Round three of the 2010 ALMS championship saw the series travel to an unusually cool Monterey for the inaugural running of the six hours of Laguna Seca.
Friday’s qualifying session featured several unexpected outcomes. The first and most notable of which being Guy Smith’s pole setting lap for Dyson Racing. With the former Le Mans winner besting the time of nearest rival, David Brabham by a convincing seven-tenths of a second. The 1:12.338 lap saw Dyson’s Lola-Mazda to its maiden pole position.
Brabham later claimed to have been satisfied with Highcroft’s setup of the ARX01c, but conceded the team’s HPD machine was unable to compete with the obvious straight-line pace of Dyson’s Mazda-powered Lola, afforded by IMSA’s recent restrictor breaks. Highcroft would later be relegated to the rear of the grid as a result of a post-qualifying penalty.
The GT category once again played host to a brutal onslaught of speed from all marques on display. Risi Competizione’s Jaime Melo seized class pole with a 1:22.752. Johannes Van Overbeek would spark the second upset of the session, taking the #02 Extreme Speed Motorsports entry to second place on the grid to secure an all Ferrari front row.
Despite having achieved a fast lap merely .732 sec from the pole setting time, the usually dominant #45 Flying Lizards entry of Bergmeister/Long were left to settle for eighth place on the grid.
Looking set to deliver on all fronts, the inaugural running of the six hour commenced in an eventful manner. Although starting from the rear of the grid, Highcroft’s Simon Pagenaud managed to fight through a gaggle of GT and challenge class competitors to reach fourth position overall during the opening laps of the event.
In somewhat of an ALMS tradition, Intersport’s #37 Lola-AER surged to the front of the field during the opening moments of the race, leading laps 1-38, later retiring due to engine related issues.
Intersport’s premature departure would see Highcroft inherit the race lead early during the second hour, with both MuscleMilk and Dyson entries remaining in close pursuit. The MuscleMilk squad would run as high as second before suffering race-ending transmission difficulties.
Despite early race dramas Dyson would remain in close pursuit of Highcroft throughout the event, with the squad’s Lola-Mazda even soaring to the overall lead during the fifth hour.
Clever strategy from Highcroft saw Franchitti maintain the race lead following a final pit stop. Dyson would minimise the margin to Highcroft below 26sec before suffering a race-ending mechanical failure in the dying stages of the race. Allowing the Connecticut-based squad to cruise to a second victory for 2010.
Marked by intense battles between the factory-supported teams of Risi, P&M, RLR, and FLM, the GT race served as a brutal reminder of the pace at which the once Ferrari and Porsche dominated class now operates.
Dominated by no single entry, the GT class saw no less than six different runners share the lead throughout the duration of the race. Heated exchanges throughout the entire field marked the opening hours. The Rahal Letterman squad would maintain the race lead for the majority of hours two through four. With the team’s #92/90 entries running in 1-2 tandem on several occasions.
Despite an unfortunate result in qualifying, the #45 Flying Lizard entry would gradually work its way through the GT field over the course of the event. With Bergmeister reaching third in class after half race distance.
Clever pit strategy formulated by the Lizard’s chief strategist, Thomas Blam, saw the defending GT2 series champions inherit the lead late during the fifth hour. Leaving Porsche factory ace, Patrick Long to defend against a charging Joey Hand in the #90 RLR BMW, with the #3 Corvette of Oliver Gavin in close pursuit. The trio would ultimately finish in this order, with Long managing victory by a margin of .3sec to ensure another nail biting finish for GT class runners.
Now very much a part of the ALMS family, the LMPC category played host to a spirited exchange throughout the six hours between
Level5, Genoa, and Green Earth Gunnar entries. Much to the dismay of onlookers, the Team Gunnar entry would experience late race issues, forcing the #99 to a premature exit from the battle for class honours, but going on to finish third in category.
The #55 Level5, and #36 Genoa entries were remained in an all out brawl to the finish, with experience proving to be the deciding factor. Bouchut taking the victory for Level5, followed by Genoa’s Tom Sutherland who would cross the line in second, a mere seven seconds behind the endurance veteran.
Much like their faster GT class cousins the GTC category was, at no stage of the race, a single horse show. Entries of Alex Job, TRG, Velox, BlackSwan, and Orbit all experienced a share in the class lead over the course of the afternoon.
The #54 BlackSwan entry of Pappas/Bleekemolen/Bleekemolen would ultimately prevail, taking victory ahead of Andy Lally in the TRG #63, who would later cross the line to take second, followed by the #81 Alex Job entry of Leitzinger.