FOGGY TESTING AND BUSY DRIVERS

Scott Tucker Prototype Lites
Scott Tucker Prototype Lites. Photo by Lynne Huntting
Thursday was a full-schedule Test Day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the ModSpace American Le Mans Series Monterey presented by Patron. That’s a mouth full. The track was busy 9am to 7:30pm, with ALMS not being on track until late afternoon and evening.

As it’s a test day no times are being published. The support series have two sessions each, one in the morning and one in afternoon. ALMS takes the track late afternoon and into the night.

After the typical late morning fog burned off, it was a beautiful September four hours, with blue skies, gentle breezes and warm sunshine, better weather than had been predicted. Then fog rolled back in mid-afternoon, the breeze picked up, and the temperatures dropped.

The American Le Mans Series is the featured event, with four other support series racing during the three-day weekend. ALMS has a six-hour endurance Saturday afternoon and evening. Other series racing this weekend are Cooper Tire Prototype Lites Championship and IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama, sanctioned by IMSA; the SCCA Pro Racing Pirelli World Challenge presented by Grassroots Motorsports Magazine; and Star Mazda, sanctioned by IndyCar.

ALMS has 36 cars in the seven classes, down three cars from the advance Entry List. The ALMS class breakdown is LMP1=5; LMP2=1; GT=13; UNC=1; LMPC=7 and GTC=9. Missing this weekend will be the two Robertson Racing Doran Ford Elan Power GT cars, and the Porsche Napleton Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup in the GTC category. They all run selected races. Robertson has a Pro Car and an Amateur car. One of the Pro drivers, ANTHONY LAZZARO of GA is running No.33 Prototype Lites 1 for Ferrari of Houston. The Napleton team also is involved with the (Porsche Cayman) Intercontinental Trophy Cup Series in its inaugural season.

ALMS is an international series, with 28 drivers from foreign countries – Austria, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela.

The Prototypes Lites series has 17 cars, with 17 in the Lites 1 Group and six in the Lites 2 category. The majority of drivers in this group are American, with three from Canada and one each from Ireland and Puerto Rico.

IMSA GT3 has 38 spread among its two classes – Platinum Cup=26 and Gold Cup=13. This series has mostly American drivers, with two from Canada and one each from Colombia and Venezuela.

Patrick Long WC Car
Patrick Long World Challenge Car. Photo by Mark Weber

SCCA World Challenge has a field of 36 cars, in three categories: Grand Touring=15; Grand Touring Sport=10; and Touring Car=11. Included in the group of mostly American drivers are two Canadians.

Star Mazda has 16 cars, with two categories – Expert Series Competitors and Team Championship Drivers. The joke in this crowd is that the Experts are the drivers old enough to rent a car. The Mazda drivers come from the US and six foreign countries – Brazil, Canada, Colombia, France, Ireland and Venezuela. Seven are rookies. Mazda has partnered with IndyCar and the Star Mazda Series is part of the Mazda Road to Indy.

I haven’t cross referenced all the Entry Lists yet, but there are several drivers and/or teams running more than one series this weekend.

SCOTT TUCKER of KS is going for over-achiever of the weekend, running three races, all on Saturday. Not only is his Level 5 Motorsports LMP2 Lola Honda making its debut this weekend with co-drivers LUIS DIAS of Mexico City and CHRISTOPHE BOUCHUT of France, Tucker will run solo in two other races – Prototype Lites in No.5 Level 5 Motorsport Lites 2, and IMSA GT3 Cup No.55 for Kelly Moss Motorsports.

Tucker is leading ALMS LMP2 Driver standings with co-driver Bouchet with 71 points each, and his other co-driver, Dias, is second in the standings with 55 points, sharing with RYAN HUNTER-REAY of FL. This weekend the team is only running the one new Honda Performance Development ARX–01g. In the other two series, Tucker is eighth in both IMSA GT3 Gold and Prototypes Lites 2.

PATRICK LONG of FL is racing a Porsche 911 GT3 in both ALMS GT with Flying Lizards Motorsports and in SCCA World Challenge. His number happens to be 45 in both series. Long is leading the World Challenge GT Driver standings, with 1152 points, 115 points ahead of JAMES SOPRANOS of CA, racing No.14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche GT3. In ALMS, the 2010 GT Champion is tied for fifth with his 2010 and 2011 co-driver, JORG BERGMEISTER of Germany.

TRG, which considers Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as one of its two home tracks, is racing cars in two series with different drivers. In the ALMS GTC category, the team is fielding two Porsche 911 GT3 cars: DUNAN ENDE of CA and SPENCER PUMPELLY of GA, with PETER LUDWIG in No.66 and DION von Moltke of FL, EMILIO di GUIDA of Venezuela and Team Owner, KEVIN BUCKLER of CA. Dr. JIM NORMAN of FL is running No.11 in the IMSA GT3 series, as is CARLOS GOMEZ of Columbia. Ende and Pumpelly were leading the GTC points until last weekend’s race in Baltimore, where they had ‘adversity.’

TRG is also running ANDY LALLY in this weekend’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase Race at Chicagoland. He is the top Rookie in the Series, and is in the top 35 of the Owner Points, which guarantees him a spot on the grid.

There are no TRG cars at the NASCAR Grand-Am race this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Friday’s schedule calls for Practice for all series, and Qualifying for all the IMSA-sanctioned Series – ALMS, IMSA GT3 and Prototypes Lites. SCCA qualifies Saturday morning at oh dark thirty, and Star Mazda ditto for Sunday morning.