Thrilling 2017 Finish Between Van Der Zande and Cameron Carries into First Day of Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix

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Dane Cameron led Prototype practice in the No. 6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 on the first day of the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix featuring AMERICA’S TIRE 250. (photo: T.M. Hill)

The first day of racing activity set a thunderous tone amid the gorgeous Monterey County backdrop for the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix featuring AMERICA’S TIRE 250. The Prototype, GT Le Mans, and GT Daytona cars competing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship delivered fast times and thickening plot lines that will keep fans captivated throughout the event.

Highlighting Friday activity was both drivers who were involved in a pass last season that is still reverberating in conversations across the motorsports landscape – Renger van der Zande and Dane Cameron. Van der Zande won last year’s AMERICA’S TIRE 250 with a daring overtake of leader Cameron on the famous Corkscrew turn with two minutes remaining. The Dutch racer soaked in the accolades upon his return to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, meeting Netherlands consul general Gerbert Kunst at his San Francisco office shortly after his arrival and filming segments on the Corkscrew for local news broadcasts and upcoming Fox Sports 1 coverage.

Having both switched to different teams this past offseason, van der Zande and Cameron continued to display their driving mastery of the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course during the two practice sessions on the opening day. The first strike was landed by van der Zande – who now co-drives the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi with Jordan Taylor – with a 1:16.882 lap time that led all drivers in the first practice session. Cameron was second-quickest, and the resilient California native would end the day on top.

It takes a monumental effort to stand out amid an Acura Team Penske driver lineup that also includes Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor, and Cameron showed why he was entrusted by “The Captain” Roger Penske to elevate the upstart program. In the second practice session, Cameron turned a 1:16.865 clocking in the No. 7 that is co-driven by Montoya. In addition to being the quickest lap of the day, it is only .012-second off the Prototype track record held by Ricky Taylor. Teammate Castroneves had the second-quickest lap in the No. 6 to give Acura Team Penske a 1-2 punch atop the standings.

The hot start for Acura Team Penske in Prototype was paralleled in GT Le Mans by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing. At the site of their breakthrough win in 2016, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing held the top two spots in GTLM through both practice sessions in the Nos. 66 and 67 Ford GTs. Dirk Mueller led the morning session while Richard Westbrook turned the quickest lap in the afternoon.

GT Daytona results featured veteran Jorg Bergmeister leading in the No. 73 Porsche 911 GT3 R in the morning with a 1:25.271 that stood as quickest of the day. Bryan Sellers was quickest in the afternoon session driving the No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 for Paul Miller Racing.

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will have final qualifying tomorrow while races start being determined in other series, including the day’s feature WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120 for the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. Support series Lamborghini Super Trofeo and Pirelli Trophy West U.S.A. will contest the first of their two races held at the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix.

Tomorrow is Military Appreciation Day at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Anyone with a military I.D. plus one guest will receive free admission. With children 15 and under receiving free admission, a fun filled day is in store for the whole family that extends from the paddock over the bridge to Hagerty Marketplace.