IMSA Monterey Friday Notebook


Mazda Prototypes Go 1-2 in Friday Practice at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

MONTEREY, Calif. – It would certainly be appropriate, but “appropriate" doesn’t always mean much in motorsports: The fastest cars in the two practice sessions for the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda, taking place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, are Mazdas.

It’s the first time the Mazda Prototypes have led a practice day in the nearly two-and-a-half years they have raced in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

But there should be an asterisk next to the first two years: The cars were using diesel engines that just never proved competitive, so for the start of the 2016 season, the Mazda Prototypes began using conventional turbocharged four-cylinder engines, which have proved to be a match for the V-8s used in the Daytona Prototypes.

And Jonathan Bomarito, the fastest of the Mazda Prototype drivers, stresses that so far, it’s just practice – qualifying is Saturday at 5:45 pm PT. But Bomarito is confident that the Mazdas will be fast Saturday, too, and for the race on Sunday. The tight 2.238-mile track favors the Le Mans P2-type prototypes more than the Daytona Prototypes, Bomarito said.

“If there’s any race track that suits our cars, it’s this one," said Bomarito, who is from nearby Monterey (“I think I can pretty much drive this track with my eyes closed," he said).

Saturday and Sunday, it will be exciting, no matter what happens, as the Mazda Prototypes go for their first-ever podium finish.

AS FOR EVERYBODY ELSE: Following the Mazdas in Prototype practice was another P2 car, the No. 60 Honda/Ligier of Michael Shank Racing, with John Pew and Oswaldo Negri, Jr. sharing the driving duties. The fastest Daytona Prototype was fourth, the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette DP driven by brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor, the most recent winners in the series, having taken the victory at the BUBBA Burger SportsCar Grand Prix at Long Beach two weeks ago.

In GT Le Mans, the No. 68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE of Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra was the fastest in final practice, followed by the two Ford GTs.

The Prototype class and the GT Le Mans class will race together on Sunday, while the Prototype Challenge class and GT Daytona class will pair up for their race. The pit lane at the 2.238-mile course is a bit short to handle all four classes at once.

In Prototype Challenge, Colin Braun in the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA/Chevrolet was the quickest in final practice in the car he shares with Jon Bennett. The No. 88 car from Starworks Motorsport, which led the first practice, was second.

In GT Daytona, the No. 23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R of Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas lead both practice sessions. Their team car, the No. 22, was second.

PORSCHE GT3 CUP CHALLENGE RACE IN THE BOOKS: The first of two IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama races was completed Friday afternoon, with Jesse Lazare in the No. 21 Porsche 991 taking the victory by 2.4 seconds over Lucas Catania in the No. 26 car.

The race was red-flagged early on by a grinding crash when the No. 89 car of Oscar Arroyo hit the wall in the No. 89 car. Arroyo walked away from the accident.

CONTINENTAL TIRE SPORTSCAR CHALLENGE QUALIFYING: Daniel Burkett put the No. 33 CJ Wilson Racing ONE Capital Management/Motoroilmatters.org Porsche Cayman GT4 on the pole in the GS class for the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race Saturday. Burkett ran a lap of 1:35.023 in the car he shares with Marc Miller.

Second in GS was the No. 15 Multimatic Ford Shelby GT350R-C of Scott Maxwell and Billy Johnson.

In the Street Tuner class, James Clay and Tyler Cooke’s No. 84 BimmerWorld Optima Batteries BMW 328i was the fast qualifier, just ahead of the No. 93 HART Honda Civic Si of Cameron Lawrence and Chad Gilsinger.

Thirty-four cars are entered for the 150-minute race.

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