They were the first official on-track sessions at the 2.238-mile circuit since 2016, meaning that most of the drivers in the field were still acclimating themselves to the quirky – albeit legendary – circuit. However, there were a few drivers who have a good amount of seat time at WeatherTech Raceway, which they used to their advantage in preparation for this weekend’s doubleheader of racing action.
Saturday’s race is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. PT (3:30 p.m. ET) with Sunday’s race starting at 4:20 p.m. PT (7:20 p.m. ET). Both races will be streamed live on IMSA.tv.
No Place Like Home for Root
Although he’s only 20 years old, Max Root is one of the most experienced drivers in the GT3 Cup Challenge USA field this weekend when it comes to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Root hails from San Diego and considers it somewhat of a “home” track.
It showed in Friday’s afternoon practice session, when Root topped the time charts with a best lap of one minute, 28.363 seconds (91.178 mph) in the No. 7 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup machine. His afternoon time wasn’t quite as fast as the one Platinum Cup points leader Roman De Angelis turned in Friday’s morning session at 1:27.497 (92.080 mph), but Root had a plausible explanation for the afternoon speed reduction.
“Laguna Seca is a place that changes a lot from morning to afternoon,” he said. “The grip levels, the temperatures, it’s all really interesting. So, we were strong this morning and really strong this afternoon, so we’ve just got our race pace dialed in and ready for tomorrow.”
However, Root knows he and the Wright Motorsports team still have plenty of work to do.
“Experience definitely helps here, but the crazy thing about Laguna is everyone’s chasing setup and everyone’s chasing the track,” Root said. “So, sometimes it’s an equal playing field.”
Previous Experience Also Paying Dividends for Fazekas at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
Kurt Fazekas is one of three drivers in this weekend’s field who were in the field the last time the GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama raced at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca back in 2016.
That experience seems to have helped the driver of the No. 52 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche 911 GT3 Cup machine on Friday, as he posted the fastest lap of the day in the Gold Cup class for cars built between 2014 and 2016. Fazekas’ best time was 1:30.248 (89.273 mph).
“I had hair (in 2016) and I was 15 pounds skinnier, so I don’t know,” joked Fazekas. “Maybe getting a little older and wiser made us quicker. It’s a really cool track, but there’s just such a fine line between putting a really quick lap together and not.
“I’m really looking forward to this weekend. We just tried some different things in the Corkscrew, some different braking points. The same thing in Turn 1. It just turned out to put a great lap together for us in this heat, especially.”
Swearingen Proves Experience isn’t Everything at WeatherTech Raceway
Whereas drivers like Root and Fazekas have good familiarity with WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Curt Swearingen is a newcomer in the No. 17 ACI Motorsports Porsche. However, he posted a solid lap of 1:30.790 (88.740 mph), putting him third in the Gold Cup field on Friday.
“We’re getting better every session, so I’m happy with what we’re doing,” Swearingen said. “We keep pushing every time and getting a little better. We put stickers on this last session and went out and got a little better time even though the conditions were worse.
“Earlier, we’ve just been running on scrubs, so we’re just pacing ourselves trying to get to the pace of what everybody else is running. We know what a couple of the other guys ran earlier. We’re right there, we’re not too far off.”
Swearingen is part of a three-car squad from ACI Motorsports, which is approaching the end of its first season of GT3 Cup Challenge USA competition with drivers Efrin Castro in the team’s No. 65 entry and Richard Edge in the No. 18 Porsche. He’s pleased with the team’s progress.
“The season’s gone great,” Swearingen said. “We’re learning. We’re a new team with three new drivers, three new cars and a team that has never competed in IMSA. We come out of club-level racing where we did really well and we knew we had to step up our game and come here and try to do really well and represent. We feel like we’re doing that and we feel like we’re only going to get better as the years go along, so we’re hoping to get better as the years go along, so we’re hoping to come back and do it again next year.”