Nineteen of 28 entrants competed.

Howard Swig's 1951 Chrysler Saratoga Club Coupe

Howard Swig in the family No.32 1951 Chrysler Saratoga Club Coupe was entered, but did not run due to last minute mechanical problems. His father, the late Martin Swig, raced La Carrera Panamerica Mexico Rallye in the car, a sister car to the one raced by the late John Fitch – who has autographed Swig’s hood.

Loud doesn’t begin to describe Group 6B for 1981-1989 FIA and IMSA GTP, 1980-1991 GTO Cars. And fast. Their Zoom-Zoom top speed was 146 mph. The top three finished where they started 1-2-3.

No.3 1990 Chevrolet Beretta

TK’s No.3 1990 Chevrolet Beretta

Winner Welson Munsey drove his 1992 Mazda RX-t-92P had a Margin of Victory of 05.006 over runner-up Russell Kempnich of Australia in his 1984 Porsche 956C.

Canadian Pieter Baljet finished third in the 1990 Chevrolet Beretta originally raced by veteran driver and four-time Trans-Am Champion, Tommy Kendall. And perhaps coincidently, TK has now rejoined the new Trans-Am Series, racing his second Trans-Am race this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, driving No.11 Dodge Challenger SRT painted Sam Posey green – which replicates the color on Kenny Epsman’s No.77 Historic Trans-Am Dodge Challenger, affectionately called Green Slime.

No fastest lap time was recorded. The average race speed was 81.364 mph. Twenty-six of 38 entrants ran the 8-lap race.

After starting third, Herbert Wetanson won the 7B race for 1061-1966 GT Cars under 2500cc in his 1966 Alfa Romeo Ginetta G4. His Margin of Victory was ahead of Patrick Byrne in his 1965 Alfa Romeo GTA Corsa. Byrne started second. Finishing third was Alan Terpin’s 1967 Porsche 911 T/R-he started fourth.

The fastest lap time was set by perhaps the youngest driver of the weekend – Byrne, at 77.195 mph on Lap 7, the Zoom-Zoom speed was 108 mph, and the average race lap was 71.457 mph.

Ken Morgan and his 1968 Chevron B8 started on pole, but something happened on Lap Seven, and he was credited with P31 in a field of 34, of 46 entrants.

The last race of the day and the weekend was 8B for For1974-1980 Formula Atlantics. Pole sitter Ethan Shippert drove his 1976 March 76B to victory.
His Margin of Victory was 02.202 seconds, and his was the fastest race lap with a speed of 93.65 mph.

Those cars can fly. They were the second fastest group of the day, turning a Zoom-zoom speed of 128 mph. The average race lap was 86.082 mph.

Veteran vintage racer Danny Baker of San Francisco started and finished second in his 1979 Ralt RT-1. He received the Rolex Award of Excellence for his race group.

Danny’s father, Robert Baker ran and finished fifteenth after starting seventeenth. Robert also won the prestigious President’s Award, for being the person who richly personifies historic racing. He received the original Bill Patterson painting which graced the program cover and posters.

Third was Wade Carter’s 1976 March 76B. The race was 12 laps, with nineteen competitors of the 27 entrants.

Jon Norman of Berkeley CA was one of the founders of the original Formula Atlantic Series. He campaigned long and hard to have a Formula Atlantic class at the Reunion. Two years ago Norman must have worn down the promoters as the class got its very own race. The class rotates with the Formula Juniors and Formula Ones.

Norman bought back his old No.58 1971 Lotus 69, but not without effort. When Norman sold it, the owner really liked it but didn’t race it. Norman tried unsuccessfully several times to buy it back, and then from the relatives after his death. After several tries, Norman’s long-time buddy and partner in crime, Phil Reilly said ‘ “Let’s go get that car.” So Norman and Reilly drove to the brother’s place, and dickered until they reached an agreement. The car was suspended from the rafters of a barn. Why is it the beautifully restored cars we see these days were once languishing in a field, barn or garage?

Anyhow, the car was restored, and Norman is enjoying racing it, although admittedly not quite as fast as in the olden days. He started and finished ninth, although he ran as high as ninth.

Lyn St. James raced a 1972 March 722, starting twelfth and finishing eleventh.

At the Awards Ceremonies after the races, next year’s featured marque was not announced … specifically. There were several not-so-veiled asides, such as “Oh look, here is a stunning P51 Mustang flying overhead. Next year we will be celebrating a very special 50th model anniversary with a manufacturer you all know for performance on the track.” And on cue, a vintage airplane – P51 Mustang, flew over. And Ford Motor Company just so happens to be celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Mustang car next year, and the 2015 car was on display in the paddock. Also available were souvenir small replica cars.

2015 Mustang sign.

So … you figure it out.

IMG_2524

FOGGY MOUNTAIN BREAKDOWN

MRLS Start-Finish Bridge

This view at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca greeted the drivers in Group 1B Sunday morning of the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Somewhere in one of those photos are the Group 1A cars. A lower than usual fog enveloped the track, and as it’s wont to do, it shape shifted. Eventually, after 35 minutes, visibility increased to allow cars on course.

Sunday has eight B Race Groups, with Maserati Corral Parade Laps and VIP Hot Laps during the Lunch Break, and the Awards Ceremonies following the last checkered flag.

MRLS Front Straight

MRLS Front Straight

MRLS Front Straight

To brighten up your day, here are some photos of sunnier times.

Thursday night on Italian Island was the annual Welcome Party and this time it was ‘La Dolce Vita’ – all things Italian … within reason. All Reunion participants were invited, and even someone with Consul license plates enjoyed the evening of Italian food and music.

A restored gondola was available for photo ops, and seizing this opportunity for fun and games, Gill Campbell, President/CEO of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca played at being gondolier, for her predecessor, Scott Atherton and wife. Atherton has long since with with IMSA and now the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship as IMSA President and COO.

Enjoying his very first vintage race at Laguna Seca was all-around veteran racer, Scott Pruett, who is now running in the TUDOR series. In the past, there was always a racing conflict which kept him from attending this weekend.

I got a look Thursday night at the Emergency Crew helmet signed by Sir Jackie Stewart when the Pebble Beach Tour did its Parade Laps around the famed 2.238-mile elevated road course. Not one to seek autographs, friends and relatives of Karen Crew gave the helmet to Stewart to sign for Cantu. He told her that he wasn’t personalizing the autograph, as “it was more valuable with just his signature.” Cantu said she would never sell it, and Stewart joked “But your kids might.”

Gill Campbell, with Mr & Mrs Scott Atherton

Gill Campbell, with Mr & Mrs Scott Atherton

Scott Pruett

Scott Pruett

Jackie Stewart autographed E Crew Helmet

Jackie Stewart autographed E Crew Helmet

Consul Plates

Consul Plates

GROUP-A FEATURE RACES

In Race Group 1A for Pre-War Sports Racing and Touring Cars, Bruce McCaw won in his 1929 Bentley 4.5 liter LeMans rep. He finished third in the morning’s race. His Margin of Victory was the closest of the day at 00.626 seconds. Runner-up Richard Jeffrey’s 1936 Triumph Special 9 had the fastest race lap of 54.023 mph on Lap 5 of the eight-lap race. The morning’s race winner, Pete Thelander, finished third in his 1934 MG NE. Twenty-one cars competed, and the average race time was 52.117 mph.

Not having such a good day was perennial favorite, Ed Archer of Hayward CA. He lost the left rear wheel of his bright yellow 1915 Ford Roadster, and had to be towed in from Turn 10. Unless he can get it repaired overnight, he might have to call Triple A, as Archer is probably one of the few, if not the only, competitor to drive his race car to and from the track. He does it up right, complete with period-appropriate attire. Archer won last year’s Henry Ford Trophy for the most significant Ford-powered entry.

Dick Deluna's No.9 1912 Franklin Torpedo Phaeton

Also towed in on the first lap was Dick Deluna and his magnificent 1912 Franklin Torpedo Phaeton. Deluna collects cars and specializes in ancient cars, and is quite the sight in his antique vehicle wearing up to date modern race gear. He enters concours here and abroad, and is fond of showing off his cars. A retired CEO, who explains his hobby as such: “Why do I do this?” It’s golf and tennis all rolled up in one. I always considered myself a bad athlete.”

Dick Deluna's No9 1912 Franklin Torpedo Phaeton

Dick Deluna’s No9 1912 Franklin Torpedo Phaeton

Jos Koster of Germany owns Group 2A for 1927-1951 Racing Cars. Not quite sure how the two younger Maserati cars were assigned to this group. His 1957 Maserati 250F won from the pole, with an even larger Margin of Victory than in the morning qualifying race. Koster had the fastest lap of 72.858 mph on Lap 10 of the 11-lap race. He finished 15.531 seconds ahead of runner-up Jeffrey O’Neill in his 1957 Maserati 250F. Third place was Paddins Dowling in his 1939 Maserati 4CL, making up for the morning’s DNF after mechanical problems on Lap One. The average race time was 70.282 mph for the 25-car field.

The Group 3A race for 1955-1962 GT Cars was won by Kaid Marouf in his 1960 Alfa Romeo SZ with a Margin of Victory of 04.453 seconds. Second and third were Adrian Van Der Kroft of Belgium in his 1959 Morgan 4, and Alec Hugo in his 1962 PorscheDyke Ridgley’ and his No.173 1961 Ferrari 250 GT SWB Berlinetta turned the fastest time of 72.494 mph on Lap 4 of the 11-lap race. He had won the morning’s race. Third overall was Alex Hugo in his 1962 Porsche 356B. The average race time was 70.852 mph. Thirty-five of the 49 entrants competed. One driver hailed from Australia.

SFR SCCA Communications Chief Bill Kirkwood of nearby Carmel took time off from his volunteer race official duties to race his stock 1961 Elva Courier Mk II with 1622cc, up against five Corvettes, a Maserati Tipo 151 and some other big cars. He started and finished mid pack in both of his races Saturday, and was happy to have had his entry accepted and the opportunity to race both Reunion weekends. When next seen, Kirkwood will be back up in Race Control for the next SCCA race at Laguna Seca.

Jeffrey Abramson in his 1964 Chevrolet Corvette Ro won Group 4A for 1963-1966 GT Cars over 2500cc. He beat John McKenna’s 1963 Shelby Cobra by 23.084 seconds, the largest Margin of Victory all day. Third place was Dale Akuszewski’s 1965 Sunbeam Tiger. Tommy Steuer had the fastest race lap in Spencer Trenery’s 1965 Chevrolet Corvette. The average race time was 77.811 mph. Thirty-nine of the 45 entrants raced in the 12-lap race.

Group 5A race for 1973-1981 FIA, IMSA GT, GTX, AAGT,GTU cars started out as a good race between Ken Epsman in his No.20 1976 Dekon Monza and Bruce Canepa’s No.12 1979 Porsche 935. Epsman won the morning race, and Canepa finished third behind John Hildebrand’s No.56 1978 Chevrolet Camaro.

On Lap Five Epsman lost a wheel in Turn Four, while leading and hit the tire wall, ending his race. He was unhurt. The race was Red Flagged due to Epsman’s hazardous location. The wheel flew over the wall but landed safely in the grandstand, as the spectators saw it coming and all moved. Once landed, there was an Oklahoma land rush to get the wheel – as though it was a baseball. A SCRAMP official took a photo of the lucky retriever. The wheel was returned to Epsman, who took it all in stride as he walked back to the paddock. The Emergency Crew caught up with him to see if he was OK, and he replied with his own special brand of humour.

Meanwhile, Canepa pulled off on the front Straight in front of the Starter with a dead battery. His crew found one and got him restarted, and he joined the pack right after the single file restart behind the Pace Car.

Actor comedian Adam Carolla led the field behind the Pace Car, in his 1988 Nissan 300 ZX; but by the time the green flag flew Hildebrand shot out in front, as did veteran racer, John Morton, in No.01 1982 Ford Mustang. Two laps later Hildebrand took the checkered flag, followed by Morton. Hildebrand’s son, racer JR Hildebrand must be proud.

Third place went to Ranston Webster’s 42 1976 Porsche 935 K3. Bruce Canepa set the fastest race time of 87.052 mph on Lap 3, and he finished fourteenth overall, on the lead lap. The average race time was 69,564 mph, no doubt slowed by the Red Flag. thirty-nine of 45 drivers ran. The race lasted eight laps.

No.10 Gulf Mirage GR8

No.10 Gulf Mirage GR8

Sports car racer, Marino Franchitti in No.10 Gulf MirageGR8, didn’t run in the afternoon, and only got four laps in the morning race. The beautiful big car had mechanical problems all weekend.

Don Orosco’s won the Group 6A Race for 1955-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2000cc in his No.59 1958 Lotus 15, finishing 04.822 seconds ahead of Bruce Canepa, who had a busy back-to-back afternoon, running from one race car to another. Jurgen Boden of Germany placed third in his Maserati Tipo 63.

Orosco set the fastest time on Lap Four at 76.311 mph. The average race speed was 71.465 mph. Twenty four drivers of 31 ran the race.

Three cars spun out in coolant left in Turn Three but avoided hitting each other. One continued and the other two sat out the rest of the race, visibly unhappy. With help from the Emergency Crew, the cars were pulled free and continued on their way back to the pits after the race. They were Erickson Shirley’s No.25 1951 Lister Costin, and David Swig in No.35 1957 Monsterati Special, who had moved up from ninth starting to run a strong seventh. They were credited with P16 and P17, respectively, one lap down in the nine-lap race.

The field got a second pace lap for a car off mechanical exit of Turn 6 up against the tire wall.

Epsman got his back in Race Group 7, again winning the Historic Trans-Am race for 1966-1972 cars, driving his familiar Red/White/Blue AMC Javelin It was an exciting race with lead changes almost every lap, sometimes official at S-F, and sometimes around the course. Clearly, it was the most exciting race of the afternoon. The Trans-Am group knows how to put on a good show, and it was all good, clean fun.

Epsman set the fastest time at 78.149 mph on Lap Five. The average race time was 70.935 mph.

Jim Hague led at least once in his No.16 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302 and finished second, 00.092 seconds behind Epsman, a photo finish. Third was Mike McGovern in his No.1 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 302.

Jim Halsey led several times in his No.61 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 302, and finished fourth.

Thirty-one of the 41 drivers raced. One who didn’t was Bruce Canepa and his No.92 1970 Pontiac Firebird. Maybe three races in a row was asking a bit much.

Sunday is the last day of the four-day Reunion weekend. The schedule calls for eight Group B races, followed by the always entertaining Awards Ceremonies, with Mike Joy as Emcee.