Weekend of Firsts: Patrick Lindsey came to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca without a pole or victory on his TUDOR United SportsCar Championship resume. That all changed over the course of the weekend.
In Friday’s second practice, a mock qualifying run secured the fastest practice time of the day in the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America. He backed up that potential by capturing the TOTAL Pole Award in the GT Daytona (GTD) class, his first career pole after a number of seconds.
Sunday, Lindsey checked off another box on the bucket list, winning the class in the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda. Lindsey led 29 laps before handing over the Porsche to Spencer Pumpelly, who led the final 41 circuits to take the checkered flag.
“It’s exciting to get the win today,” Lindsey said. “It is so tight in the GTD field, it’s a fight every weekend. To give the win to Park Place Porsche in Dallas is really special. I hope it’s the first of many. It’s truly an amazing team, so it’s nice to win for these guys.”
Silver Star: Also coming to Monterey without a victory this season was RSR Motorsports owner Paul Gentilozzi – a man quite used to winning over his storied career.
So far, it had been a season of frustration for RSR Racing in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class, unless you can count what Gentilozzi sarcastically called victories in the 12 Hours of Daytona and the Six Hours of Sebring.
“I was tired of ‘shoulda won the race but didn’t,’” said the five-time SCCA Trans-Am champion. “We had the fastest car at Daytona and went out leading, and went while leading at Sebring. Here, we won the damn race. I’m excited for the guys. Chris (Cumming) and Bruno (Junqueira) have become a great team with great communication.”
Sunday, it all came together, with Cumming and Junqueira teaming for victory in the No. 11 AutoMaxUSA ORECA FLM09.
Gentilozzi pointed to a strategic move to keep Cumming in the car during the first round of pit stops as the key to victory.
“We left Chris in the car, and he was just a stud,” Gentilozzi said. “When everybody else pulled their silver drivers out we left him in, with confidence. He was running right with Colin Braun, and that played a major role. If we put Bruno in, that would have cost us 30 or 40 seconds unnecessarily, and Colin would have won the race.”
Having it both ways: While the cry in the paddock may be “slow down the BMWs” after back-to-back GT Le Mans (GTLM) victories for BMW Team RLL, it’s easy to overlook that the team’s first TUDOR Championship victory came at Long Beach only three weekends ago, and BMW had been winless in the class since victory at Lime Rock Park in 2013.
That frustration may be forgotten after Bill Auberlen won the pole and joined Dirk Werner in victory on the streets of Long Beach in the team’s No. 25 IHG Rewards Club BMW Z4 GTLM, backed up by Sunday’s victory for Lucas Luhr and John Edwards in the similar No. 24 entry after Werner won the pole.
Team owner Bobby Rahal isn’t complaining.
“To be honest, I really wasn’t expecting it here,” Rahal said after the race. “I thought we were going to be challenged. Being 1-2 is nice. That’s having your cake and eating it too.”
Flashbacks: Spencer Pumpelly had two reasons for concern in the closing laps on Sunday, not the least of which was Christopher Haase’s No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS bearing down on him.
The other was the shadow of last year’s race, when Pumpelly seemed headed to the GTD victory – only to run out of fuel on the final lap.
Haase’s threat was eliminated when the Audi was brushed by the race-leading No. 90 VisitFlorida.com of Richard Westbrook – under pressure by the Konica Minolta Corvette DP. Haase managed to hold on for seconds, 3.677 seconds behind.
The other shadow never materialized. Pumpelly had more than enough gas in the tank to drive to victory.
“I would be lying if the thought didn’t come to my mind,” Pumpelly said. This definitely is a bit of redemption. I still wish I had (last year) back. For sure, today I was thinking about that last lap, but these guys gave me the right amount of fuel. It’s a great redemption to get my first win in the TUDOR Championship.”
Mazda Workhorse: Tom Long had a busy weekend. In addition to racing the SpeedSource Mazda Prototype, he also raced in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and drove the new Mazda MX-5 that will debut in 2016 Global MX-5 Cup competition in its public debut.
“It was pretty neat to be driving three different cars on one day,” Long said. “This was one of my busiest race weekends in a while, but one of my most exciting and rewarding ones as well. And I couldn’t think of a better place to do it than at Mazda’s home track.”
Long is the official test driver for the new MX-5, prepared by his father, Glenn Long, at Long Road Racing.
The new car feels like a very nicely refined version of the original MX-5,” Tom Long said. “It’s very lightweight and nimble. The power-to-weight ratio has been improved compared to the current car, but with the car being so lightweight, it really exudes how nimble handling the car is. All the other systems – the brakes, the gearbox acceleration – are all upgrades to the current model. When you combine that with a lighter chassis and an upgraded suspension geometry, it’s proving to be a remarkably fun car to drive.”