Although the Continental Tire Monterrey Grand Prix, powered by Mazda will be split into two separate two-hour events on Sunday, May 1st, a full 42 car field is featured on the official entry list introduced by the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on Wednesday afternoon. While most of the top players in the potential early storylines appear largely unchanged from last week’s action on the streets of Long Beach, California, there are a few new players that have been thrown into the equation to add a few new wrinkles to the first copy.
In the headline Prototype divison, all eight entrants from the Bubba Burger Grand Prix last week will be track side at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with some minor changes in driver lineups. Fresh off their victory at Long Beach, Wayne Taylor Racing’s Jordan Taylor and his older brother Ricky will be featured in the team’s No. 10 Chevrolet Corvette DP, as will fellow Corvette runners Action Express Racing whose two entries are currently atop the championship points standings after three events. The No. 5 Mustang Sampling-backed entry of Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa currently enjoy a three-point lead over teammates Eric Curran and Dane Cameron in the No. 31 Whelen-backed machine. Rounding out the quartet of Corvettes is the Visitflorida.com Racing entry. For Laguna Seca, Ryan Dalziel returns alongside co-driver Marc Goossens, after scheduling conflicts with commitments the FIA World Endurance Championship meant Dalziel was in Silverstone, England last week.
The non-Daytona Prototype entries in the top class feature the ever improving SpeedSource Mazda Motorsports squad, coming off their best performance ever last week at Long Beach. Driver Tom Long qualified the No. 70 Lola-Mazda coupe he shares with Joel Miller third on the grid, while Jonathan Bomarito and co-driver Tristan Nunez also started among the top five. Michael Shank Racing’s John Pew and Oswaldo Negri in the No. 60 Ligier-Honda coupe hope to bounce back from problems suffered at Long Beach, as does DeltaWing Racing who welcome back Sean Rayhall to pair up with Katherine Legge in the No. 0 Spirit of America entry.
In Prototype Challenge, the battle between JDC-Miller Motorsport and CORE autosport for Best in Class honors will continue to simmer at the track famous for the Corkscrew curve at turn eight. JDC-Miller’s Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg enter round four with two victories on their resume, including last week at Long Beach, while CORE team boss Jon Bennett and top driver Colin Braun, have the other victory earned at Sebring in March. However, two did not finish efforts in the first three rounds have CORE uncharacteristically lower on the points table than normal. Currently JDC-Miller holds an eight point lead on Starworks Motorsport’s lead duo of Alex Popow and Renger van der Zande, with PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports’ Robert Alon and Tom Kimber-Smith nine out of the lead. All of the above teams are expected to compete, alongside four others.
GT Le Mans currently features the most heated water cooler talk entering round four. The late collision between Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner and Porsche North America’s Frederic Makowiecki with under two minutes remaining in the 100-minute event, propelled Makowiecki’s teammates Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet into the winner’s circle, however Milner and Corvette co-driver Oliver Gavin recovered to finish second, just enough to maintain the championship lead by 18 points on their nearest competitors. In the days following Long Beach, cooler heads appear to have prevailed to where any retaliatory measures are not expected to be taken at Laguna Seca. Among the chaser to Corvette’s cushion in the standings, is BMW Team Rahal who will enter next week’s Continental Grand Prix of Monterrey as the defending champions. Lucas Luhr and John Edwards took the checkered flag first last year, while teammates Bill Auburlen and Dirk Werner are just ahead of them on the points table. Risi Competizione Ferrari could also feature next week after Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander earned the first podium finish last week for the new Ferrari 488 in IMSA competition. A total of ten entries are expected in GTLM at Mazda Raceway.
Finally, after taking the Long Beach round off, the GT Daytona division returns at Laguna Seca with a 17-car field. Magnus Racing’s Audi R8 LMS of Andy Lally and John Potter won the season opening Rolex 24 at Daytona in January, while the Ferrari 488 GT3 of Scuderia Corsa’s Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen scored the victory at the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring. Both entries currently sit first and second on the points table, separated by only five points. Team Seattle Porsche’s Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas currently stand third in the standings, with Black Swan Racing’s Porsche of Nicky Catsburg and Tim Pappas in fourth. The Turner Motorsport’s BMW M6 of Michael Marsal and Markus Palttala round out the first five and all teams are scheduled to compete.
Also expected to make its season debut at Mazda Raceway is the Lone Star Racing Dodge Viper GT3-R of team owner Dan Knox and co-driver Mike Skeen. The team has so far committed to Laguna Seca and three other appearances for 2016 at Road America in Wisconsin, Virginia International Raceway, and at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Knox had hoped to debut at Daytona or Sebring, but funding has relegated their first effort and their current schedule of races so far. The entry adds a second Viper to the GTD grid, alongside the Viper Exchange-Riley Motorsports entry of Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen.
Action gets underway on Sunday, May 1st with the Prototype Challenge/GT Daytona race at 2:15 p.m. eastern time (11:15 a.m. local time), followed by the Prototype/GT Le Mans event at 6:45 p.m. eastern time (3:45 p.m. local time).