Having already secured a solid 2nd place in the LMP2 Driver Standings as far back as August in Mosport, there was no championship at stake for Marino and his co-driver, Butch Leitzinger, in the #20 Dyson Racing Mazda, here at the Mazda Raceway in Laguna Seca.
However, carrying a completely new livery in the blue, red and white colours of Arco, a company founded in 1866 as the Atlantic Petroleum Storage Company, but now part of the BP family and a leading retail gasoline brand on the US's west coast, Marino and Butch were resolute in their desire to give both Arco and Mazda a win at Mazda's home track.
Unfortunately, after such a successful mid season, the first and last races of the 2009 Series proved to be lack lustre bookends for the #20 car.
The test session here on Thursday went well and all was looking good for the 2-day race programme on the 2.238 mile Laguna circuit. However just 5 laps into the first official practice session yesterday, a broken spark plug lead to a cautionary engine change. By definition the second practice turned into a set-up run which would enable Butch to qualify the car just a few minutes later. Butch put in a qualifying time of 1:11.310, to take 2nd in LMP2 and 4th overall. Further changes were made on the #20 car overnight and Marino ran warm-up here this morning setting the fastest time in LMP2 and 2nd overall just two-tenths behind the pole sitting LMP1 Acura of Gil de Ferran.
Butch made a good start behind the wheel of the #20 car at the beginning of the race taking the lead in LMP2, but just 11 laps in, he had to pit causing him to drop two laps while an electrical problem affecting the throttle was fixed. Butch returned to the track, but just 20 laps later he came to a halt on the track and the car was subsequently retired. Disappointment of course for Marino, Butch, the team and their sponsor partners in not finishing the race here at the Mazda Raceway in Laguna Seca, but on reflection it can only be said that 2009 was a very successful developmental inagural season for the #20 BP Dyson Racing Mazda car: 10 podiums from 10 races including two LMP2 class wins, one at the team's home track in Lime Rock and the other at the epic Petit Le Mans event in Road Atlanta just 2 week's ago. And for Marino personally, add to that tally three successive qualifying pole positions in Road America, Mosport and Petit Le Mans, as well as three fastest laps on the circuits of St. Petersburg, Lime Rock and Mosport, and you have all the ingredients necessary to build a better and stronger challenge in 2010.
"It's such a disappointing way to end the season, but it's been a positive campaign for us", said a somewhat deflated Marino after the race. "Overall I'm delighted with the way the year has gone, the BP Dyson Mazda team thought that second in the championship was the best we could achieve in this development year, we also wanted to get poles and wins, so it was great to achieve these goals. I thought the #20 car looked awesome in the Arco colours this weekend and I want to thank each and everyone involved in our programme for all the hard work and effort that went into this year. On a personal note, I want to congratulate my brother Dario on winning the 2009 Indycar Championship, I received the news about a minute after our car went out of the race so I wasn't down for long! Now, it's time to take a break and put my efforts into preparing for next year!"