The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship heads to the sinuous and undulating challenge that is WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship Presented by Motul, April 29-May 1.
In a change from the last several editions, the race returns to a mid-spring date, which means that drivers and teams that were before looking to consolidate their positions in the overall championship with a strong result on the Monterey Peninsula are now looking to establish their early-season ascendancy on California’s classic road course.
Following on from the two endurance rounds in Daytona and Sebring and a short, sharp sprint on the streets of Long Beach, the race at WeatherTech Raceway begins the pattern of “standard format” races lasting two hours and 40 minutes, with a packed, multi-class field that includes DPi and LMP2 prototypes, along with GTD Pro and GTD exotica. It’s the perfect recipe for furious competition that will see drivers and teams spending 160 minutes at 100%.
“You’re always flat out,” says Tom Blomqvist, overall winner earlier this year of the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the Meyer Shank Racing Acura DPi. “It’s rare to get a clear lap, so traffic management is a huge part of racing here. There’s always the chance of a full course caution as well, so you can never give up and that makes it so intense.”
This year, traffic management will be a new experience for Blomqvist. A switch from the GT ranks to the headlining DPi class means he’ll be the faster car catching slower traffic. He and the rest of the DPi field should be negotiating WeatherTech Raceway’s 11 turns and 2.238 miles in the 1m16s range, some 10s quicker than the best of the GTD cars. By mid race, cars will be spread out over the whole of the lap, and while there’s no real point on the twisting track where catching slow traffic is a good thing, there is one section where Blomqvist feels it could be particularly costly.
“Getting ahead of slower traffic before Turn 5 is crucial because after that it’s a fast run up to The Corkscrew without a lot of space to pass,” he explains, “so it’s a critical section because you can stand to lose a lot of time.”
For GTD Pro class BMW Team RLL driver John Edwards, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is an old favorite. He’s a two-time winner there in IMSA competition and spent a lot of time in his formative years. It’s a track he enjoys for the technical challenge of trying to get it right, lap after lap, which adds to the intensity of the race.
“It’s not a “90-degree corner-turn in-apex-track out’ kind of place,” says Edwards. “You have to look at it as, ‘How can I use this bit of banking or that compression to my advantage. Do I turn in a bit earlier here and then use that compression to rotate me there?’ It’s those kinds of things that you’re thinking about the whole time. It’s a tricky place to get right. The track is hardly ever going straight, which makes it both physically and mentally demanding.”
In addition to traffic management and the technical nature of the circuit, tire management is yet another factor adding to the race’s intensity, and it’s one that affects all the classes equally.
“It’s not a high-grip track and yet the surface is still abrasive, so tire management adds another level of complexity to how hard and when you can push,” says Blomqvist.
Edwards agrees that tires are the biggest factor in devising a race strategy.
“Managing the tire degradation over a whole stint is so important and that’s just going to be magnified at WeatherTech Raceway,” he says. “It’s a place where the tire management is more crucial to your pit strategy than fuel is.”
From traffic and tire management, to the physical and mental demands placed on every driver and team coming to Laguna Seca, it’s no wonder that it’s a race run at 100% for every one of its 160 minutes. But as Blomqvist said, it’s a place where fortunes can change in an instant, so there’s no relenting until the checkered flag falls.
EXPERIENCE WEATHERTECH RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA
The Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship Presented by Motul, April 29-May 1 showcases an exciting cross-section of IMSA-sanctioned series at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The marquee WeatherTech Sports Car Championship race takes place on Sunday, May 1, with its 2h40m of frenetic action beginning at 12:10 p.m. PT.
Saturday’s feature event will be a two-hour thriller courtesy of the Michelin Pilot Challenge, starting 4:00 p.m. PT.
Adding to an unmissable bill are two of IMSA’s most competitive single-make series, the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by Visit Cayman Islands and the Lamborghini Super Trofeo. Both series get two rounds of racing, one apiece on Saturday and Sunday.
Taken as a whole, the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship offers up much of the best sports car racing in North America all in one weekend. Adding to the great on-track action are some fantastic off-track activities. There’s plenty of fun to be had at the track, including go karts, a Ferris Wheel and a kids’ zone. And the whole family can explore the paddock and see racecars and their drivers up close with the open Grid Walk, plus lots more!
For event information, schedule and details of the many great ticket options available, CLICK HERE.