From Baltimore to the Monterey Bay, Round 8 of the 2011 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron, moves into endurance mode for the six-hour event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
On the streets of Baltimore, JaguarRSR achieved its sesason's best qualifying of 7th and 9th on the grid. Unfortunately, neither car would survive the turn-1 melee that ensued immediately after the green flag flew.
For more than 50 years, the Monterey Peninsula has been host to the most competitive sports car racing that the world has ever seen. The picturesque Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca road course possesses one of the most challenging single corners in all of racing, let alone the ALMS season; the famous downhill Corkscrew Turn. With the knowledge that they can push the JaguarRSR XKR GT to within the top-10 qualifying spot, the whole team is primed to go the distance.
“The corners at Laguna Seca are exact opposite of the corners in Baltimore,” said John Gentilozzi, JaguarRSR Technical Director. “Whereas Baltimore was a lot of stop, 90-degree turn and go again, a lot of Laguna’s corners are flowing, high-speed turns. We will place emphasis on downforce and platform stability to try and maintain that downforce as the JaguarRSR XKR GT moves under acceleration, braking, and cornering. Strategically in a six-hour race at a track that is difficult to make passes on, we have to be smart about our pit strategy and conserving our drivers’ energy.”
American Le Mans Series fans will get a special treat this weekend. For the first time since beginning in 1999, ALMS will have 39 cars on the grid. This appearance will mark the third start for the XKR at Laguna Seca since it began racing the course in 2009.
Bruno Junqueira, will be bringing multi-genre auto racing experience to the field at Monterey. He has made four Champ Car starts at the course and has consecutive second-place finishes in his last to visits. He will be combining his efforts with Ken Wilden in the No. 99 JaguarRSR XKR GT. Wilden has an impressive resume of experience and genre that he brings to the team with his seven starts at Laguna Seca. His experience behind the wheel of the challenging course includes open-wheel (Atlantics), Trans-Am, Grand-Am (Prototype and GS class). His achievements on the circuit include two poles and two victories.
When asked about the upcoming event, here's what Bruno Junquiera had to say, “I like the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca race track a lot. It is a beautiful area, has a lot of great race fans and is a challenging track. I have had great success in the past during my open-wheel era. This year I started a new chapter of my racing career in sports car racing and I am looking forward to returning to this track behind the wheel of the Jaguar GT car – it will be a whole new experience. I also look forward to it being an endurance event; six hours will make for a long race and a good fight. I hope our XKR will run strong and we can have a good finish to keep with my good results at Laguna Seca.”
Continuing to push the limits of the No. 98 JaguarRSR XKR GT will be the Americans Rocky Moran, Jr. and PJ Jones. Moran considers Laguna Seca his home track, as he was born in Pasadena and currently resides with his family in Ladera Ranch, California. Moran essentially began his racing career on the famed 2.238-mile course. From competition in the Jim Russell Mazda series to Barber Dodge and then Atlantics, he recorded multiple fast laps, podiums and front row starts, including a victory in Atlantics. Jones’ is also no stranger to this venue, having won the pole and race while competing in the IMSA GTP Championship and multiple starts in the Champ Car World Series.
“I absolutely love Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.” said Moran, “It is where I learned to race cars originally and I consider it my home track. I love the elevation the track has to offer and I love turn 4, turn 6, turn 9, and turn 10, which are all very full wood corners. Turn 6 is one of the best corners in motorsports when you hit it right. The JaguarRSR team has gained some valuable knowledge from the last two events and I expect this to translate into the best result of the year at Laguna Seca. It is a very long race; both PJ and I have extensive experience at this track, so we will be standing on the gas the entire time. Right now our car seems to be best in medium and slower corners, so we will work on developing the balance platform for the high-speed corners we will be navigating through at Laguna.”
PJ Jones, being more than happy to be racing in Monterey said, “My most favorite race track in the country is Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I have a lot of great memories there from my GTP days; we set the all-time track record, won pole and the race. With the track being in central California, my home state, it is picturesque, has a lot of elevation changes, and truly is just one of the best race tracks. To have a place where my dad (Parnelli Jones) has raced a lot – there is just so much history for me and my family which adds to why this is such a special place to me. I am looking forward to going there behind the wheel of the #98 JaguarRSR XKR GT. Being a six hour race, I think, helps us because our reliability has been getting progressively better and better. The longer the race the better chances we have to earn a solid finish. It will be interesting to see how our cars are going to be there, I have a strong feeling that we should be pretty competitive because of the layout and how it should suit the strengths in the Jaguar. I have confidence in the team that we will finish the race with a good result.”
Ken Wilden shares his brief point-of-view on this week's race, “I enjoy competing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I’m looking forward to the elevation changes on the track, the JaguarRSR XKR GT did very well at Mosport under the same conditions. I think the AJ133 power will pull us well up the hill to the corkscrew. My hope is that we finish this race and continue to develop and learn. The team is persistent – doing a great job on development and working super hard. To have a good finish would be a good boost for them and great for Jaguar.”