Not so much into each other, but more so into walls, barriers, gravel went some of the drivers in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge in Saturday afternoon’s race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. There will be a lot of gnashing and groaning tonight. The action made for a lot of replays and no doubt enough for an entire highlight (or low light) reel. When all was said and done, about one third of the race was under caution. There were seven cautions for 28 laps, a bit more than a third of the race.

No drivers were transported to a medical facility but more than one driver will be sore Sunday after he flipped his car. Dr. RAMIN ABDOLVAHABI/No.91 ST Irish Mike’s Hyundai Genesis landed upside down – all by himself in Turn Five. SCOTT MAXWELL/No.15 Mustang GS Multimatic flipped his car going down the famed Corkscrew and landed on top of the concrete barrier and tires, bringing out the calvary and another caution. In each case the driver walked to the ambulance.

No.27 Freedom Mazda MX-5

With all the cautions and differing strategies, the leaders in each class changed frequently.

JOHN EDWARDS/No.46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 and teammate – Polesitter TYLER McQUARRIE – were the overall winners and in the Grand Sports Class. They finished 75 laps. Edwards was a busy lad. He didn’t make it to the Media Center for meet and greet. He jumped into his TUDOR United SportsCar Championship No.56 GTLM Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW, and he and co-driver DIRK MUELLER each put the car at the top of the GTLM class.

Second and third in class and overall were LAWSON ASCHENBACH & ERIC CURRAN/No.01 CKS Autosport Camaro Z/28R, and MAX RIDDLE & KRIS WILSON/NO.07 TRG-AMR Aston Martin.

It was a sweep for Mazda in the Super Touring Class, with all podium finishers running a Mazda MX-5. Much of the development work on the car was done at the track, and the head of Mazda’s R&D department comes to the races as much as he can.

Andrew Carbonell & Randy Pobst

Andrew Carbonell & Randy Pobst

Winner ANDREW CARBONEL and co-driver RANDY POBST/No.26 Freedom Autosport finished nineteenth overall, on the lead lap. They set a new track record for a race lap of 1:39.594. This is the eighth Class win for Pobst and the third victory out of the past four here at Laguna Seca for Carbonel. They were a mutual admiration society after the race. Pobst said that Mazda Raceway really suited the Mazdas, and it was close and tight with the CJ Wilson Racing team. They had a good race and a good time.

Polesitter TYLER McQUARRIE/No.3 CJ Wilson Racing finished runner-up with teammate MARC MILLER and in twentieth position overall, on the lead lap.

STEVEN McALEER and co-driver CHAD McCUMBEE/No.5 CJ Wilson Racing finished third.

Three drivers led four times, with the winners leading twice. Polesitter Aschenbach led the first 26 laps, then the winners for seven laps. MAT PLUMB/No.13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche 997 led for nine laps.

ASHLEY FREIBERG/No.48 GS Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 acquitted herself quite nicely considering she just recently confirmed that she was running this weekend. She ran as high as third before she and co-driver SHELBY BLACKSTOCK finished seventh overall and in class.

The fastest speed caught on the radar gun at Turn One that I saw was 120 mph.

Thanks to DEAN CASE and Mazda North America, Racing for MAXTON stickers were on many Mazdas this weekend, including the MX-5 Cup cars. Mazda created and distributed the stickers which reference support for three-year old MAXTON PRILL, son of Sports Car Club of America Vice President of Marketing & Communications ERIC PRILL and wife ROBIN. The young lad has been battling leukemia, resulting several bouts of chemo and hospitalizations.

Maxton decal

Maxton decal

Maxton decal

Early on, LIAM DWYER of MD had an accident in No.27 ST Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 coming into Turn Two. His prosthetic foot slipped off the pedal leaving Turn One and by the time he got it back on, he had hit LEE CARPENTIER/No.11 Mitchum Motorsports BMW and both went off. “Up until then I was doing fine.” Dwyer broke the front end. The Marine veteran has two prosthetic legs, and he races a Mazda MX-5 with the five-car Freedom Autosport team. MARK POMBO of Georgia is another military vet on the team, having served in Iraq. Mark races with his brother MATT, who is an orthopedic surgeon. Papa Pombo, ALEX, is a retired race car driver. The Freedom Autosport team was created as a tribute to the US armed forces and contributes to and supports the Semper Fi fund, which assists injured Marines. Matt got a stop and go red flag penalty of sixty seconds which dropped the car from third to a lowly forty-first finish, one lap down.

Saturday was Military Appreciation Day at the track. All uniformed military, or those with military ID’s got in free, the hospitality island was renamed Military Island, and there was free lunch for the first 500 people. Special VIP rides in race cars were provided to military people, courtesy of the track.

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was once an Army base, Fort Ord. Racing began in 1957 while it was still an active installation. After it was decommissioned, the track and closeby areas became a Monterey County park, some of the land was given to nearby cities. As of six months ago or so, portions of Ford Ord are designated National Monument and outside the County Park, it’s a National Park under the aegis of the Bureau of Land Management. When I was a kid my father was stationed at Fort Ord.


Foggy Laguna morning

What a difference makes at Mazda Raceway Laguna Raceway in Monterey CA. The fog has rolled in big time, temperature has dropped to 52 degrees F, the humidity is pegged at 89 percent. This puts a crimp in the already packed into the three-day, five series, and seven-race schedule for the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda weekend. Laguna, which has its own microclimate between the Monterey Bay and inland Salinas area, is known for its rolling fog. The sun tried to peek through and beat a hasty retreat, leaving the fog to blanket and un-blanket the corners one by one on the 2.238, twelve turn elevated road circuit. Once there was visibility from one turn to the next, the first race of the day took off. The SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup race started fifteen minutes late, and the clock started on the second pace lap for the originally-planned 45-minute race. Due to time constraints, the timed race will be shortened to end at its usual time.

Saturday’s schedule calls for the Mazda race, Porsche GT3 Cup qualifying, the first of two races for the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo Series, two one-hour long practices with the combined classes of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, a 150-minute race for the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and four single-class qualifying sessions for the TUDOR Championship cars. The day’s on-course activities are slated to end at 6:15pm PT.

Foggy Laguna paddock


Trent Hindman

Trent Hindman

TRENT HINDMAN of New Jersey is the overall pole sitter for Saturday’s race in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Race. He set a new qualifying track record with a lap of 1:34.948/83.970mph in his No.46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3, which is in the Grands Sports Class. His co-driver is JOHN EDWARDS of Ohio. He is hoping the third time will be the charm for him this season, after two runner-up positions. Historically, he said, Laguna has been a good track for the team. The teammates currently lead the GS points standings, and BMW leads the GS Manufacturer standings.

Elliott Skeer

Elliott Skeer

ELLIOTT SKEER of San Diego CA put the No.3 CJ Wilson Racing Mazda MX-5 on the Super Touring Class pole for Saturday’s race, with a lap of . As qualifying driver, he will start the race, in – position overall. Skeer used to race the MX-5 Cup Series, has been to Laguna Seca before, and really loves the track. He and teammate TYLER McQUARRIE of Danville CA in Northern California, were fastest in the early morning session, and fourth in class later as the track heated up.

MICHAEL LEWIS/No.98 Cmp Mot/Curb-Agajanian has the pole position for the first of two races in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Series. Young Lewis turned a 1:29.110/90.414mph. There are 33 entries, and 32 qualified. Lewis, son of STEVE LEWIS who sold the PRI Show to SEMA has been racing Formula 3 in Europe for the past three years.

Andrew Palmer No.14

Andrew Palmer No.14

ANDREW PALMER/No.14 GMG Racing has the pole position for the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo race for the first race Saturday morning. His record-breaking lap was 1:27.831/91.731mph. Palmer had been fastest in the second Friday practice and fourth in the first. There are 14 cars in the race, and Palmer is in the Pro Class, one of six. The rest are in the Amateur class.

The cars in the Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich series had a busy day Friday. They ran first, last and in between. After two practice sessions, they qualified and raced at the end of the day.

Pole position went to KENTON KOCH/No.12 ALARA Racing, with a lap of 1:42.096/79.814. Fastest in the Skip Barber class was DRAKE KEMPER/No.99 Royal Rugby, with a lap of 1:47.572/77.789. He qualified nineteenth overall of the 28 cars. ARA MALKHASSIAN/No.11 ALARA Racing was fastest in P1 and overall. The third ALARA Racing driver, CHRISTIAN SZYMCZAK/No.34 withdrew.

Generally the cars were faster in the 8am session than the one held at 11:30am, as the track and air warmed up. ROB FOLEY/No.93 Skip Barber Mazda MX-5 was also fastest in P1 and overall. In P2, SEBASTIA LANDY/No.41 was fastest, with ZACH LEE/No.60 fastest in the Skip Barber group. That group could be called MX-5-Lite. The cars have older, bigger tires, less horsepower and other differences.

John Morton

John Morton

Among the group is a special anniversary car – No.68 Mazda Motorsports/BFGoodrich Skip Barber Mazda. JOHN MORTON was one of three BFG drivers who drove the No.68 Jim Busby Racing Lola T-616 Mazda with BFGoodrich tires in the C-2 class at LeMans, and won. The other two drivers were JOHN O’STEEN and YOSHAMI KATAYAMA. Morton is driving a MX-5 garbed in the same iconic livery – car, helmet and driver’s suit. Two of the LeMans Lola’s, owned by JOHN DAVIS, are on display in the paddock.

JOHN DEAN/No.16 Sick Sideways Mazda won the race, which was marred by a six-lap full course yellow for an accident on Lap 2 in Turn 4A betweens No.27 CHARLES PAQUIN MX-5 Cup and CHRIS BEAUFAIT/No.69 Skip Barber Mazda. The drivers are OK – they walked from the tow truck back to the paddock. BEN ALBANO/No.61 Skip Barber won that class, finishing fourteenth overall.

On another note, the Reverend RICHARD ANDERSON, head of Motorsports Ministries which tends to the sports car races, passed away last week. Sunday at the track there is a special Sunday Chapel Service dedicated to him, and his Memorial Service Saturday in Santa Rosa will be streamed live for viewing at Laguna Seca, 11am PT in the Skip Barber top floor classroom in the paddock.


Starter Stand

It was another great weather day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the first of three days of sports car racing at the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda. The moderate upper seventies temperatures with light breeze was more tolerable than Thursday’s record-breaking 90F.

The featured series, TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, will not be on track Friday, but will have much of Saturday’s track time.
Friday has all the support series sanctioned byIMSA, plus the SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich.

TRENT HINDMAN and JOHN EDWARDS/No.46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 were the fastest drivers overall in the Continental Tire Championship SportsCar Challenge, and also quickest in the Grand Sports class. Their time was 1:36.181/83.767mph. In the Super Touring class, TYLER McQUARRIE and MARC MILLER/No.3 CJ Wilson Racing Mazda MX-5 were tops and twenty-sixth overall. Their time was 1:40.023/80.549mph.

Sixty of the 61 Continental Championship cars were on track

ARI MALKHASSIAN/No.11 ALARA Racing was the fastest MX-5 Car in the first practice at 1:41.730/79.197 mph, and in the subcategory for the Skip Barber MX-5 cars, ROBBY FOLEY/No.93 was the quickest at 1:44.428/77.151 mph. At one point one of the Mazdas clocked 100 mph on the radar gun at the top of the crest just past Start-Finish. This group has its first race at 5:45pm Friday and Race Two is 8am Saturday. Both races are 45-minutes long. Twenty-eight of the twenty-nine entries were on course.

JOHN FARANO/No.63 Jota Corse was the fastest overall and fastest in the Pro Class of the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo cars for Practice One. His time was 1:29.961/90.566 mph. The fastest Amateur and second fastest overall was TIM BELL/No.81 Mitchum Motorsports. There are fifteen cars in the group, with five Pro drivers, and 11 Amateur drivers. One car has two Amateur drivers. All were on track.

After lunch there will be more practice, qualifying and a race.

FOX Sports is airing the TUDOR Championship races live on Sunday. In the booth will be BOB VARSHA, CALVIN FISH and DORSEY SCHROEDER. Pit Lane duties will be handled by JAMIE HOWE and BRIAN TILL. The Pre-Race Show will be hosted by JUSTIN BELL.

MX-5 cars on Pre-Grid