At the track where a team from the Prototype Challenge category finished in the overall top three for the first time, their teams now stand at the precipice of their first ever overall victory.
The 2010 American Le Mans Series race at Monterey saw several of the then-P1/P2 combined Prototype class cars retire due to mechanical gremlins. That promoted Level 5 Motorsports, with the driving lineup of Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut and Mark Wilkins, to third place overall in their Oreca FLM09.
It’s a result that happened 12 times in ALMS history, including twice in 2013. The most recent PC overall podium occurred at Road America last year, with RSR Racing taking the class win in the capable hands of Bruno Junqueira and Duncan Ende.
Fast-forward four years, and the PC category has something of a point to prove this weekend at the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix.
The PC class endured a challenging Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, where it was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons due to a high frequency of heavy accidents, and several tubs were written off.
Granted, there was a stellar battle between CORE autosport and RSR for the class win down the stretch. But the overriding sentiment post-race was that this was a class needing a rebound at the next race.
Today that opportunity arrives. PC can redeem itself with an opportunity to score its first overall victory under the TUDOR Championship banner, which it should be able to do with nine quality entries.
Drivers like Junqueira and Alex Tagliani of RSR, Colin Braun of CORE, Renger van der Zande or Sam Bird of Starworks Motorsport, Sean Rayhall of 8Star Motorsports or Gunnar Jeannette of PR1/Mathiasen, to name a few, will have that ultimate chance to show in a race what they do in qualifying: how awesome it can be when fully pro drivers engage in a no-holds barred shootout for the overall win.
They’ll all take over from their respective co-drivers, who have the starting task and look to get it to their closing drivers squarely in one piece.
But Ende, for example, doesn’t think the race flow will be that much different compared to a normal race.
“There’s not enough GTLM cars, so we didn’t really see them that often when we were overtaking,” he explained. “It doesn’t change it too much. The biggest difference here is a different kind of traffic.”
For his teammate Junqueira, who qualified on pole, the feeling of winning overall would be a welcome throwback to his open-wheel days where the overall win was the sole goal.
“The first time I won a PC race at Mosport, it was a strange feeling, because I won the race… but didn’t take the checkered flag first. To win overall should be nice,” he said. “And in PC, everyone gets faster and faster so the positions change a lot. We have six or seven really fast drivers.”
Among them is Tagliani, who seeks to bounce back after being caught up in one of the Sebring PC accidents, and co-drives with Chris Cumming at RSR. Cumming won the last three races of 2013, then driving with Kyle Marcelli.
Meanwhile Rayhall, a rising sports car talent who will be making only his fourth top level sports car start (three TUDOR Championship and the 2013 American Le Mans Series finale), has the full support and confidence of teammate Luis Diaz, who called Rayhall “the best Silver driver in class.”
Rayhall forecasted how the race is likely to progress.
“This PC class is stacked,” he said. “You have a P2 champ in Diaz, you have Colin, the open-wheel guys of Tag, Bruno; Renger and Sam Bird over at Starworks. And we should be lapping GTD cars by lap 5 or 6. It’s going to be intense.”
And then there’s Braun, who along with Jeannette could probably lay claim to being the most successful and most experienced driver within PC.
For Braun, whose CORE team with Jon Bennett seeks their third straight win to open the season, the satisfaction of getting the overall win glory would check off one of the few remaining unchecked boxes on the CORE autosport team checklist.
“It’s always tough, but that’s the fun of it,” Braun said. “The series has done a great job to create a class that’s so competitive because it is so spec. That makes it fun; here, you don’t get beat by BoP, which is all the rage in other classes but PC. It’s team vs. team, driver vs. driver, engineer vs. engineer. And when you win, it means that much more.”
Whichever one of the nine PC cars – BAR1’s sole entry, the 10th car in class, was withdrawn after a practice accident Saturday – comes home with the checkered flag Sunday will have properly earned the win, and the spoils of overall glory that come with it.