There’s a lot to celebrate this weekend for the No. 99 Automatic Racing camp at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Al Carter, making his fourth IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge start of the season in the Aston Martin Vantage, celebrated his birthday on Friday. Saturday, he picked up the Grand Sport (GS) class victory with co-driver Steven Phillips in the four-hour Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 240, the Saturday headliner at the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix.
This is the first Continental Tire Challenge win for both drivers, coming in the 61st series start for Carter and the 37th for Phillips. This is also the first victory for Automatic Racing in the series since 2008, when Jeff Segal and Jep Thornton piloted the team’s BMW M3 to victory lane in GS at Lime Rock Park.
“Steven and I have been talking about how the race was going to unfold and it pretty much happened exactly how we thought it was,” Carter said. “I was getting a little tired out there. Laguna is a tough place, but we kept digging and this the first win for our car, the first win in a long time for Automatic Racing and the first win for Steve.
“We’re feeling pretty good right now. This is unforgettable. Winning a Continental Tire Challenge is not easy, the competition in this series is so tough.”
Carter and Phillips came from the back of the pack to win, qualifying the car 12th in the 15-car field. The team ran mid-pack for the first part of the race, but by the halfway mark had moved up to the top five.
The car was positioned for a good result and was running in second when the leading No. 35 Porsche Cayman GT4 driven by Damien Faulkner suddenly slowed with 30 minutes remaining. Faulkner regained power, but not soon enough as Carter shot past him.
The No. 99 held the lead for the remaining 18 laps to close out the victory.
GS point leaders Dillon Machavern and Dylan Murcott faced a challenging race but will leave Mazda Raceway with a 16-point lead over No. 12 Bodymotion Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 co-drivers Trent Hindman and Cameron Cassels.
Hindman and Cassels finished second, while the No. 59 KohR Motorsports Ford Mustang of trio Jack Roush, Jr., Scott Maxwell and Nate Stacy.
Overdue ST Win Comes for Kleinubing, Block in C360R Audi
It’s been a rollercoaster of a season for Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge teammates Pierre Kleinubing and Roy Block, but the duo finally pulled out the Street Tuner (ST) victory Saturday evening at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Before the victory, Kleinubing and Block had finished on the podium only twice this season with two third-place finishes, the most recent coming in the series’ last race at VIRginia International Raceway last month.
This is also the first year that the two drivers have been paired together and the first full season for Block in the Continental Tire Challenge. Kleinubing posted a blazing lap in qualifying to start the No. 75 C360R Audi S3 from the pole, but the car fell to mid-pack and the team battled back.
“We got a little unlucky in the middle with the yellows, but then we got lucky again with the yellows in the end,” Kleinubing said. “I just had more traction. My car’s all-wheel drive, and with the Continentals, it seemed to be the quick combination today. I was able to launch out of the slow corners better and that’s how I got around the guys. At the end, we were all running the same pace, but I had a gap.”
“With the track record we’ve had with this car, it’d probably be the last car you’d pick to win the four-hour race and here we are. This proves how much work C360R has done lately. We probably have one of the best cars in the paddock right now.”
While C360R has one victory so far this year in the GS class, this is the team’s first ST win since Kyle Gimple and Paul Holton claimed the checkered flag in 2015 at Road Atlanta.
The ST class provided thrilling action for the duration of the race, with the top cars trading the lead 10 times. In the No. 26 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5, Liam Dwyer and Andrew Carbonell, who made his 100th Continental Tire Challenge start this weekend, took home the second-place trophy and Sarah Cattaneo and Owen Trinkler followed up their VIR victory with a third-place finish in the No. 44 CRG-I-Do-Borrow Nissan Altima.
Despite early mechanical issues with the No. 56 Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman that removed the car from contention for the victory, Eric Foss retained the ST championship lead with a 13th-place finish alongside co-driver Justin Piscitell, who replaced the injured Jeff Mosing for the remainder of the season. Foss holds a 16-point lead over the No. 17 RS1 Porsche of Spencer Pumpelly and Nick Galante heading into the final race of the season at Road Atlanta on Oct. 6.
The race broadcast of the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 240 will air on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. ET on FS1.