2016 WeatherTech USCC: Laguna Seca preview
After two races in Florida to start the 2016 season, the WeatherTech United SportsCar Championsip prolongs its stay on the west coast of the US this weekend. From Long Beach two weeks ago, the circus heads north for round four at the legendary Laguna Seca Raceway for the Monterey Grand Prix.
Porsche North America Racing heads up the Californian coastline fresh from its first win of the year last time out at Long Beach. On the streets of the Los Angeles suburb, the no. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet triumphed in a tumultuous street battle.
The two factory Porsche 911s dominated on the streets of Long Beach only to find themselves hit with a separate pitlane speeding penalties halfway through the third race of the 2016 USCC season.
Thankfully for PNAR, the works duo’s pace (and a mid-race safety car period) enabled both the no. 911 and no. 912 machines to jump back into contention for victory, until Frédéric Makowiecki in the latter RSR collided with the leading Corvette with just a few laps to go.
The move dropped the no. 912 Porsche 911 RSR to an eventual seventh however, it did gift the win to Tandy and Pilet in the sister car after the Anglo-French duo’s dreadful start to the 2016 season at Daytona and Sebring.
Heading to Laguna Seca – Porsche’s return to Monterey for the first time after the Rennsport Reunion V celebrations last September – the championship table looks remarkably similar to last year’s standings at the same point.
At this stage in 2015, the no. 3 Corvette squad headed to Laguna Seca leading the GTLM title race with 103 points, 20 points ahead of the no. 911 Porsche squad who would eventually go on to secure last year’s championship.
This year, once again, it is a Corvette at the head of the table however this time it’s the no. 4 squad leading the way with 105 points. Thanks to their win last time out, the no. 911 Porsche 911 RSR sits 23 points in arrears, although the no. 912 machine is actually closer to the top on 87 points.
Laguna Seca marked a turning point for Porsche North America Racing’s various title tilts in 2015, with Pilet and Michael Christensen taking the no. 911 RSR to third in the dunes of Monterey while Tandy prepared for his historic Le Mans campaign.
“Last year we launched our catch-up campaign at Laguna Seca, which ultimately led to the title. Hopefully this is a good omen,” explains Pilet. With a win already under his belt in 2016 – something last year lacked at this stage – the Frenchman has every right to be hopeful.
The factory 911s have traditionally run well at the 2.24-mile Californian circuit; in 2014 Tandy and Richard Lietz came close to victory in the inaugural USCC season at the track only to be hit with a harsh penalty for mid-race contact with on of the factory BMWs.
Practice for the Monterey Grand Prix takes place today with the 15-minute GTLM qualifying sessions getting underway at 7:55pm local time on Saturday. The two-hour race is flagged away at 2:15pm on Sunday.
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