Jonathan Bomarito Driver Diary – Laguna Seca
I’d like to start off this Driver’s Diary by thanking all of the many friends and family who came out to support me and the Mathiasen Motorsports team over the weekend. Having grown up in Monterey and Salinas, it was just an amazing feeling to have such a huge group of people cheering and rooting us on.
Being a local guy to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, my race weekend started very early. On Wednesday we brought the car out to a local shopping center where the “Festival of Speed”. organizers had coordinated an appearance for about half a dozen of the Atlantic cars that were participating. It was a successful event, and got the word out even further to people who otherwise might not have known about the series and the full race weekend.
Thursday was a fairly normal preparation day working with the team and engineers, but what really stood out most of all for me was the HEAT. For the Monterey peninsula it was extremely hot, and surprisingly it lasted right through the weekend. Our track walk took place from 4-5pm and the heat radiating off the incredibly smooth black asphalt came right through your shoes. This unusually high track temperature was a challenge for all of the teams, and especially for our Cooper tires, to overcome.
Going into Friday qualifying we were pretty optimistic about our chances as we had posted the second fastest time in morning practice session. However, the track changed drastically from practice to qualifying and that really caught us out. In this series, once you get even a little bit behind you are almost always playing catch up for the rest of the weekend. The Atlantic teams and drivers are some of the best in the business and you have to be at the top of your game all the time if you hope to be competitive. We eventually ended the first qualifying with a disappointing eighth place, about half a second off the pole time.
Saturday was a new day, and following a very productive debrief after Friday’s qualifying results we were excited to get back out and see what we could do for Q2. For the first half of qualifying, things went well and I heard a lot of P1, P2, and P3’s from Evan Waymire, our Data Analysis Engineer who provided constant radio updates with my lap times and place during the session. We then progressed into the critical fifteen minute window where we put on our last set of new tires, and I was looking to really throw down some good laps right at the end of the session. Unfortunately, the lap times just didn’t seem to improve even with a fresh set of tires. Although we gained more grip, the race car lost some of its handling and we couldn’t get those last few tenths of a second we needed. I admit that I was pretty bummed when the checkered flag waived to end qualifying and I heard P7 over the radio.
Race Day! Waking up in my own bed and looking out the window to see brilliant sunny skies really made me feel so blessed and fortunate to be a racing driver. Sunday morning’s warm-up session went very well for us. We posted the 4th fastest time, the car felt very good, I practiced a couple of standing starts, and I was ready to go racing. Our Atlantic series cars were the feature race of the day, and the ceremonies of gridding the cars, hearing the national anthem, and having an F18 fighter do a fly bye literally gave me goosebumps! As we lined up for the standing start to take the green, I really felt confident and knew what I needed to do in order to make up some positions. It all begins with getting a good start and with good reaction time. As the red lights winked out I got a strong start, and by the end of the opening lap I had moved up two positions and was running hard in fifth place. During the second lap a car went off and two others made contact in turn two which brought out a full course yellow. After a fairly long caution period of four laps while everything got cleaned up, the green flag flew at the starters stand. As I punched the throttle I immediately knew I didn’t have anything like the power I should have. On every straight portion of the track, cars were just driving around me. With the high oil temp alarm blazing across my dash display and the engine continually slowing down, I knew that my race was going to come to a very early end.
The highs and lows of racing are more intense than anything I have done before, and the heartache that the whole Mathiasen Motorsports team felt was written clearly across their faces as I pulled into the pits to retire on lap 9. Even knowing that an internal engine malfunction was out of their control doesn’t seem to help. We heard a lot of “That’s racing” after the race, but whoever came up with that saying isn’t too high on my list of favorite people right now.
Looking ahead, there is already a new engine in the car and we’ll get in a day of very valuable testing before the next race at Le Circuit Mont Tremblant up in Quebec. We are working on our strategic plan for race three and despite the frustration of this weekend everyone remains very motivated to achieve what we have set out to do this year. With nine races to go, our championship hopes are still very much alive.