The Track for this Weekend’s WeatherTech Championship Race Is Breathtaking but Difficult
By Jeff Olson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It has accumulated a lengthy list of superlatives. Scenic, sweeping, breathtaking, picturesque, iconic, legendary.
But one description of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca that’s occasionally overlooked is perhaps its most accurate:
For all the iconic elements of the track – including its famous Corkscrew turn – WeatherTech Raceway is one of the most challenging in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The 11-turn, 2.238-mile California road course features an 18-story difference between its highest and lowest points and a challenging mix of high-speed and low-speed turns.
Driving it is one thing. Setting up a car for it is another.
“It’s extremely slow speed for half of it, then extremely high speed for the other half of it,” said Ricky Taylor, co-driver of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 with Filipe Albuquerque. “It makes it extremely difficult to set the car up because what works on one side doesn’t work on the other side.”
Taylor and Albuquerque share the lead in the championship standings in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class heading into Sunday’s Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway. Just three races – the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and Motul Petit Le Mans follow Sunday’s action – remain in the 2021 season for IMSA’s top prototype class.
The first of the three has been known to pose stressful situations. Among WeatherTech Raceway’s difficulties is a fine, sandy soil that has been known to blow across and accumulate on the asphalt, exaggerating every other challenge.
“The bad side is when your car is not great for you and you’re just sliding all over the surface,” Albuquerque said. “… The heat with the sand and the low-grip type of track that it is just so frustrating. You’re sliding all over … and you simply can’t do anything about it.”
Like other racers, Albuquerque relishes the complex demands of WeatherTech Raceway. Strategy plays – like trying to eliminate one pit stop from the usual plan – are common.
“You never know at Laguna,” said Antonio Garcia, who shares the championship lead in the Grand Touring Le Mans (GTLM) class with Jordan Taylor in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. “There are a lot of different strategies. … We’ve won a few races there but also lost a few with people we didn’t expect to get to the end. There’s a fine line on that.”
One thing they agree on. The Corkscrew is as much fun to drive as it appears to be. From the crest of Turn 8’s left-hand turn, the bottom drops out into a Turn 8A right-hander, resulting in a turn that’s never boring.
“The Corkscrew never gets old,” Ricky Taylor said. “It’s really a cool corner. How the car drops away and how you deal with GTs there is always a lot of fun.”
The fun begins Friday with a late practice session. Qualifying is scheduled for 4:05 p.m. ET Saturday, with a livestream on IMSA.com/TVLive. The live NBCSN telecast of the two-hour, 40-minute race begins 4 p.m. ET Sunday. For ticket information, click here.