HD RADIO EVENT PREVIEW: MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA

The fight for the 2017 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge GS Class Championship heads West with Round 9 taking place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on the Monterey Peninsula. The drivers of the #33 car start the event second in the standings, nineteen points from the leaders. 

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The California race sees a return to the four-hour format of the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January. That event saw both CJWR Porsches make the podium and helped Marc Miller and Till Bechtolsheimer launch what has become a season-long quest of the GS title.

With eleven turns, the compact 2.238 mile track offers a stark contrast to the previous rounds at Road America and Virginia International Raceway. Handling and balance are key here and there is less emphasis on straight line speed. This gives all of our drivers a certain level of confidence heading into Saturday's race. This is also the first event where track knowledge is not an issue with all four drivers having competed at the Northern Californian track.

With twice the running time compared to a regular Continental SportsCar Challenge race, pit strategy and pit-stop execution become even more important. The race will see at least three and possibly four fuel stops which means that the race and the Conti Championship title could be decided on pit lane. 

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Here are the thoughts of our four drivers and team owner, CJ Wilson. 

Marc Miller, #33 Unit Nutrition/Porsche Fresno/HD Radio Cayman: 

After a lackluster race at VIR, I am particularly hungry to have a strong run at Laguna Seca, a track we have historically been very good at. Our last four-hour event was at Daytona, our best finish of the season, so we are hoping for a similar result by running a smart race. Our CJ Wilson racing team have been doing everything they can to help us find pace in our Unit Nutrition/Porsche Fresno Cayman/HD Radio. We have benefited this season from reliability and a great team effort, so if we can find a little bit of pace that will go a long way in finishing strong towards a run for the championship.

Till Bectolsheimer, #33 Unit Nutrition/Porsche Fresno/HD Radio Cayman:

After a mechanical black flag at the Goodwood Revival and a retirement two hours into the Spa Six Hours with a broken diff, I've been working hard to get all the bad luck out of the way in time for Laguna Seca. It has been said that twice the length is twice the fun and Marc and I plan to demonstrate just that over four hours at one of my favorite tracks! 

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Damien Faulkner, #35 Techemet LLP/Winward Racing Cayman:

Laguna Seca is one of those dream venues you’d see on TV, either from the bright days of CART or  MotoGP. For me, that dream became a reality when I first raced there in Indy Lights in 2001, supporting Champ Car. Of course, being next to the sea in Monterrey is no bad attraction too. After what has been a challenging season, coming to Laguna Seca for a four-hour race offers us real hope. This really presents our CJ Wilson/Winward effort with a genuine chance at a top result. And, with the four-hour format we can utilize our superior experienced strategists to maximum effect. It’s also a circuit which Russell knows well, so we should hit the ground running. I’m thinking we could repeat, or better, our Daytona result with a double team podium. No pressure then.

Russell Ward, #35 Techemet LLP/Winward Racing Cayman:

We have had too long of a break and I'm ready to get back in the car. I love the four-hour races. Pit strategy plays an even more important role and since we have the best team in the pits, we are sure to be at sharp end of the field. I have already had two races here this year, so the track is fresh in my mind. The Cayman is more suited to this track than the past two events at VIR and Road America. We are going to tear it up at Laguna!

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CJ Wilson, Team Owner, CJ Wilson Racing: 

Laguna Seca is one of the most iconic American Racing venues, similar to Boston's Fenway Park, it has some oddly elevated features compared to the other circuits.   And, like Fenway, there is definitely an advantage to knowing the track.  We really enjoyed the four-hour format's quirks at Daytona and we hope to capitalize again on the reliable Porsche Cayman GT4 against some of our less proven rivals.  

Till and Marc have a long hard road to get on top of the standings with only two races left but I have faith in our team.  Russell and Damien both have experience here and with having two identical cars we will get the setup nailed down early.    

We'll have a big Porsche Fresno contingent as well and have a lot of pressure to put on a good show for our customers!   

The Green Flag drops on the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 240 at 5pm ET on Saturday, September 23rd. You can watch the race live via IMSA TV and you can get lap-by-lap updates via the CJ Wilson Racing Twitter feed, @cjwilsonracing.

Declan Brennan