MONTEREY, Calif. (May 12, 2009) -- Safe to say Sunday's Verizon Festival of Speed at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, Calif., won't be the wet and wild affair experienced by the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series competitors two weekends ago...
MONTEREY, Calif. (May 12, 2009) -- Safe to say Sunday's Verizon Festival of Speed at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca near Monterey, Calif., won't be the wet and wild affair experienced by the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series competitors two weekends ago at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville.
That's music to the ears of Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle, co-drivers of the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing who are coming off a brilliant second-place finish in that rain-soaked road race in New Jersey. The promise of clear blue skies and a grippy racing surface can only lead to good things as the SunTrust team looks to reverse a two-year bad-luck streak on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn circuit surrounded by the 142-year-old Laguna Seca Ranch and the U.S. Army's old Fort Ord artillery target range.
Angelelli and Wayne Taylor co-drove the SunTrust team to a fourth-place finish in the Rolex Series' first visit to Laguna Seca in 2005, the year SunTrust won the series championship in dominating fashion. Angelelli and Jan Magnussen then came back the following year to drive the SunTrust Racing machine to victory.
But the last two years at Laguna Seca have generated disappointing results of 15th and eighth -- a trend Angelelli and Frisselle very much want to reverse. In 2007, an off-course excursion in the early part of the race cost two laps and erased the promise of a podium finish presented by the team's front-row starting spot. Last year, after running well and leading the race for nine tours of the circuit, a drive-through penalty for contact deemed unnecessary while exiting pit lane midway through the race erased another potential winning effort.
From all indications, Angelelli and Frisselle have what they need to make a return trip to the Laguna Seca podium by late-afternoon Sunday. The Dallara chassis, in its first outing at Laguna Seca last year, was running laps as fast as the leaders down the closing stretch but was just too far removed from the lead pack thanks to the drive-though penalty. With Ford power from Roush Yates Engines now part of the SunTrust Racing package, the prospects of registering the kind of results Angelelli and Company showed at Laguna Seca in 2005 and 2006 are certainly strong. The only question mark may be last week's change to the engine rules that allows the Porsche teams, which already occupy the first, third and sixth positions in the standings, to go from a five- to a six-speed gearbox.
Nonetheless, in the 25-year-old Frisselle, Angelelli has a Southern California-born co-driver who has turned countless laps and has scored numerous victories at Laguna Seca in open-wheel cars since 2002, and has scored top-10 Rolex Series finishes the past two seasons with the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley team.
Familiarity, as they say in racing, breeds victories. And crystal-clear, blue skies breed the kind of rain that sprays from magnum-sized bottles of champagne. Angelelli and Frisselle hope to get a taste of that by the time the sun sets over the blue Pacific on Sunday.
Max Angelelli, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara:
You won the race at Laguna Seca back in 2006 but have had a couple of disappointing outings there since then. How do you feel about this weekend's event?
"I have mixed feelings about Laguna Seca because we have had some of our most successful races there, and some of our least successful. The first two years, we had a fourth and a first, and the last two years, there were incidents that ruined the race for us. So my goal is to reverse the trend from the last two years and have a successful weekend, once again. As usual, I'm very happy to go racing. We have been trying a lot of different things to help make our race car act and feel better. It's not acting quite as well as it did at the very beginning of the season. But we keep trying to make it better and better. So we'll see where we stand this weekend after a good result two weeks ago in New Jersey."
What will you have to do to have another fast racecar at Laguna Seca, like you did last year despite the eighth-place result?
"You need to have a good car with good grip, mainly generated from aero settings. When you have good downforce all across the car, you can be really fast. Having Ford power this year will be a change. This time it will be interesting to see how the rule changes that give the Porsches sixth gear back will affect the race. But, we're back in the championship fight and that's always a good feeling."
Brian Frisselle, co-driver of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara:
In addition to visits with the Rolex Series the past three seasons, you've spent a lot of time racing at Laguna Seca in other types of cars. Do you think that will be an added benefit to the SunTrust team this weekend?
"It's always a good thing when you're very familiar with a racetrack. I've always considered it my home track. Going back to when I started in the Skip Barber Western Series (in 2002), that was the main track they used, so I've turned a lot of laps there. I got my first win there in the Skip Barber series. I would've won the championship that year if we didn't have to throw out our worst two finishes. I've probably won at least five or six races there over the years. So, as you can imagine, I'm really looking forward to going back there with the SunTrust team."
What does it take to get around Laguna Seca quickly?
"I think we definitely have what it takes to get around there quickly -- the Dallara chassis and the Ford power. You definitely want to put in a lot of downforce, which is something the Dallara excels at. You also definitely need more rear grip to help you get around. I've got to say I'm feeling really good about this weekend. We're coming off a podium finish. And if you consider we were looking at a top-five finish, at worst, at VIR the week before that, we've been strong all year, so far."
Wayne Taylor, owner of the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara team:
Laguna Seca is a place where you've had mixed results over the years, including a win in 2006. What are your overall thoughts as you head back there this time around?
"Laguna's always a great place to go and race. We love the area. Last year, we left there a little upset because we were assessed a penalty for a violation exiting pit lane and that pretty much cost us the race. Clearly, we had a competitive car because we were running fast laps during the race. It just didn't show in the final result and that's the only place it counts. We were very happy with our result in New Jersey. Obviously, we would have loved to have won, but to get on the podium and to leave there back in fourth in the points was a good thing. We're fourth and we're fairly close to second and third. We'll just focus on doing the absolute best job in every respect this weekend and hope for the best."
How do you expect things to go on the racetrack this weekend, considering you had a very fast car there last year?
"Quite honestly, I'm not sure what to expect, given the change in the rules that will benefit the Porsches. You just never know about these things until everybody gets out there on the track for the first time. It may turn out okay. The rest of us are all in the same boat and we'll do everything we can. The drivers will have to drive harder, the pit stops will have to be that much quicker, the strategy's going to have to be that much better. I think perfection is what it's going to take to win this weekend and the good thing is I know we have the right guys who can get the job done."