ALMS 2010 Round 3 : Laguna Seca A circuit we are familiar with for hosting past finales of the ALMS season, this year provides a "warm-up" for those teams competing at the jewel in the endurance crown, the 24 Hours of Le Mans! Thirty-five cars...
ALMS 2010 Round 3 : Laguna Seca
A circuit we are familiar with for hosting past finales of the ALMS season, this year provides a "warm-up" for those teams competing at the jewel in the endurance crown, the 24 Hours of Le Mans! Thirty-five cars were here to contest the six hour race around the undulating 2.238 miles that make up the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca set in the heart of the Monterey countryside.
At a test session here on Thursday evening the #1 LMP2 Patrón Highcroft Racing HPD ARX- 01c finished the day third overall, Marino having driven the final stint. In the two official practice sessions here yesterday, Simon Pagenaud drove the first finishing up 2nd overall before David Brabham drove the afternoon practice prior to qualifying. Try as hard as he did David could not wrestle the pole from the Dyson Mazda Lola and had to settle with 2nd place on the grid in a time of 1:13.009, just 0.671 seconds behind Guy Smith's Dyson Mazda. However, with Marino not having driven in either of the official practice sessions the Patrón Highcroft Racing car was penalised and had to start the race from the back of the grid.
Marino finally got his turn behind the wheel in Warm-up this morning and grabbed his opportunity to set the quickest time of the session overall with a 1:17.90, almost half a second ahead of his 2009 team Dyson Racing. "Congratulations to the Dyson Mazda guys, they did a very good job yesterday. Having driven that car myself last year, I knew how fast it was and it was only a matter of time before it showed that pace in qualifying. Brabs did a great job in our car and certainly got everything out of it that he possibly could. It is a long race and it is not just about speed. Once the green flag drops it is not about who got the pole, it's about who will do the best job over six hours and I know the Patrón Highcroft team are up for that and Simon, David and myself will do everything we can to win."
It was Simon Pagenaud who was given the task to start the race and he grasped it with both hands taking his first pit stop from 2nd place and then the lead just 5 minutes later when the leading Porsche Spyder made its pit stop. David Brabham was next to double stint the Patrón Highcroft car, handing it to Marino for the last two hours. Marino joined the race in the lead, but 13 laps later was overhauled by the straight-line speed of the Dyson Mazda, giving rise to what was to be a battle of enormous proportions. Marino hounded the Dyson Mazda for the rest of the stint until the Mazda pitted handing Marino back the lead. Then came the #1 car's final stop, but taking fuel only and deciding to double stint the Michelin tyres, the team allowed Marino to rejoin the race still in the lead, and that strategy was to be the winning hand. Marino continued to push hard and after 16 minutes still held a 26 second gap to the Dyson Mazda. However, with just 24 minutes remaining and Marino still holding his own, the Dyson Mazda suffered a mechanical issue and Marino was able to almost coast to the chequered flag giving him his first ALMS overall win and with a margin of seven laps to his closest rival.
An elated Marino said after the race, "I can't really put into words what winning an ALMS race outright means to me, it's just fantastic! To come from last to first as we did today is a great achievement and I have to thank the Patrón Highcroft team for a great car, a perfect strategy, perfect pit stops and my team mates Simon and David for the perfect jobs they did before I got in the car. It was a no holds barred battle with the Dyson team, I really enjoyed that, and although they had their issue at the end, I know they'll be a force for the rest of the season. It's nice to head to Le Mans with a victory and I'm sure if we perform like this there, we'll be in good shape." The next race is the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France on Saturday 12th June.
-source: marino franchitti