The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge returns to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend and the GS class that fans have come to know throughout the first eight races of 2017 will look a little different.
Fresh faces and new cars highlight the class entry list for the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 240, the penultimate round of the championship set for Saturday at 2 p.m. PT.
Arguably the most anticipated change is the welcome return of California native Memo Gidley, making his first start in IMSA competition since sustaining serious injuries in an incident during the 2014 Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Gidley joins Cavan O’Keefe, who competed in the Street Tuner class at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park earlier this year, and Mike McAleenan, who is making his first career IMSA start, in the No. 14 Motorsport USA Maserati GT4.
This event is the first Continental Tire Challenge race for the Maserati GT4 as well, joining McLaren, Porsche, Ford and Aston Martin in the class.
“It was my first time in the Maserati, and the team expected there to be some challenges with any new car shakedown,” said Gidley.
“But being that Maserati has such a huge history in producing fast, efficient cars, it was not surprising how turnkey the car was right out of the box, it was very easy to get comfortable with and fast.”
Another driver’s welcome return is that of Continental Tire Challenge veteran Scott Maxwell, who replaces Dean Martin in the No. 59 KohR Motorsports Ford Mustang.
With 17 GS victories and as the series’ all-time pole leader with 16, Maxwell’s presence in the paddock this weekend is sure to turn heads.
The No. 59 Ford Mustang will be the only car in the GS field with three drivers prepared to take the wheel on Saturday ahead of the second of two, four-hour races on the schedule.
Rounding out the lineup will be Jack Roush, Jr. and 18-year-old Nate Stacy, who is also making his first career IMSA start after previously racing with Martin and Roush.
“[Nate] is a very talented 18-year-old,” said Martin, who doubles as team manager and team principal. “He is very fast at Laguna Seca and enjoys the challenges that Laguna Seca brings.
“It will be a slight adjustment for him, but I am sure the Mustang will fit him like his favorite pair of old shoes. He has always wanted to run in IMSA and we thought it was a great venue to bring him on board as a third driver.
“Our strategy won’t change much for a four-hour race. We are hoping to control the race from the front. We will start out with our standard war plan, but as the battles unfold and the yellow flags fly, we will adjust, adjust, adjust.
“Our mission is to win the Manufacturer’s Championship for Ford and Multimatic. We don’t care about driver or team points at this point. We only care about wins.”
Adding to the changes, Petaluma, Calif.-based team TRG is ready to field a new car for its hometown race. Brandon Davis and Gregory Milzcik will hop into the No. 71 Aston Martin Vantage GT4, as Milzcik, adds his name to the list of drivers making their first IMSA start this weekend as well.`