Laguna Seca: Genoa Racing race report

Genoa Racing Finishes Second in LMPC And Fourth Overall In American Le Mans Series Dogfight Saturday at Mazda Raceway SALINAS, Calif., May 22 - All three Genoa Racing drivers led the LMPC class and the Zionsville, Ind.-based team topped the...

Genoa Racing Finishes Second in LMPC And Fourth Overall In American Le Mans Series Dogfight Saturday at Mazda Raceway

SALINAS, Calif., May 22 - All three Genoa Racing drivers led the LMPC class and the Zionsville, Ind.-based team topped the class standings for about half of Saturday's American Le Mans Series race at Mazda Raceway. After six hours of competition the team finished second in class, just 7.105 seconds off the class winner, and fourth overall in the 35-car field. It was the best finish ever in this series for the team, which is new to this series this year, and its third podium finish in as many races.

The class battle was a dogfight between the eventual winner, the Level 5 Motorsports No. 55, and Genoa Racing's No. 36. Four cars led the class. The top two cars completed 229 laps in the six-hour race, the third-longest event in the series, which is presented by Tequila Patron. Genoa Racing's No. 36 led the class the most, showing the way for 111 laps to No. 55's 97. One or the other held the class lead after the first 45 minutes of the race, from lap 31 on, and Genoa's car even led nine laps before that point.

Genoa's driving squad sported the two youngest drivers in the field - 21-year-old Tom Sutherland, who is a local hero since he's from Los Gatos, Calif., and 20-year-old Kyle Marcelli of Barrie, Ontario. They were joined by veteran Tom Weickardt of Whitefish Bay, Wis. Sutherland, a student at Texas Christian University, is sponsored by ClickAway, while Marcelli has backing from Dyno Pep Energy.

Excellent pit strategy by team manager Thomas Knapp kept the team in contention throughout the event, as did the crew's quick pit stops. The team was as high as third overall in the race after Marcelli started fourth in class and tenth overall.

Marcelli drove the first stint and hustled the car into the class lead by lap seven. Trouble struck on lap 15, however, about 25 minutes into the race, when he was hit in the rear and spun to a stop, sprawled across the course at the track's famous Corkscrew. Somehow all the other drivers avoided hitting him and he was able to start all over again from 18th position.

It didn't take Marcelli long to regain the spots he'd lost, however. He was third in class and tenth overall 45 minutes into the race, and at the one-hour mark he was in that same class position and seventh overall.

He retook the class lead about 71 minutes into the race after some rivals pitted, and at the two-hour mark he was fifth overall and still first in class.

Ten minutes later Marcelli dodged another bullet when four slower cars went out of control around him. One driven by James Sofronas almost hit him and if Marcelli had lifted he would have been broadsided, but he kept his foot on the floor and avoided any contact. Marcelli turned the car over to Weickardt under a full-course caution after about two hours and 27 minutes of competition, still leading the class and fifth overall.

Right around the halfway point some pit stops vaulted Weickardt up to third overall, still first in class, but the No. 55 was gaining. It regained a lap it had lost and closed in, setting up the battle between Sutherland and No. 55's Mark Wilkins and Christophe Bouchut that continued until the checkered.

Sutherland set the car's fastest lap of the race with a time of 1:20.413 on lap 149 trying to chase down the No. 55. A couple of late-race full-course cautions gave him a couple more stabs at the class lead on the restarts, but the No. 55 was a bit stronger in the late stages of the race and Genoa Racing had to be content with second.

CBS will broadcast coverage of the race next Saturday, May 29, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time. Additional information can be found at americanlemans.com, imsaracing.net, tomsutherlandracing.com and kylemarcelliracing.com.

The next event is July 9-11 at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah.

Tom Sutherland: "It was a great race; flawless really. We lost some front downforce due to some damage to the front end plates that occurred in Kyle's incidents so it was a bit much to drive during my stint, but I'm pretty happy with my performance.

"Both Tom Weickardt and Thomas Knapp [the team manager] did a great job. Thomas's calls with the pit stops put us in the lead.

"When the sun was hitting the clouds it was really hard to see for about three laps. I almost hit a GT car then.

"Then when it got dark, our lights weren't pointed quite right so I was sort of driving by the seat of my pants then. But I had no real incidents.

"We're definitely improving. It's our best finish so far. We're gelling as a team as we get to know each other and we learn more about this car and this series. As we become more familiar with everything we're getting better and better.

"I really have to thank ClickAway and my family and my friends who came out to support us. Without ClickAway and my family, I couldn't do this."

Kyle Marcelli: "My stint started off great. I passed [Elton] Julian and [Scott] Tucker, and then a caution worked in our factor and we moved up from tenth overall to fifth. On the restart I passed a couple of cars, and then in Turn 8 a GTC car drove into the back of me and spun me out. I didn't know what to do; I just waited for the full field to get by, and luckily no one hit us.

"I got going again and just put my head down and tried to drive good, fast, consistent laps. We had great pit stop strategy.

"The restarts here are insane! On that one, there was a GTC car and two GT cars and a Ferrari that all came together. One was right beside me, but it didn't touch us at all. I definitely had to stay committed though, or we would have been collected in that.

"It's really fun when you're leading! This is my best finish ever in this series. It's great to put a whole race together and show what we can do."

Tom Weickardt: "I was bumped off the track three times, but we kept going.

"My head was buffeted a lot by the wind. We didn't get the belts quite tight enough.

"Our car was a little loose in the back, but there were a lot of full-course yellows during my stint so it was hard to really tell. I thought it was OK, really.

"The podium finish was great. It was great fun!"

-source: genoa racing

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Series ALMS
Drivers Christophe Bouchut , Tom Weickardt , Mark Wilkins , James Sofronas , Tom Sutherland , Kyle Marcelli