“What a weekend!” and “Did you see how cool the Hybrid V8s looked?!” were just some of the comments heard after this past weekend’s IMSA race at Laguna Seca. “The weather was perfect” and “Those are the best soft serve cones ever” also echoed around the quieter track following the WeatherTech Championship concluded Sunday at 2:50 p.m. PST Sunday.
After plentiful racing and action-packed paddocks on Friday and Saturday, Sunday’s schedule calmed down a bit with only the aforementioned headlining Mazda MX-5 Cup and the Lamborghini Super Trofeo. However, it was the weather that claimed the first victory of the morning. Some of Monterey’s finest fog enveloped Laguna Seca, postponing track activities two full hours. This required flexibility on everyone’s part to get the races in and on time, especially with millions waiting for the mid-day west coast television start.
The fan-favorite grid walk was consolidated into the center of the paddock creating a unique experience for fans (and team members!). While the racecars certainly suffered bumps and bruises on track, it’s likely more than a few fans bumped into cars in the pre-race fun trying to get their best selfies. The cars rolled out through a different access path, surprising many fans as they were able to see these amazing machines roll inches past them.
Many of those cars were rolling by—and then racing by—on suspension by our coverage-presenting partner, KW Suspensions. If you think we are biased because of their support, perhaps. But by that same token, the Porsche GT3 Rs and BMW M4 GT3s in the WeatherTech Championship race Sunday must be biased as they are all literally supported—see what I did there?—by KW Suspension solutions.
“It is great for fans to see that the factory chooses KW Suspensions for their race cars,” Frank Vasquez, KW Suspensions Brand Manager, commented. “The solutions these cars use are similar to the ones for consumers, too. We make the right tool and feature for whatever you are trying to do with your car. If you want a car with incredible ride quality or want the ability to adjust ride height for appearance or want to attack the track with IMSA-level confidence and aggressiveness, these solutions are proven and accessible.”
Five BMWs shared the race track with 33 other cars from four classes for the two-hour-and-forty-minute race. Fans looking for action only needed about 200 yards into the race before the first entanglement. The two Penske Porsche GTP cars careened off course in a plume of dust and brake clouds heading into turn two. They recovered—so much so that that the #6 car took second in GTP—but it was clear we were in for a battle of a race ahead.
All the BMW entrants were coming off very different recent results. The #25 Hybrid V8 car driven by Conor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly placed second in the last two races. RLL Racing’s sister car, the #24 driven by Augusto Farfus and Philipp Eng, had yet to reach the podium. While the #25 car claimed second in Long Beach and Sebring, Paul Miller Racing’s Quartz Oil #1 car drivers Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow stood on the top step at those same races.
Long Beach wasn’t kind to the two Turner Motorsport M4 GT3s, but at Sebring, the Liqui Moly #96 car made it a one-two BMW finish. Drivers Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher hoped to find the podium again while drivers Bill Auberlen and Chandler Hull in the McIntosh #97 car were looking for their first GTD champagne shower of the young season.
It turned out to be their turn this weekend at Laguna Seca. The second step for GTD hosted Auberlen and Hull, surrounded by the two Kellymoss with Riley Porsche 911 GT3 R entrants. “What a difference a year makes,” Auberlen commented right after spraying the crowd with champagne. “Last year, we struggled here, leading most of the race, but dropped off at the end of the race. But this year, the engineers, the Turner guys and BMW people all worked hard and the car was a pleasure to drive. This is what team racing is about. We went from fourth, to third, to second and held second. We couldn’t quite run down the Porsche but man, was it fun to drive!”
Auberlen continued, “This was my 101st WeatherTech race and I have loved all 101 of them. You never know how it’s going to pan out, but even with a little bumping and grinding, but Laguna Seca is all about keeping it clean enough to get to the end. Oh my gosh this is great!”
While BMW continued to be represented on the podium, it wasn’t the day for the Hybrid V8 cars or the two other GTD entrants. In GTP, Eng and Farfus finished fifth with De Phillippi and Yelloly 23 seconds behind in eighth. Turner Motorsport’s Foley and Gallagher claimed the seventh GTD spot less than eight seconds ahead of Sellers and Snow in the Paul Miller Racing #1 car.
Stay tuned for more great IMSA racing with IMSA’s next stop is Watkins Glen!—Kyle van Hoften