Cooper brings his Mazda to a "home" race. (Weber photo)
A Cadillac has won the race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca twice before, once with Andy Pilgrim behind the wheel, and O’Connell has won races at the iconic track multiple times in other forms of racing. Don’t be surprised to see Pilgrim’s No. 8 Cadillac Racing CTS-V or O’Connell’s No. 3 machine out front at the checkered flag.
Needing a big weekend to make up some points is the No. 1 Privacy Star/Entrust/TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3 piloted by Lawson Aschenbach. Aschenbach missed Round 4 at Miller Motorsports Park – where the car went on to win with Patrick Long substituting behind the wheel – but Aschenbach won the Touring Car race here a season ago.
He’ll have data to share fro his teammates, including Justin Marks in the No. 46 GoPro/Mooresville Motorplex Porsche 911 GT3 and Tomy Drissi in the No. 47 TruSpeed Porsche 911 GT3. Jeff Courtney returns to the series in a TruSpeed Porsche this weekend, driving the No. 99 Kenda/Recstuff.com Porsche 911 GT3.
James Sofronas currently leads the Porsche contingent in the Championship standings, however, sitting fourth in his No. 14 Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3. A top finish for Sofronas, who won in Monterey in 2009, would be a boost for his championship hopes. Sofronas will be joined by Porsche teammates Dino Crescentini (No. 4 StopTech Porsche 911 GT3) and Brett Curtis (No. 32 Spectra Resources/United Steel Porsche 911 GT3). The GMG team has also undertaken a new car to the series this season, with Anders Hainer behind the wheel of the No. 40 APS Inc./Under Armour Audi R8.
Speaking of unsung Porsches, Steve Ott’s Racing For Our Heroes team has been steadily making progress this season in the No. 85 Racing for our Heroes/Loctite Porsche 911 GT3 and could threaten for the podium with a good run.
Mechanical gremlins continue to plague the K-Pax Racing duo of Randy Pobst and Alex Figge. Each have a podium finish this season, and Pobst’s No. 6 K-Pax Racing Volvo S60 and Figge’s No. 9 similar machine could use the all-wheel drive to their advantage at a twisty Mazda Raceway. Pobst has two previous Pirelli World Challenge wins on the circuit.
The CRP Racing gang has experienced teething problems with their new Nissan GT-R machines. Mike Skeen finished third at Miller Motorsports Park behind the wheel of the No. 02 Hawk Performance Chevrolet Corvette, and could drive either the Corvette or the GT-R this weekend. Skeen won the race a season ago with Chevy power. Jason Daskalos will drive the No. 12 Hawk Performance Nissan GT-R.
Tony Gaples is hoping that Corvette power is the winning ticket this weekend, driving the No. 11 Black Dog Racing Chevrolet Corvette.
Pirelli World Challenge GTS – Will Luck Smile On Lee Again?
A dramatic last corner crash at Miller Motorsports Park stalled the top three on track, but make no mistake about it – Andy Lee had his No. 20 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro in position to win. Lee ran with the lead pack all race long, and will almost certainly be a contender again at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The driver hurt the most in the incident may have been the No. 42 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX of Peter Cunningham, who saw a certain podium finish end up with eight-place points. That left him 38 points behind Justin Bell’s No. 50 eBay Motors Ford Mustang Boss 302S, and looking to make up ground this weekend on the twisty permanent road course. Cunningham will be joined by teammate Nick Esayian in the No. 34 Acura/RealTime Racing Acura TSX.
Jack Baldwin won at Long Beach and finished fourth at Miller Motorsports Park, and almost certainly will be a contender in Round Five in his No. 68 Hot Wheels Porsche Cayman S. Just another 18 points behind Cunningham and third in the standings, Baldwin is still in the hunt for a Championship as well.
Michael Galati looked certain to take the Miller Motorsports Park victory in his No. 36 Kia Motors America Kia Optima, but the last lap incident left him with a third-place finish. He’ll be joined this weekend by Mark Wilkins, an experienced sports car racer making his Pirelli World Challenge debut in the No. 38 Kia Motors America Kia Optima.
In addition to Bell, there is a very strong Ford Mustang contingent on the entry list this weekend. Aaron Povoledo, last year’s Touring Car polesitter, is driving the No. 26 CapaldiRacing.com Ford Mustang Boss 302S. Sixteen-year-old Alec Udell is behind the wheel of the MDG/Ford Racing/Kart Nation Ford Mustang Boss 302S, and Dane Moxlow has come on board as a teammate to Bell in the No. 48 Trenton Forging/Bard’s Tale Beer Ford Mustang Boss 302S. Brad Adams is driving a different model of Mustang, behind the wheel of the No. 96 Voodoo/DatDog/Yo MTV Raps! Ford Mustang FR500C.
Former Pirelli World Challenge Rookie of the Year Bill Ziegler is behind the wheel of the No. 95 Swisher Racing Mitsubishi Evo, and a pair of Nissan teammates, Rich Bushey and Greg Shaffer, will drive similar Nos. 51 and 52 Nissan/SPL Pro/Sparco/Motul Nissan 370Z.
Harry Curtin (No. 29 Best IT Chevrolet Camaro), Don Istook (No. 01 REVO TECHNIK Audi TT), and Mark Klenin (No. 62 Premier Copier/Schomp BMW BMW M3) are three additional makes and models who could make an impact during the 50-minute race.
Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car – Cooper In Front
Michael Cooper, the defending SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup Champion, has himself in position to think about back-to-back Championship seasons after holding the point lead following five races this season. The No. 03 Atlanta Motorsports Group MAZDASPEED3 has three wins in five races to take an early Championship lead.
A strong Miller Motorsports Park tripleheader for Todd Lamb has keep the chase from getting out of hand, however, when Lamb earned all three podium positions over the three races in his No. 71 National Karting News/HPD Honda Civic Si. Compass360 has an impressive contingent of Hondas in the race, including Shea Holbrook in the No. 67 TrueCar.com Honda Civic and Ryan Winchester in the No. 72 Ligon Industries/HPD Honda Civic. Winchester scored three podium finishes himself in the last round.
Always strong in Touring Car competition is the Volkswagen contingent. Tristan Herbert got a win in Utah behind the wheel of the No. 33 HPA Motorsports/Steve Goldin Racing Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Jeff Altenburg takes the wheel of the No. 43 HPA Motorsports/Brimtek Volkswagen Jetta GLI at a track where he won in 2003 and 2004. Patrick Seguin (No. 80 capsparts.com/Theberge Homes GTI) is in a different model of Volkswagen, but one plenty capable of winning races. Fred Emich is making his Pirelli World Challenge debut in the No. 87 Emich VW/StopTech/3Zero3 Motorsports Volkswagen Jetta GLI.
Gustavo Michelsen also returns in the No. 69 TLMUSA.com Honda Civic Si after an impressive podium finish at Miller Motorsports Park.