RICK MAYER'S INSIDE TRACK: MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA In 2007, Rick Mayer, the team engineer for Risi Competizione, has provided a unique and inside look at the race tracks of American Le Mans Series. Today he tackles Mazda Raceway ...
RICK MAYER'S INSIDE TRACK: MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA
In 2007, Rick Mayer, the team engineer for Risi Competizione, has provided a unique and inside look at the race tracks of American Le Mans Series. Today he tackles Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, site of the Monterey Sports Car Championships.
Laguna Seca has several long, medium to high speed corners and a low top Speed of only 240 kph or approximately 150 mph, one of the lowest top speeds this season for American Le Mans Series racecars.
Sections of the track are similar to street tracks, but with elevation changes. The surface is relatively smooth as the weather is very consistent all year round.
The big issue at Laguna is that sand surrounds the track edges, as opposed to grass at most permanent road courses. As the higher downforce cars run near the edge of the track (or unintentionally off the track) the sand is sucked on to the track, which then makes the track a low grip surface - slippery and not always predictable. Laguna Seca is not far from the Pacific Coast (the track is located on the Monterey Peninsula, home of the famous Pebble Beach Golf Links) and picks up quite a bit of wind; a moderate wind will also bring the sand on the track. Shortly after the start, the track will only have one racing line, it's difficult for GT2 cars to go off line to pass (or get passed by faster classes) and have any grip. That creates a lot of potential difficult situations on the track during a race - especially a four-hour one like the one we're facing this weekend.
Laguna's typically a low-grip, understeer track. The only real change of direction is the justifiably famous Corkscrew, but it's relatively slow and falling away (downhill). It's a unique corner all to itself and so you don't spend any time setting up for this corner, although it does tend to influence the minimum ride height for the car; cars will likely bottom here.
A moderately stiff setup is better here; pitch platform is important for braking and turn-in, and you need support through the long corners, which you can't do with dampers (shocks). The last corner is very slow, a good exit there is important as this leads to the main strait and to Turn 3, which is a prime passing area. The car needs good low speed traction to get off the last corner.
The GT2 Championships for 2007 are still up for grabs; the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 430GT has the current lead, and a good solid finish will clinch the titles (Drivers, Team and Manufacturers). It's a long race (four hours) and it will be tight on fuel for a three-stop strategy.
Low grip translates to low tire wear. The Ferraris should be able to double stint tires if it's strategically advantageous.
The Ferrari will be the favored GT2 chassis. The lack of long straights and several long corners will put the Porsche and Panoz at a deficit as the long corners play to the Ferrari's handling advantage. The 62 ran well here last year, winning the race in the closing laps. Let's hope in this case, that history repeats at least the winning part.