Laguna Seca is one of America’s most famous road courses. It’s is always a fun event to come to; the track is fun to drive, it always attracts great fans, and the night life is exciting. Traditionally back in the GRAND-AM days this was one of our last races of the year, but this year it is just our fourth event.
We knew coming in the P2 cars were going to suit this track better than the DP. It is a momentum based track with long flowing, high speed corners and no real long straights. We won the race here last year, so we knew we would have a strong car compared to the other DPs, it was just a matter of seeing how we would stack up against the P2s.
My only issue with BoP is that instead of having a winner and people saying, ‘Those guys did the best job today, they deserved the win’, it has turned into, ‘Those guys won, they have a clear BoP advantage, and something has to change.’
People need to understand that different cars are going to suit different tracks, and teams are going to execute better than others on given weekends. People need to stop pointing fingers and get back to racing.
Having said all that, we knew after practice and qualifying that we had a pretty good car. Laguna is a tough place to pass, so we knew we were going to have to have a clean race on track and execute our strategy and pit stops really well to try and get track position.
Ricky had a tough start; the 01 car went down the inside of us and the 5 car. He went over the pit lane line which was supposed to be ‘out of bounds’? Ricky got him back a few laps later and settled into 5th for his stint, saving fuel to try and make some gains in the pits.
I got into the car with about an hour and a half to go, it was going to be a short middle stint, so my job was to drive flat out, not worrying about fuel or tires, just trying to make up time on the leaders and take some risk for positions.
Cold tires were very tough here. I struggled big time with understeer on my entire out lap. As I came down the front straight for the first time I saw the 90 car leaving the pits, and the 42 car just ahead of him. I don’t remember the whole encounter, but the 42 car went off at the exit of T5, which gave me the opening to get by him, putting us 3rd (I think we got by the 1 in the pits).
The 5 car was rolling down the pits the next time by, and exited just in front of the 90. The 90 tried to force a move into T4 which bogged them both down, so I got a run going towards T5. The 90 went to the inside and the 5 tried to block a little, leaving me with the outside lane.
Knowing how bad cold tires were, I knew this was probably my only real shot to get by. I braked pretty late and was able to swing around the outside of both of them, putting us in the lead. Since the 5 was still getting his tires up to temp, he held off both the 90 and 42 for a while, which allowed me to pull a big gap.
Probably about twenty minutes later, I see the 1 car closing in on me pretty quickly. He caught me, but I was pretty comfortable with holding him off. He was really strong in the second half of the track, which doesn’t have many passing opportunities. He was on me for a few laps and then had some sort of failure which ended his race.
He parked on the side of the road, which could have caused a yellow. This started a chain reaction which saw everyone making their last stops, but unfortunately it was a few minutes before everyone’s ‘get home lap.’
This meant as soon as I left the pits, I was in fuel saving mode until the end. We were in the same boat as the 01 and the 5 car, and they were about 5 seconds back when we left the pits. We had a good pace for how much fuel we were saving compared to the 5, but the 2 car was coming quickly.
He eventually caught me, I hit some sand in T2 which hurt me a bit from the exit of T2 through T3 and he was able to get by.
It was nice to lead that much of the race, but we knew coming into this weekend that if we were on the podium, we should be pretty happy with that.
All in all I think it was a great race and a great effort by our guys. We only had the sixth fastest lap of the race, but finished second, so I think it’s a testament to the team on how well we executed everything.
It was also the series’ second race with running just the pro classes, and there was not a single yellow.