T-MOBILE® VICI RACING MONTEREY SPORTS CAR CHAMPIONSHIP AT LAGUNA SECA, QUALIFYING
Monterey, Calif. - At a dry, sunny but quite cool Laguna Seca Raceway this afternoon Richard Westbrook safely put the #18 T-Mobile® VICI Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR onto the sixth row of the grid for tomorrow's American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season-closing 4-hour Monterey Sports Car Championships. The team was somewhat on the back foot going into qualifying after sensor problems reared their head during the last practice session, but Richard made the best of the situation to ensure that the car he will share tomorrow with Johannes Stuck will be well placed for the tough season closer in California.
The day got underway with an hour long practice session from 9:45-10:45AM and with this being the first time the team would get on track this week coupled with limited practice running time before the race, every second of green flag conditions would count. With all three drivers having never raced here before Technical Director Roland Wall would have to factor in squeezing the maximum track time for each of them in without compromising his pursuit of optimised qualifying and race setups. The morning saw the #18 Porsche's regular duo, Richard and Johannes, given half an hour each to get used to the 2.238-mile circuit complete with its famous "corkscrew", while a new engine fitted last night and other strategic components needed to be bedded in. During the session the two drivers ran 27 laps with the fastest being in 1:25.568 (94.157 mph) set by the experienced English sports car racer.
"The track is really interesting, I enjoyed it out there," said Johannes, the 22-year-old son of sports car legend Hans-Joachim Stuck, and the latest product of a generational racing dynasty. "I think I did quite well, I have looked at the data and I seem to be doing everything correctly. The track is quite demanding as there are a lot of blind corners and there aren't many long straights, so no time to relax, it will be a tough stint out there. I have to work on a few areas and my braking zones, but I'm happy here, it is a great track."
The afternoon kicked off with an hour-long practice session at 2:00PM which would lead into the usual 20 minute qualifying session after a quick 10 minute breather. Richard was first in the cockpit to work on setup changes but when he came in a third of the way through the session to hand over to Lance problems occurred. The German youngster had only been in the #18 magenta-and-white car for a lap when a faulty sensor sent him back pitwards and replacing the component cost the Miami, Florida-based team the rest of the session. For the record the car turned in 13 laps during the session with the quickest of those, posted by Richard, being in 1:25.680 (94.034 mph) on the seventh time round.
It all added up to leave the team on the back foot for the qualifying session but with set-up looking good, Richard did the job to put the car onto the grid with a quickest lap in 1:24.307 (95.565 mph). "We've had a few things thrown against us today that we have had to deal with," says Roland, "but the car looks pretty good and I am confident the set-up is going the right way for the race, so we now have to do some work tonight and evolve our race strategy to our starting position. I would have liked to see the drivers get more cockpit time, but they look solid already, and the crew have done a great job as usual."