Thursday was a quiet day for the GRAND-AM promotors test day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. There are five series running this weekend’s three-day Continental Tire Sports Car Festival Powered by Mazda. The feature event will be the Rolex Sports Car Series. That group, along with the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge and the Star Mazda Series were all on track Thursday under the mostly blue skies. The weather was warm with a breeze and some fluffy white clouds. Wednesday night’s sunset was a stunner all over Northern California with lots of clouds covered in all shades and hues due to intermittent bits of hit and run inclement weather and thunderstorms.
The other two series on the bill this weekend are the Total Performance Showcase and Superstars of Superkarts.
The Rolex Sports Car Series has ten Daytona Prototypes and 17 GT cars, as of Thursday afternoon. There is one change on the Entry List. SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS of LeMans, France, was scheduled to drive one of the three Starworks Ford Riley DP cars, run by PETER BARON. Bourdais had to cancel two days prior, due to still being too sore after his crash during the IndyCar race at Sonoma. Racing with IndyCar the following week in Baltimore was painful, and Seb is taking time off to rest up and heal. Rumor has it that SeeBass is going to stay with his current IndyCar team, Dragon Racing Chevrolet.
The Starworks driver lineup has Canadian IndyCar driver ALEX TAGLIANI in two cars – No.2 with ALEX POPOW of Venezuela and also with RYAN DALZIEL of Scotland in No.8. Tag can run in two cars, but only be scored in one car – the car in which he starts. For Sunday’s sprint race, Tag will start No.2 and run for thirty minutes, and then run with Daziel for the rest of the race in No.8. Popow was brought in at the last minute, as he’s already on site to run the Continental Tire Challenge in No.4 APR Motorsports Audi S4 Grand Sports. Popow has run with Starworks before. In his spare time, he also runs selected Ferrari Challenge races, and he’s pumped about getting to race at the United States Grand Prix in Austin TX. Popow also runs full-time in the American Le Mans Series and leads the points in the PC (Prototype Challenge) class.
The sessions were mostly uneventful, with a few session-stoppers to tow cars, including SCOTT MAYER/No.7 Starworks. The car’s Chief Engineer, JEFF BRAUN, had to drop the floor of the car to remove the rocks. The car’s other driver is Jeff’s son, COLIN BRAUN.
As it’s an unofficial test day, no times are recorded, but one can look at the scoring Trylon and see who was fastest. In the Rolex Series it was Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ford Riley in the DP class, and Turner Motorsport BMW3 in Grand Touring for the first of the two sessions. In the later session, it was Starworks, first No.2 who was then tipped by teammates in No.7 for fastest DP’s, and No.63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 in the GT category.
Less than half of the 27 Rolex Series cars were on course. In the Continental Challenge Series, which has 63 entries, it wasn’t a full grid, but it certainly looked like it.
Actor/team owner/driver PATRICK DEMPSEY is running two Mazda RX-8 GT cars in the Rolex Series. He also runs cars in the American Le Mans Series – a developmental Lola Judd P2 car, which was on display at the sports car merger announcement Wednesday in Daytona. Dempsey Racing is the only team to run full-time efforts in both series. DR also runs a PC (Prototype Challenge) effort in an ORECA FLM09 .Dempsey said he really loved that Lola; it was so much fun to drive! He’s third in the P2 standings, as his Dempsey Racing. The lanky actor was running his Rolex Series No.40 Mazda GT Thursday afternoon, which was experiencing “gremlins.”
One of Dempsey Racing’s longtime Rolex Series drivers is CHARLES ESPENLAUB of FL. He’s racing No.41 with CHARLES PUTNAM of WY. Espenlaub is also running in the Continental Challenge Series and was the fastest GS driver Thursday afternoon.
The fastest afternoon GS Continental Challenge driver was MICHAEL GALATTI of OH.
Friday’s full schedule calls for Practice for all five sessions and Quaifying for Star Mazda and Superkarts.