Thoughts on the TUSC Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda

I didn’t get to see the race live but I was finally able to watch the Tudor United SportsCar Championship races from Laguna Seca via YouTube this past week.  The Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix was different from previous TUSC races this season in that the field was divided into two different races due to limited pit space.  The first race of the weekend (but the second one that I watched) was the PC/GTD race, the two pro-am classes.  The second race of the weekend (but the first one that I watched) was the P/GTLM race, the two professional classes.  After watching the races, even though I wouldn’t want the field to be split every race doing it once or twice a season may not be a bad idea.  In my opinion, these two races were just what TUSC needed at the just the right time.  As usual, here are some of my thoughts and observations organized around what I tweeted while watching the races:

I haven’t seen the PC/GTD race yet but the P/GTLM race from Laguna Seca was the best  race I’ve watched this season.

In both classes, the racing was good, hard, and spirited.  At least for Laguna Seca, the Balance of Performance for the Prototype Class was dead on; the Daytona Prototype and P2 cars seemed to be on equal footing.  It was fun to see the ESM Hondas and the Oak Morgan fighting with the Daytona Prototypes!  The GTLM class as usual,  just amazing, a fight to the finish.  The race was judiciously officiated as well.  There were a number of incidents that could have drawn a penalty but the officials let them race; there was only one penalty issued that I recall.  There were also several incidents that in the past would have seen a full course caution but in this race the officials wisely held the yellow flags and let the race continue.  Two specific incidents were Dalziel’s stranded ESM Honda (which he was able to get well out of the way and which the officials left in place) and the tire in the corkscrew (which was well off the racing line and wasn’t getting in the way).   Hopefully the win by the ESM Honda P2 car will placate some critics and the BoP will work equally as well in upcoming races.  Likewise, I hope the judicious officiating will placate critics and the decision making the officials used in this race continues on through the rest of the season.  This race truly was just what the series needed at just the right time after all of the controversy of Daytona and Sebring.

Given how Porsche won Sebring, they shouldn’t complain about how they lost Laguna Seca.

Nick Tandy seemed a bit miffed at being nudged by Bill Auberlen coming to the finish.  Sure it cost him a position (but it didn’t matter after the car was penalized post race) but after one of the GTLM Porsches got away with outright spinning a car off without penalty and eventually winning Sebring, they really shouldn’t protest much at what happened at the end of Laguna Seca.  It may not have been the same car involved in both incidents but it’s an example of what goes around comes around.

Good thing about separate  races at MRLS is that PC & GTD teams and drivers got more attention. Good for sponsors, careers.

The PC/GTD was a good race as well.  The finish may not have been bumper to bumper, but it was a bit of cliffhanger due to pit strategy.  It was also well officiated, although there was some full course yellow but that’s to be expected with pro-am classes.  The most important thing was that the separate race gave the PC and GTD teams, drivers, and sponsors top billing and the attention that goes along with it.  They normally are second billing behind the pro classes and therefore don’t get as much attention, but this race was able to highlight some of the good amateurs, up and coming drivers (who are the future of the sport) and some of the veterans of the sport who are still putting in good performances.  It’s also good for business, getting TV time for the sponsors supporting the pro-am cars.

Wow. If Pumpelly & the Lizards had traded just a bit more of that lead for some mileage…

Spencer Pumpelly in the Flying Lizards Audi R8 had the GTD win locked.  He had a huge 15 second lead but needed to save fuel at the end to finish the race.   In this amateur strategists’ opinion, the Lizards really could have slowed down a bit more in the closing few laps and traded more of that lead for just a tad extra mileage.  If I recall correctly, he still had 11 seconds on the 2nd place car when he ran out of fuel.  It was oh so close, but I would loved to have seen Flying Lizards and an Audi R8 get a win.

Everybody but GTLM should be in action coming up at Detroit before everyone is back at it at Watkins Glen for the 6 hour race later in the summer.  In between the two is the 24 Hours of Le Mans…  There is some great sports car racing coming this summer.  I can’t wait!

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