That's MAZDA Raceway ... Laguna Seca!
This weekend, in the hills straddling the agricultural Salinas Valley and the tawny digs of the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel Valley, and Pebble Beach, a motorsports marathon of contests will be held. The event is called the Monterey Sports Car Championships, presented by Patron and a total of seven races will be run, much to the delight to the sophisticated fans who will gather.
The headline of the contests is the American Le Mans Series which are prototype full-bodied alternative fuel cars that require a driver change during the running of the race. There is even one car that is a .... HYBRID - that's right, a hybrid that will reach speeds of about 185mph or even a little better.
This event is the last race of the championship series for the 2009 season and it will also be the last professional competitive race for the premier driver/owner of de Farran Motorsports, Gil de Farran.
Many people who come to the track here in the countryside just off of the Pacific Ocean and southwest of San Francisco refer to it as "just" Laguna Seca but that would be wrong. Without the MAZDA at the Raceway ... only one race would be held for all of the series of races to be contested are either supported directly by MAZDA, have engines supplied for the cars, or have a chief competitive team in the field. Further, MAZDA is the only Japanese automobile manufacturer to ever win the 24 hours of Le Mans ... the most famous endurance motorsports race in the world!
For the record, Gil de Ferran qualified his Chaparral-White liveried #66 XM Radio, Acura (in honor of the team owner, car designer Jim Hall ... the person responsible for bringing Gil to IndyCar and the United States at the beginning of his career) in P1 on a last lap heroic effort that ended up breaking something in the suspension of the car while Gil was cutting through the infamous Corkscrew turn (formally the Rainey Curve).Ariel photograph of the layout at the MAZDA Raceway Laguna Seca. The Start/Finish line is at the bottom with the highest elevation of the track is located toward the upper left corner just as the track turns a sharp left at the "Corkscrew" surrounded in California Oak trees. Image Credit of Photo hanging on wall: Edmund Jenks (2009)
If you have never been to MAZDA Raceway Laguna Seca, the initial thing that impresses the first time attendee (especially if one was a fan and was familiar with the track due to watching races on TV) is the elevation changes throughout the course and that from certain vantage points around the track, one can see the competition for about 60% to 70% of the total course ... this is highly unusual for a dedicated road course that features many turns.
Gil de Ferran rode into the sunset with a victory in his final race Saturday to "bookend" his American professional racing career, while Patrón Highcroft Racing had its own special ride as well at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to close the 2009 American Le Mans Series.
Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud won the Monterey Sports Car Championships presented by Patrón after the retiring Brazilian legend's thrilling duel with Adrian Fernandez in the final 30 minutes of the four-hour classic.
The Patrón Highcroft Acura finished second in class and third overall, more than enough to secure the LMP1 driver championship for David Brabham and Scott Sharp, and the team title for Patrón Highcroft. The championships were the first for all.
... notes from The EDJE