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!