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Laguna Seca Saturday Notebook

Sportscar365’s Saturday notebook from WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca…

Photo: Scuderia Corsa

***Drama ensued in Saturday’s second practice session for IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competitors when the No. 7 Team Penske Acura ARX-05 and No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R collided on-track, just two weeks after its controversial race-deciding incident at Motul Petit Le Mans

***IMSA race director Beaux Barfield handed the Penske Acura DPi of Helio Castroneves a stop-and-hold plus 60-second penalty for “unsportsmanlike conduct” during the session, while Felipe Nasr, who was at the wheel of the No. 31 Whelen-sponsored entry, was given a drive-through penalty for an improper pit exit.

***While briefly returning to the track in the hands of Ricky Taylor, the No. 7 Acura completed only three laps in the session before going behind the wall for repairs. Nasr, meanwhile, set the sixth quickest time in the session.

***The No. 30 Team Hardpoint Audi R8 LMS GT3 Evo bounced back in Practice 2 after a broken half-shaft that saw the Spencer Pumpelly and Rob Ferriol-driven entry complete only three laps in the opening session.

***This weekend’s event marks the first race without a Balance of Performance adjustment since the start of the season when considering all classes. GT Le Mans and GT Daytona class cars have remained unchanged since the Charlotte Roval event earlier this month.

***Laguna Seca holds the unique distinction of being the only track on the WeatherTech Championship schedule (other than this year’s substitute Charlotte Roval race) where the factory Porsche GTLM team has yet to win at.

***To-date, the team’s best finish was in its first year, 2014, with a third place class finish for the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy and Richard Lietz.

***Tandy, however, has a class victory at Laguna from 2013, driving NGT Motorsport’s GTC class Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car alongside co-driver Henrique Cisneros.

***The No. 22 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo, which suffered a heavy crash at the Charlotte Roval, was repaired with a ‘crash kit’ and jigs from Honda Performance Development, according to NSX GT3 project manager Lee Niffenegger.

***Gradient is making its first start since the GT-only event, as is also the case with the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren 720S GT3 as WeatherTech Sprint Cup-only participants.

***A number of championships can be clinched on Sunday, with Jack Hawksworth, Aaron Telitz of AIM Vasser Sullivan and Lexus set to lock up the Sprint Cup titles just by starting the race.

***PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and driver Patrick Kelly will do the same for the LMP2 overall championship while Corvette’s Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor could also clinch in GT Le Mans depending on the finishing position of its sister No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R.

***While there are a number of different scenarios, Garcia and Jordan can be crowned champions if they win the race and teammates Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin finish fourth or lower.

***Gavin, who announced his retirement from full-time driving with Corvette Racing on Saturday, is “feeling much better” than two weeks ago at Petit Le Mans where he was nursing a rib injury from a road bike accident. The Englishman said he’s not expecting his recovery to have any impact for tomorrow’s race.

***Sportscar365 understands that a decision has yet to be made if Gavin will remain with the team in an endurance-only role. 

***Multiple drivers, including Mike Rockenfeller, Richard Westbrook and current Porsche factory ace Nick Tandy have been rumored as potential replacements for Gavin next year.

***Gavin’s teammate, Antonio Garcia, told Sportscar365 that it will be “weird” not having the tall Englishman around next year. “It’s just like this year not having Jan [Magnussen] with us,” said Garcia. “Both of them were very key parts of this team and how they developed all the generations of Corvettes.

“He set a very high bar for how many wins and championships in a Corvette. I don’t know if that will ever be beaten anytime soon. For sure he has been super successful and a very big part of this team.”

***Gar Robinson has been linked with a move to LMP3 machinery next year, in what Sportscar365 understands will be a two-car Riley Motorsports effort in the new-for-2021 category. Riley was the first announced LMP3 entry for the WeatherTech Championship with drivers Dylan Murry and Jim Cox set to step up from Michelin Pilot Challenge.

***The move to the prototype ranks is understood to not include Robinson’s current co-driver Lawson Aschenbach, who has met with multiple GTD teams in recent weeks with an eye of remaining in the class next year.

***The compact two-day event allowed drivers and teams to take in the coastal sights of the Monterey region on Friday. Nasr, Derani and Action Express team manager Gary Nelson took a drive to Big Sur in their Cadillac CT5, while Mazda’s Harry Tincknell, Tristan Nunez and Olly Jarvis teed off at the world-renowned Pebble Beach golf course.

***Live streaming coverage of tomorrow’s Monterey Sport Car Championship will air at 4 p.m. ET on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold, with tape-delayed coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Leigh Diffey will handle play-by-play duties alongside analysts AJ Allmendinger and Calvin Fish with Kelli Stavast and Kevin Lee in the pit lane.

***IMSA Radio’s usual lineup of John Hindhaugh, Jeremey Shaw and Shea Adam will bring coverage to international viewers on as well as IMSA Radio globally.

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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