- Two teams go from pit road to the podium following pre-race penalties.
- Continental tires hold up to the challenges of Mazda Raceway.
Monterey, CA – May 1, 2016. Two races meant double the fun as the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship made its fourth stop on the IMSA schedule for the Continental Tire Monterey GP powered by Mazda, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. As one of the most historic road courses in America, Mazda Raceway is known for the corkscrew and some challenging track conditions. But they were no match for the Continental tires. Track temperatures hovered at 97.4 degrees Fahrenheit for the start of the first race then rocketed to 109.8 degrees Fahrenheit for the start of the second race. Sunday marked the hottest day of the week and with high track temps, blowing sand and excessive pickup, drivers had a lot to contend with. The Continental tires passed the test with many Prototypes taking only right side tires on their final pit stop. One more testament to the performance drivers demand and Continental provides.
Prototype (P) Recap
1st- No. 60 Michael Shank Racing w/Curb Agajanian Liger JS P2 (Pew/Negri); 2nd- No. 90 VisitFlorida Corvette DP (Dalziel/Goossens); 3rd - No. 31 Whelen/Team Fox Corvette DP (Cameron/Curran)
It was an all Mazda front row for the start of Sunday’s Prototype (P)/GT LeMans (GTLM) showdown in the Continental Tire Monterey GP powered by Mazda. Tristan Nunez started the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda P2 from the pole position with teammate, Joel Miller, starting on the outside of the front row in the No. 70 Mazda. The duo led the start of the race but a series of cautions, coupled with a fueling problem in the pits for the No. 55, shuffled the field.
When the dust settled, it was the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing w/Curb Agajanian LIgier JS P2 that emerged out front with driver, Ozz Negri, behind the wheel. John Pew started the No. 60 machine and with patience and speed, the duo stood atop the podium for their first time in 2016. After starting from pit road due to a rule infraction, the No. 90 VisitFlorida Racing Corvette DP took second place with Ryan Dalziel and Marc Goossens. The No. 31 Whelen/Team Fox Corvette DP came home third with a combined effort from Dane Cameron and Eric Curran.
Prototype Challenge (PC) Recap
1st- No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM09 (Alon/Kimber-Smith); 2nd - No. 8 Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09 (Popow/van der Zande); 3rd - No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09 (Bennett/Braun)
From pit road to the podium, the No. 54 CORE autosport team was the bell of the ball during Sunday’s Prototype Challenge (PC) race. After fixing a fuel cell issue, the team started from pit road and served a drive through penalty but with a little strategy and a lot of heart drivers, Jon Bennett and Colin Braun sliced and diced their way to a third-place finish. Robert Alon started the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM09 from the pole and led the opening laps before handing driving duties over to Tom Kimber-Smith. Following a pit stop under the only caution of the day, Kimber-Smith took the lead and held off a charging, Renger van der Zande in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport entry, to claim victory. The team of van der Zande and Alex Popow finished second.
Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) Recap
1st- No. 23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (Riberas/Farnbacher); 2nd - No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 (Nielsen/Balzan); 3rd - No. 007 TRG-AMR Asont Martin GT3 (Davis/Davison)
Similar to the PC class, the GT Daytona (GTD) class saw one team dominate from pole to checkered flag. Alex Riberas qualified the No. 23 Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R on the pole and quickly pulled to the lead when the green flag waved. Riberas relinquished his seat to co-driver, Mario Farnbacher, at the half-way point and Farnbacher went on to lead the remainder of the two-hour race. The No. 23 team dominated winning the pole, leading every lap, and claiming victory. The No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan finished second while the No. 007 LaSalle Solutions Aston Martin Vantage GT3 finished third with Brandon Davis and James Davison.
Tristan Nunez captured his first career Prototype pole in the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda P2. The pole also marked Mazda’s first pole in Prototype competition.
In the GTD class, Alex Riberas claimed his first career pole in the class in the No. 23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.
The Prototype win marks the first win for Michael Shank Racing since the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2012.
Unofficially, Kimber-Smith and Alon have tied the JDC-Miller Motorsports drivers, Misha Goikhberg and Stephen Simpson, for the lead in the PC standings.
Take a look at some of our favorite photos from this weekend’s race – Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
Ozz Negri, No. 60 Michael Shank Racing w/Curb Agajanian Ligier JS P2 (finished P1 in P) – “It’s a huge confidence boost for the whole team. I’ve been with this group for 12 years and yesterday I was talking to my engineer and we did something for the car this morning, and it worked. That’s team work! It’s a long time coming and we deserve this. Today was our day.
“I’ve been working on out laps and in laps and it worked in the race. I was able to pull away and control my race. Tires were awesome! We only did two tires at the end of the race and we were maintaining the pace and keeping out of trouble.”
Ryan Dalziel, No. 90 VisitFlorida Corvette DP (finished P2 in P) – “We struggled to find the balance this weekend and were making aggressive changes every session. We dialed it in a circle and got it into the race with how it rolled off the truck. It was definitely a strategy game today and I think it came down to tire strategy and we did our best with the Continental’s and they held on until the end so we’re thankful for them.”
Eric Curran, No. 31 Whelen/Fox Corvette DP (finished P3 in P) – “Overall our Whelen Corvette, prepped by the Action Express guys, was great all day. We missed a little bit on the set up because the temperature went up so much over the last couple days but we had a pretty decent race car and a heck of a battle with Goossens (Marc, driver, No. 90 Corvette DP) in the No. 90 car at the end. I thought I had him but this is a hard place to pass. You get offline and there’s dirt everywhere and I couldn’t quite get him. The Continental tires held on the whole run and we ran them a long time today, an extra little stint there. Hats off to the Action Express guys, Sunny Whelen and Whelen Engineering for getting us here and maybe putting us in the points lead after that.”
Colin Braun, No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09 (finished P3 in PC) – “Certainly starting from the back like we did and having to drive through the field made it a challenge but we never gave up and we had good strategy. Jon (Bennett, co-driver) did a super, duper job at the start to keep us right up there so we had the chance to pit and get off strategy from the other teams. We did one set of tires there, or two sets of tires for the whole race, one change, and the Continental’s held up well. At the end of the day there was lot of pickup and junk offline so it was a real challenging when you were offline to not get all the build up from all the day of racing. It certainly made it challenging at the end trying to pass GTD cars but it was fun.”
Mario Farnbacher, No. 23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (finished P1 in GTD) – “It was a bit different compared to the other practices. We had to find a little different setup and obviously we did a great job there. Over my stint I tried to manage my tire situation because we knew the Ferrari was quite strong over one stint with a set of tires and obviously I was controlling the pace pretty good. In the end it worked out.”