Laguna Seca: Thursday Notebook
Penske Racing owner Roger Penske will be honored this weekend as the seventh Legend of Laguna Seca. The pre-race ceremony will kick off the Monterey Sports Car Championships presented by Patr¢n, the final race of the American Le Mans Series season.
“Roger is a true racer in every aspect of his life,” said Gill Campbell, CEO/general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “He exemplifies what a racing legend is and has contributed massively to the sport not just as a driver but as a team owner in multiple series.”
Penske won at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 1962 in the Zerex Special, a car modified from a Cooper F1 car. “The Captain” also won for Jim Hall's Chaparral team at the circuit in 1964.
The next season saw the launch of Penske Racing. Forty years later, Penske entered the American Le Mans Series with Porsche and its RS Spyder in LMP2 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Since the victorious debut in 2005, Penske has won three consecutive team championships along with 24 wins.
WELCOME BACK PIERRE: JMB Racing’s Pierre Kaffer is back at the scene of his most recent American Le Mans Series victory. In 2004, he and Johnny Herbert drove an Audi R8 to an overall win into the darkness at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Kaffer drove JMB’s Ferrari F430 GT with Ben Aucott and Stephane Daoudi to a fifth-place class finish at Petit Le Mans. He also finished second in GT2 with Dirk Werner in Farnbacher Loles Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR at Mosport.
ECO’S DEBUT: Eco Racing is the newest entry into the American Le Mans Series with its diesel-powered Radical SR10-AER. The British team has overcome a number of obstacles to get on the track for the first time. The Radical experienced some teething problems in its first on-track experience in North America with some engine issues.
|Eco Racing's diesel powered Radical SR10-AER|
Team owner Ian Dawson had planned to campaign the car on biodiesel, but the Radical will be powered by the same Shell diesel fuel that Audi uses in its pair of Audi R10 TDIs.
WE ARE THE WORLD: Gil de Ferran has saluted his team with a seven-flag display at the De Ferran Motorsports paddock. The flags of Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States are flying below the team banner.
De Ferran is French by birth but his parents were from Brazil, where he spent his formative years. The owner/driver is back at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the first time since a third-place finish 2001’s CART race. His 1995 victory was his first in the U.S.
“Every time I return to Laguna Seca, it is always a very emotional experience,” de Ferran said. “It’s the scene of my first victory in North America and arguably one of the events that helped establish me as a professional driver at the highest level back in 1995. Hopefully we will make this weekend just as memorable.”
HELLO AGAIN, HELIO: Helio Castroneves could hardly believe it. Has it really been seven years since his last race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca? A quick look at the record books says that’s correct. So it was a giddy Castroneves that was patrolling the paddock Thursday.
Castroneves will team with Ryan Briscoe in Penske Motorsports’ Porsche RS Spyder, the same car the duo drove to a class victory two weeks ago at Road Atlanta’s Petit Le Mans. A two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Castroneves has tasted success in Monterey on multiple occasions.
He debuted in 1996 with a third-place effort in Indy Lights and followed that with a runner-up finish the following year. He jumped up to CART the following year and won at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2000 after claiming pole position.
“It’s been so many years since I’ve raced here, plus there’s throwing a new car into the mix,” Castroneves said. “That really adds to the challenge. Fortunately we got in some good testing time a few weeks ago at Road Atlanta so I’ve gotten used to the RS Spyder again.”