Longest Professional Race in MRLS History Set for this Sunday; SRO California 8 Hours Race Brings Top GT3 & GT4 Sports Cars
Stellar driver lineup includes Long, Dumas, DePhillippi, Cameron, Kaffer & Others
SALINAS, Calif. – The longest professional race in the prestigious history of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is set for this Sunday (Oct. 15) with the third round of the SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge, the California 8 Hours.
A strong lineup of auto manufacturers and international driving stars will battle for the top honors in the eight-hour event which features GT3 and GT4 sports cars at the famed 60-year legacy of the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road racing circuit east of Monterey Bay.
While MRLS has hosted the likes of IndyCars, Can-Am cars, international prototypes, MotoGP motorsports, Superbikes and famed historic machines dating back to 1957, no professional racing event has been run to an eight-hour distance. Sunday’s California 8 Hours will begin at 9:30 a.m. PDT and will finish at 5:30 p.m. PDT.
The California 8 Hours is the first North American round of the four-race, four-continent series which includes the legendary Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour in Australia, the Total 24 Hours of Spa in Belgium and Motul Sepang 12 Hours in December.
“The California 8 Hours at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is an essential element of the Intercontinental GT Challenge, of which the success is likely to grow next season with the Suzuka 10 hours joining the already iconic Liqui-Moly Bathurst 12 Hour and Total 24 Hours of Spa events,” said Stephane Ratel, Founder & CEO, SRO Motorsports Group. “This year’s edition being a stepping stone in building up the GT-only endurance race America deserves, it was important to start it on the right foot, with a solid grid and a high level of competition. We are thankful to the manufacturers, teams and drivers who are supporting this inaugural event.”
Many of the top Pirelli World Challenge GT3 and GT4 teams and drivers will participate in the California 8 Hours including the recently-crowned Overall GT and Sprint GT champions – Patrick Long and his No. 58 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. Long won both driver titles in 2017 and Wright Motorsports took the team honors with Porsche capturing the manufacturers crown.
Long, a multi-time Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring winner, will team with veterans Jorg Bergmeister and Romain Dumas, both 24-hour endurance race winners. Dumas is also a three-time Pikes Peak Hill Climb champion.
But the Porsche trio won’t have it easy at MRLS this weekend with a strong Acura two-car effort from RealTime Racing with the No. 43 Acura NSX GT3 of Ryan Eversely, Tom Dyer and Dane Cameron and the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 with Peter Kox, Mark Wilkins and Jules Gounon, the winner at the Total 24 Hours of Spa.
Audi will be well-represented with four different teams led by the Land Motorsports in the No. 29 Audi R8 LMS with Californian Connor De Phillippi, Christopher Mies and Christopher Hasse. The 25-year-old driver from San Clemente, Calif., De Phillippi teamed with Mies to win his class last Saturday in the Petite Le Mans.
Other top Audi squads this weekend will include the No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS with veterans Pierre Kaffer, Kelvin van de Linde and Markus Winkelhock. Van de Linde was part of the Land winning team also at Petite Le Mans. Also in the Audi contingent will be the Team WRT with Robin Frijns, Stuart Leonard and Jake Dennis in the No. 11 WRT Audi R8 LMS as well as the No. 23 MGT1 Audi R8 LMS with Jason Bell and Lar Viljoen.
The 2016 Pirelli World Challenge GT winning-squad of K-PAX Racing will field a strong trio with GT champion Alvaro Parente, Bryan Sellers and young Ben Barnicoat in the No. 9 K-PAX Racing McLaren 650S. Parente has scored ten GT sprint win the past two years in PWC with the car.
The California-based operation of GMG Racing brings two Porsche 911 GT3 R sports cars for the California 8 Hours with young college student Alec Udell and veteran Porsche star Wolf Henzler in the No. 17 Euroworld Motorsports/GMG Porsche 911 GT3 R and the No. 77 Calvert Dynamics/GMG Porsche 911 GT3 R with Michael Lewis, Andrew Davis and Preston Calvert.
Another Porsche trio for this weekend will be the No. 54 Black Swan Porsche 911 GT3 R with veteran Tim Pappas, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Bathurst runner-up David Calvert-Jones.
In the GT4 category, The Racer’s Group (TRG) has two entries with the popular Aston Martin Vantage GT4 machinery in the No. 3 Aston Martin with Craig Lyons, Kris Wilson and Thomas Merril and the No. 7 Aston Martin with Greg Milzcik, Derek DeBoer and former Pirelli World Challenge GT champion Brandon Davis.
Another strong Aston Martin lineup is set in the GT4 class with Charlie Putman, Charles Espenlaub and Eric Lux in the No. 99 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4.
GMG Racing brings a Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR car for Carter Yeung and veteran Andy Lee as well as Ian Lacy Racing entering the No. 12 Ginetta G55 GT4 with Frank Gannett, Drew Staveley and Ian Lacy driving.
Utah’s Rearden Racing also sports a two-car entry with No. 26 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR for driver Jeff Kearl and additional pilots and the No. 27 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport Mr for Hunter McKenna, Vesko Kozarov and Daren Jorgensen
MARC Cars Australia has two MARC Mazda 3 V8 cars competing in the invitational class with the No. 193 Mazda fielding Jake Camilleri, Nicholas Row and an additional driver and the No. 194 with drivers Keith Kassulke, Morgan Haber and another driver.
“We are excited to bring the inaugural SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge California 8 Hours race to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca coming weekend,” said Greg Gill, WC Vision president and CEO. “With a balanced amount of U.S. and global teams, this event is going to be excellent. In addition, we have strong lineup with 50 Pirelli World Challenge Touring Cars racing set to be part of the California 8 Hours in the season finale events .”
Action at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the California 8 Hours begins Friday, Oct. 13 with practice rounds and the eight-hour feature is scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. PDT on Sunday, Oct. 15.
2.238-mile, 11-turn permanent road circuit
Qualifying: (All times listed are PDT)
Friday, October 13, 2017
3:20 PM – 4:20 PM SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge Pre-Qualifying
Races: (All times listed are PDT)
Saturday, October 14, 2017
10:45 AM – 11:30 AM SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge Qualifying
1:40 PM – 1:55 PM SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge Super Pole Qualifying
Races: (All times listed are PDT)
9:30 AM – 5:30 PM California 8 Hours – SRO Intercontinental GT Challenge Round 3
8 Hours (GT3/GT4)
Television (on CBS Sports Network): All times listed re: CBS broadcasts are Eastern.
California 8 Hours, October 15, 12:00 p.m. – 2 p.m.; 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.