Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has been the setting for several milestones in Liam Dwyer’s short IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge career.
The retired USMC Staff Sergeant will be looking to add to that resume when he returns to the Monterey, California circuit for the Continental Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda on Saturday, April 30.
Dwyer made his series debut at Mazda Raceway in 2014, and returned there last year to score his second career victory in dramatic fashion.
Co-driver Andrew Carbonell took the lead in the No. 26 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 with a pass on the final lap with only two turns remaining.
It was Carbonell’s third consecutive victory at the circuit and fourth in five years, with Freedom Autosport and Mazda taking five-race winning streaks into this year’s event.
“I’m looking forward to returning to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca very much,” Dwyer said. “It’s obviously a track that works very well for our Mazda MX-5.
“Having won there last year with Andrew Carbonell, we’re hoping that the Freedom Autosport team can put on a good show and go 1-2-3 there.
“Andrew knows the place very well, and I’m getting fairly comfortable there.”
Dwyer scored his first triumph in the series in storybook fashion on Memorial Day weekend in 2014, when he joined Tom Long in winning for Freedom Autosport at Lime Rock Park on the third anniversary of his near-fatal injuries sustained while serving in Afghanistan.
Last year’s victory may have topped that from the emotional standpoint. USMC Sgt.
Aaron Denning – who saved Dwyer’s life after the explosion in Afghanistan – waved the green flag for the event and was in the Freedom Autosport pits during the race.
Denning is expected to return for this year’s race, joined by several other servicemen who played a role in Dwyer’s recovery.
“We’re going to have some of the Marine veterans that I served with at this year’s race,” Dwyer said.
“Lieutenant Mike Marmolejo – who was my physical therapist at Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center] – will be seeing me race professionally for the first time.”
Last year, Dwyer helped Freedom Autosport to place second in the ST team standings. He finished first at Mazda Raceway, second at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and fourth at both Watkins Glen and Circuit of The Americas.
Co-driver Carbonell finished second in the final standings, while Dwyer was sixth after missing the round at VIRginia International Raceway.
Now, Dwyer is looking to return to the Mazda-friendly confines of the California racetrack to turn around a season which opened with 22nd-place finishes at both Daytona and Sebring.
“I love the track,” Dwyer said. “It’s got a ton of elevation change. It’s one of the best tracks you can race on, and it suits the MX-5 really well, since it’s all about roll speed.
“The Corkscrew is really unique – dropping about three stories very quickly, but my favorite corner there is Turn 9. It’s blind, it’s downhill but it goes off camber.
“It’s such a challenging corner to get it right, and it takes a lot of commitment to throw the car in there, get on the throttle and know that the track’s going to be there.”