Laguna Seca Track Record Falls Again -- Three Days in a Row for Zonta

Salinas, Calif. (August 20, 2006) -- On the final day of the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races Presented by Toyota, Ricardo Zonta and the Panasonic Toyota Racing Team F1 car continued to lower the record for the 11-turn, 2.238 mile Laguna Seca Raceway. Sunday's record-breaking time was 1:06.309 at an average speed of 121.504 mph on lap four of four flying laps. Zonta, traveling on slicks for the first time this weekend, laid down four consistent laps for an average of 1:06.640. His Saturday best time was 1:06.596 and Friday's best time was 1:07.587. On all three days, Zonta bested the previous track record of 1:07.722 set by Helio Castroneves at the CART Honda Grand Prix of Monterey in 2000. Castroneves' speed was 118.969.

"This has been a very satisfying weekend," said Zonta after the session. "This experience has brought up a lot of good memories from when I was here in '98 and won the FIA GT Championships. And, of course it's always a good feeling to come to a circuit and leave knowing you've set a new record."

Zonta had to pilot the F1 car through the Raceway's famous and gut-wrenching "corkscrew" at Turns 8 and 8A, which is considered one of the motorsport world's most challenging turns, due to the drop in elevation as well as its blind apex. Sunday also brought slightly windy and cooler weather conditions, as well as oil laid down on the track by the historic cars after a day and a half of racing.

"The older cars dropped oil in places on the track and I didn't want to challenge the car because I couldn't be certain where the oil was. I needed to assume there was a high possibility that oil was in many places. It was also more windy today than before and the blowing dust made the track slippery in places."

After one installation run, Zonta brought the car into the pits for new tires. "We put slicks on after the installation lap, but the sun came out later today and the track didn't heat like it did the last several days. Unfortunately, the tires couldn't work as well as possible."

Previous to the Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races Presented by Toyota, Zonta last drove on the Laguna Seca track in 1998 when he won the FIA GT Championships behind the wheel of a Mercedes.

-credit: rwb