Thirty-three IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race cars are slated to compete in the penultimate round of the 2017 season on Sunday, Sept. 24, for the America’s Tire 250, the headline event of the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The two-hour, 40-minute race features the Prototype (P), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes and will be televised live on FS1 beginning at 5 p.m. ET. The race also will be broadcast by IMSA Radio, available on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio.
It will be the first race for the lead Prototype class since the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America on Aug. 6. That race was won by No. 22 Tequila Patrón ESM Nissan DPi co-drivers Pipo Derani, of Brazil, and Johannes van Overbeek, of Oakland, California, who won at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2014 alongside then-co-driver Ed Brown.
The Tequila Patrón ESM team will have a pair of entries as it goes for its second consecutive victory. The team’s No. 2 Nissan DPi will be shared by Ryan Dalziel and team co-owner/driver Scott Sharp.
At Road America, the Patrón team finished one spot ahead of Prototype class points co-leaders Jordan and Ricky Taylor in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R driving for their father’s Wayne Taylor Racing team. The runner-up result for the Taylor brothers was their first podium since a run of five straight victories to open the season.
They lead No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R co-drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa by 26 points, 258-232, and can clinch the Prototype class title at Mazda Raceway if their lead is 37 points or greater after the weekend. Just behind Barbosa and Fittipaldi in the standings are their teammates, Eric Curran and Dane Cameron, in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Both the No. 5 and No. 31 teams are each looking for their second victory of the season. Barbosa and Fittipaldi won the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on July 2 and Curran and Cameron took the Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park one weekend later.
Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg, who co-drive the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA LM P2 car, have come close to victory a number of times recently, but are hoping to finally break through on the Monterey Peninsula. They’re the highest ranked of the LM P2 runners in the Prototype class.
There will be a total of three Gibson V8-powered LM P2s at Mazda Raceway. Jose Gutierrez and Olivier Pla will share the No. 85 Ligier for the Fresno, California-based PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports team. VISIT FLORIDA Racing fields the No. 90 Ligier for Marc Goossens and Renger van der Zande, who earned his first career WeatherTech Championship victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class in 2014. The PC class is not competing in this year’s race.
The battle for supremacy in the GTLM is currently led by No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R teammates Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen – winners of the most recent WeatherTech Championship race, the Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway on Aug. 27. The No. 3 co-drivers – who won at Mazda Raceway in both 2013 and 2014 – lead No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM co-drivers Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims by 16 points, 274-258.
Joining Garcia and Magnussen on the two-car Corvette Racing team are reigning WeatherTech Championship GTLM champions Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin in the No. 4 C7.R. Milner and Gavin won in the most recent WeatherTech Championship visit to California, the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach in April.
The BMW team, meanwhile, features Auberlen and Sims in the No. 25, with John Edwards and Martin Tomczyk in the No. 24 BMW M6 GTLM. Edwards won at Mazda Raceway in 2015 co-driving with Lucas Luhr. Auberlen and Sims, meanwhile, are looking for their third victory of the season after scoring back-to-back wins at Watkins Glen and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, co-drivers of the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, are the defending GTLM winners at Mazda Raceway. Last year, they scored the historic first victory for the highly publicized program and are carrying the momentum of a runner-up result at VIR.
In the No. 66 Ford GT are German driver Dirk Mueller and Sacramento, California’s Joey Hand. Mueller and Hand also have won twice this season, the season-opening Rolex 24 and at Road America, and are currently tied for third in the championship standings with Briscoe and Westbrook, just one point behind Auberlen and Sims.
The Porsche GT Team brings its pair of Porsche 911 RSRs to Monterey, with 2015 GTLM series champion Patrick Pilet and Dirk Werner sharing the team’s No. 911 entry and Laurens Vanthoor and Gianmaria “Gimmi” Bruni in the No. 912 machine. Pilet and Werner broke through with the first victory for the new, mid-engine 911 at Lime Rock Park in late July.
No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE co-drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander round out the GTLM entry list. Fisichella and Vilander finished third last time out at VIR, their first event since a four-race midseason hiatus.
The Risi Ferrari is one of two race cars carrying the famed prancing horse logo on its hood in the America’s Tire 250. The other is the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, which currently leads the GTD standings and is driven by defending GTD champions Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan. Nielsen and Balzan have a healthy, 13-point lead (282-269) over No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 driver Jeroen Bleekemolen, but are still looking for their first victory of the season.
Bleekemolen, meanwhile, has won twice this season and welcomes back his longtime Riley Motorsports-Team AMG teammate, Ben Keating, at Mazda Raceway. Keating, a native Texan, did not compete at VIR as his home and businesses were directly in the path of Hurricane Harvey.
The No. 33 entry is one of three Mercedes-AMG GT3s in the field. Tristan Vautier and Kenny Habul are sharing the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing machine, with Dan Knox and Mike Skeen slated for the No. 80 Lone Star Racing Mercedes.
The team carrying perhaps the most momentum currently in the GTD class is Turner Motorsport and No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 co-drivers Jens Klingmann and Jesse Krohn. The lone BMW in the class won two races ago at Road America and finished a close second last time out at VIR. As a result, Klingmann is now third in the GTD standings.
At VIR, Klingmann and Krohn finished second to Jeroen Mul and Corey Lewis in the No. 16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, who dominated the entire weekend en route to their first WeatherTech Championship victory. Mul and Lewis share one of two Lamborghinis in the field, the other is the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Huracán shared by Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow.
The lone Audi in the field comes from Stevenson Motorsports. Andrew Davis and Lawson Aschenbach – who won at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and are currently fourth in the GTD standings – co-drive the No. 57 Audi R8 LMS GT3.
Porsche has the most cars in the GTD field with four, and three of those teams have won races this season. Alegra Motorsports won the Rolex 24 with lead driver Daniel Morad as part of the lineup. At Mazda Raceway, Morad will share the No. 28 Porsche 911 GT3 R with American Porsche works driver Patrick Long.
Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette won at Long Beach in a Mercedes, but switched to Porsche just prior to Road America and will once again co-drive the No. 50 WeatherTech 911 GT3 R. Patrick Lindsey and Joerg Bergmeister won at Lime Rock Park in the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, and Lindsey also is a previous GTD winner at Mazda Raceway, taking a victory in 2015.
Jon Bennett and Colin Braun complete the Porsche GTD lineup in their No. 54 CORE autosport entry, and while they haven’t won yet this year, they have won previously at Mazda Raceway – a PC class victory in the six-hour American Le Mans Series race in 2012.
Also looking to get back to Victory Lane this weekend at Mazda Raceway is Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian and its pair of Acura NSX GT3 race cars. Ozz Negri, who co-drives the No. 86 NSX with Jeff Segal, took the overall and Prototype class victory last year alongside co-driver John Pew for the Shank team. Katherine Legge and Andy Lally – co-drivers of the No. 93 machine – won back-to-back races at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park and Watkins Glen earlier this summer.
The deep GTD field also includes a pair of Lexus RC F GT3 machines from 3GT Racing. Scott Pruett – the winningest driver in IMSA history and native Californian who makes his home in Auburn, California – and Jack Hawksworth share the No. 15 Lexus, with Sage Karam and another Californian, Robert Alon of Los Angeles, in the No. 14 entry.
Practice for the WeatherTech Championship America’s Tire 250 gets under way Friday, Sept. 22, with the first of two, hour-long practice sessions starting at 10 a.m. PT. Friday’s second session starts at 2:50 p.m. PT.
Saturday, Sept. 23 opens with another WeatherTech Championship practice from 8 to 9 a.m. PT, followed by qualifying from 11:30 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. PT. Saturday’s schedule also includes the four-hour Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 240 for the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge beginning at 2 p.m. PT.
The America’s Tire 250 takes the green flag at 2:05 p.m. PT on Sunday, Sept. 24. The weekend schedule also includes a pair of races for the IMSA-sanctioned Lamborghini Super Trofeo series.
WeatherTech Championship qualifying and all of the weekend’s races will be streamed live on IMSA.com with IMSA Radio commentary. Ticket and other event information for the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix weekend is available now at MazdaRaceway.com.