IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Comes to Monterey for Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix featuring AMERICA’S TIRE 250 on September 6-9
Prototypes, GT Cars return to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
On the eve of a 50th anniversary celebration for the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) with a new book release and news that IMSA will be the featured marque at the 2019 Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, the Prototype and GT cars of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship are returning to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca to remind us that there is no time like the present at the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix featuring AMERICA’S TIRE 250 on September 6-9.
The momentum of the series continues to build as it returns to the circuit venue of one of the most thrilling finishes of the past decade. In 2017, Renger van der Zande executed a smooth and daring overtake of leader Dane Cameron on the famed Corkscrew turn with one lap remaining to secure the win, drawing comparisons to Alex Zanardi making what is now known as “The Pass” on Bryan Herta in the 1996 CART finale and Valentino Rossi passing Casey Stoner at the 2010 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.
Both van der Zande and Cameron return to the grid but with different teams with the Dutchman defending his event title with Wayne Taylor Racing and co-driver Jordan Taylor after having moved from the Spirit of Daytona team. Cameron, a California native, moved from the Whelen Engineering team to join the newfound Acura Team Penske effort along with co-driver Juan Pablo Montoya. The Whelen Engineering team hasn’t missed a step with co-drivers Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran currently leading the Prototype standings.
Montoya and fellow Acura Team Penske driver Helio Castoneves, who drive the No. 6 and No. 7 cars, respectively, will be on the grid together at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the first time in 18 years when they last competed in the CART series together. Castroneves still owns the official track record at 1:07.722 during qualifying at the Honda Grand Prix of Monterey in 2000; he later won the race from the pole. The versatile Castroneves and Montoya are mixing it up in the premier sports car racing series in North America this season, adding to their incredible racing legacies.
“Wow, it has been such a long time since I raced at Laguna Seca but I’m very excited to go back with Acura Team Penske,” said Castroneves. “It has always been a tough place. I learned a lot from the teams I was with before coming to Team Penske in the CART Series, and in my first race there with Team Penske we were phenomenal. We took the pole position with a track-record lap and won the race. But that was so long ago that I will feel almost like a rookie again.”
“Laguna Seca is such an amazing place with a lot of history,” added Montoya, who is one of only three drivers to score wins in Formula One, Indy Car and NASCAR along with Mario Andretti and the late Dan Gurney. “I’m really excited to go back there after so many years since my last race. It’s not a place where I’ve had a lot of success, but I think I was better than my finishes showed during my years racing there in CART.”
The subplots continue with Castroneves’ co-driver, Ricky Taylor, competing on-track against brother and former co-driver Jordan and father and former team owner Wayne since joining Acura Team Penske.
On the track at the same time as the technologically advanced Prototype category are GT Le Mans and GT Daytona. The competition between drivers, teams and manufacturers is fierce in these categories. Veteran co-drivers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia lead the GTLM standings for Corvette Racing by a small margin over the team cars for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing that features four accomplished co-drivers including Sacramento native Joey Hand.
The GT Daytona category has a similarly tight points battle during the penultimate race of the season with Lamborghini co-drivers Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow having the edge over Acura drivers Katherine Legge and Alvaro Parenta.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will have the featured race on Sunday, September 9 with the 2 hour, 40 minute AMERICA’S TIRE 250. On Saturday, the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120 will be the featured event with the cars of the Continental Tire WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge taking the spotlight. Further action will be contested with support series Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America and Pirelli Trophy West U.S.A.