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Another Post Card from the Grand Prix of Monterey and the California 8 hour at Laguna Seca

I wanted to share a few pix from the actual flag points during the PWC and SRO weekend at Laguna Seca… so here it goes.

My goal was to work in pit lane for this event. I was introduced to someone who chiefs that specialty and that person never replied. So to not miss the event, I decided to volunteer as a flagger and instead of requesting a specific post to work (like I did in previous years, like Turn 8 Corkscrew or Turn 2 last year for this very event) I just asked to be put wherever they needed me. And lucky for me they needed me in some very cool place. I got to work for two days in the beginning at Turn 3 which was amazing… and for the last two days of racing at Turn 11 which took the cake!

1957 was an amazing year it turns out… Lime Rock was built in 1957 and are celebrating their 60th this year. So is Laguna Seca apparently, and even VIRginia International Raceway was built in ’57 except that track went on hiatus for a bunch of years recently.

View from Turn 3 towards Turn 2 above and Turn 4 below.

A super convenient station which allowed me to sneak out to do another paddock walk to take some pictures during lunch time on Thursday. My awesome coworker helped me out by grabbing lunch for me at the Social tent which was delicious… I wolfed it down before the practice resumed in the afternoon.

The only European team in attendance. Belgian WRT Audi which “almost” won this event if it didn’t take aggressive actions against another fast Audi that lead most of the race and spun out into the gravel going down several laps before it was pulled out.

Pretty car though…

The Audi R8 that lead most of the race… they also had their Daytona 24 hour IMSA car on display in the paddock. Lead most of the race but were overtaken by Magnus Racing Audi towards the end.

Winner winner, chicken dinner.

Mazda of course had a prominent display in the paddock including their Miata “halfie” street/race car. And the new RF fastback.

I did some shopping before coming to the track so I had plenty of snacks to much on during the weekend…

Oh look “CARS” stamped fishies…

It was cooler in the mornings but the temps went up during the day, and the sun was pretty brutal especially at Turn 11 where I was without any cover during race days.

San Francisco Region SCCA did a fantastic job as usual feeding us.

Though I didn’t win this t-shirt that I really wanted, my buddy Ron who did win for some crazy reason offered to me. I’m super grateful!

On Friday evening SRO had rolled out all it’s cars for a group photo…

A very small group of only 19 cars to race for the 8 hour endurance, most of which typically only race sprint 2 to 3 hour races with PWC. team WRT of course and MARC Cars Australia have more endurance racing experience with Spa 24 and Bathurst 12 hours under their respective belts (along with many others I’m sure).

Thank goodness I had a bunch of bandanas to cover up so I didn’t fry my face… on Sunday it turns out Fort Ord conducted a controlled burn which scared the crap out of a lot of fellow marshals. Especially people working pit lane when ash started raining down (near fuel rigs). Oops!

My buddy Adam who hosted me for the weekend and who also works for SCRAMP came to visit me at Turn 3 and Turn 11.

Monday morning it was a wrap… a wrap of my two week California getaway. Speaking of wraps, I love the cover Adam is using on his Miata, and should probably invest in one for my car. Fits like a glove.

We grabbed one final lunch at my favorite diner in Salinas that severs the freshest salad I’ve ever had: Elli’s (get it, like Ellis Island)

And I headed back to return my 2017 Hyunday Accent at Hertz Seaside before heading back to Monterey.

I’m used to seeing Canadian flags here in New York at most places, but in California obviously the Mexican flag is more prevalent.

Then caught a $2.50 bus ride to the MRY – Monterey Regional Airport just a few miles away from town… where Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca was prominently on display encouraging people to visit.

It was such a fantastic trip. I would love to go back…

Post Card from the PWC, SRO, Global MX-5 Cup & Porsche GT3 Trophy Paddock at Laguna Seca

If the title suggests this was a busy event… you best believe it was! Four days of non stop action… which was a complete and total difference compared to last year where PWC ran it’s season finale alone without any support groups.

What was particularly different this year was the debut of the SRO created Intercontinental GT Challenge stop on American soil. An endurance race that joins the calendar this year along the crown jewel of SRO events: Spa 24 hours. As well as the other two races Stefan Ratel hitched his wagon to: Bathurst 12 hour in Australia  and Sepang 12 hour in Malaysia. The California 8 hour is an event they came up from scratch while the other Intercontinental GT Challenge stops have been established forever… some even before SRO got invovled with them.

To me California 8 hour was the main attraction to come out west and volunteer… But there were other surprises. While the Pirelli World Challenge top group: GT/GTA/GTC and GTS classes already ran their season finale the previous month in Sonoma. The lower classes: TC and TCA/TCB were going to have their finale here at Laguna Seca… and for all those pint size racing cars World Challenge came up with a spiffy title: Grand Prix of Monterey! Wow…

But wait there’s more! Global MX-5 Cup had run their season finale a few weeks ago while playing a support role for the IMSA event at Laguna Seca. But they decided to hold a truly Global MX-5 Cup race inviting some European and Japanese drivers to participate alongside their American counterparts. While the purse for winning the event was big, not that many cars signed up to race. But even with the lack of participation their field was larger than that of the main event, California 8 hour.

The best represented group of the weekend was the Porsche GT3 Cup Trophy Series. I completely confused myself thinking these were the West Coast version of our IMSA GT3 Cup… but I was wrong. While some teams/cars participate in both series, the GT3 Cup Trophy isn’t run by IMSA and is a far different series using a whole variety of cars. There were brand new GT3 911’s… some older versions of the car. And a bunch of GT4 spec Caymans too. Cars were distinguished by their windshield banners and the color of their headlights.

So now that I got all that out of the way, here’s a ton of pix I took while roaming around the paddock on Wednesday, the day before the event started:

Laguna Seca is going Hollywood! Last year they added the Hollywood-style “CORKSCREW” sign on the hill overlooking the track. This year the new addition is a Mazda 787B Le Mans winning car cutout at the entry to the track from Route 68/A Road. Which is also joined by a Yamaha Superbike…  it’s cool!

First thing you see arriving at the paddock is the Long Road Racing setup with their Global MX-5 Cup cars… and Enzo!

Lots of MX-5 Cup cars at the event… some raced in the Global MX-5 Cup while others represented the TCA field in Pirelli World Challenge. Easy to tell them apart… the convertible tops were MX-5 Cup series while the hard tops were PWC.

One team brought a souvenir from the season finale that ran with IMSA at Laguna Seca in September

Car looks pretty rough!

Much like the IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car series, PWC TC class still run NC Miata’s… though they are modified with a 2.5L engine and a big wang in the back.

One of two Japanese-driven cars in the event…

The TCB Mazda2’s used to be competitive, but it seems to me the BoP has balanced all the performance out of them. This #08 was the first car to be lapped. (multiple times, too)

The rest of the Mazda2’s ran slightly better, but not much. Certainly no match for the Honda Fit’s in TCB.

The new TOYOBARU Scion FRS GT86 smoked the competition. Won both races… and then got disqualified for some reason. Miata which came in second both times assumed the victories afterwards.

Porsche’s were second best represented cars for the weekend, after the Miata of course. While in TC class I counted 11 BMW M235i’s

The California 8 hour field was ultra thin… 19 cars total!

The Coyote 5.0L V8 powered Mazda3’s by MARC Cars Australia had two 3’s on the road… two different shades of red. One left hand drive and one right hand drive. Because of attrition both cars finished the race in top 10… ahead of all GT4 cars.

The only European SRO team to show up… Team WRT from Belgium.

The Acura team looked fast and very promising but after a few hours nobody could keep the pace of the Audi R8 LMS.

The TCR cars did especially well in the TC race

I was easily distracted walking around the paddock… this Audi especially caught my eye:

I suspect I’ll get an opportunity to watch it race on track this year…

It looks like the IMSA series, but the Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy is an independent west coast version racing similar cars.

When I finished taking pictures of cars, climbed up the hill to take some selfies with the Corkscrew.

I had some Mexican food on the way over to the track… and after spending a productive day there, I craved Mexican again… so I gave another restaurant a try in Seaside after the first place in Salinas. And then watched the sun set over the Pacific.

It was a great day!