There are many teams that look forward to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. For Freedom Autosport, their history with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca includes three double podiums and two wins. So, when the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge visits the iconic track this weekend, Freedom Autosport hopes to make it three wins in a row.
“Mazda Raceway is a really important race for us,” says Whitis. “Not only do we want to perform well as a team, but it’s important to help put Mazda back into the manufacturer championship lead.”
This week, they visit the track with a special guest, as the team hosts the friends and family of Cpl. Christopher Singer. Singer was killed in action on January 21, 2012, while serving in the United States Marine Corps in Afghanistan. Freedom Autosport is honoring his memory this season with a photo of him on their cars and autograph cards.
“Considering our results there in the past, we’re very optimistic about this race,” says O’Doski. “Race strategy has been a vital part of our season, and it will be no different at Mazda Raceway. We need to run a clean, smart race.”
Freedom’s Mazda MX-5s have always been competitive at the 2.238-mile track. In 2009, Derek Whitis and Tom Long finished second in the No. 25 Mazda MX-5, followed by Andrew Carbonell and Rhett O’Doski in the No. 26 Mazda MX-5. The series did not return to Mazda Raceway until 2011, when the team got another double podium in the ST class. It was much sweeter that time, with O’Doski and Carbonell taking the win, followed by their teammates in second. Freedom Autosport repeated the one-two finish in 2012, with Whitis and Long leading the way.
“Going to Mazda Raceway is such a great feeling for us because of our history with that track,” says Carbonell. “It’s exciting for us to go there each year, and the track is so perfect for the Mazda MX-5. Everything about Mazda Raceway is great: the layout, the elevation changes, the weather, and of course Monterey.”
Freedom Autosport will also have a third entry this weekend. Freedom Autosport alumni and San Jose, California, resident Brad Rampelberg is teaming up with Mazda open-wheel and Rolex Series driver Joel Miller to pilot the No. 27 Mazda MX-5.
Following the race, the Freedom Autosport drivers and cars will head to Irvine, California, to participate in a Mazda Employee Day. Mazda employees will have a chance to learn more about Mazda’s motorsports program while getting an up-close look at the racecars and chatting with the drivers.
“Racing at Mazda Raceway is special for us both because of our past wins here and because of our relationship with Mazda,” says Long. “This is such a great opportunity for us to share our racing program with fans and Mazda employees alike.”
Of course, Freedom Autosport isn't the only team competing at the historic racecourse. Sportscar ace Bryan Sellers will join Mark Boden in the No. 46 Trim-Tex Drywall Products/BCKSTGR Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 on Sunday, Sept. 8, for the CTSCC race and follow that co-driving the Audi in the Continental Tire Sports Car Festival Powered by Mazda Rolex GT race on Sunday afternoon with Al Carter. The additional two events will add up to three starts for Sellers at the track this year.
"So much of what makes me love a track is the area it is placed in and the history of the circuit," added Sellers. "Laguna has great history and is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. I always look forward to traveling to Laguna Seca. It was also the first place I ever won a car race [Skip Barber, 1999], which makes it a little extra special. It will always be very near and dear to my heart."
Sellers, who competes in both GRAND-AM and the ALMS, hopes the 2.238-mile, 11-turn track on the Monterey Peninsula will help him regain some lost momentum. Last weekend, the Falken Tire factory driver's car was eliminated from the Grand Prix of Baltimore ALMS race in a multi-car accident even before his Team Falken Tire Porsche teammate Wolf Henzler was able to cross the start-finish line. The damage ended the day at a track that Sellers/Henzler had won the two previous runnings even before it got started. With two weeks before the next ALMS race, Sellers hopes to make the most out of this weekend's two races. The track is an ideal place to do that as in the spring, Sellers helped lead the Falken operation to a podium finish in the ALMS race here.
"As the saying goes it's best to get right back on the horse," Sellers continued. "Wolf [Henzler, Team Falken Tire teammate] was caught in a very unfortunate situation in Baltimore. Things closed down on him very quickly and, before you knew it, the whole track was sealed off. I am certain that start could have been run a million times and the result would have been the same. We were really looking forward to at least trying for a three-peat but unfortunately were not afforded the chance."
The two-hour, 45-minute Rolex Series race, scheduled to start at 2 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), will be Sellers' second time in the Fall-Line Audi R8 GRAND-AM. In his Audi debut at Kansas Speedway, Sellers marched the mid-engine machine to the lead and finished fifth. This weekend, Sellers will join Carter for the first time as a co-driver. Despite both being drivers for Fall-Line, the pairing has never raced the same car together.
"It will be easy to roll into the race with Al and get a good rhythm," stated a confident Sellers. "I have known Al for a couple of years now, we know how each other drive and what the other needs and likes out of a racecar. We are very familiar with each other as Fall-Line teammates and I am looking forward to driving with him in the Be Positive Foundation Audi."
Earlier in the day, Sellers and Boden will fight for their third CTSCC win of the season in the GS class. Their BMW M3 will take the green flag at 10 a.m. PDT for the two-hour, 30-minute race.
"Laguna was a good track for us last year with the Trim-Tex BMW," commented Sellers. "I think it be a track that we can have a good result at. Although, I do believe it will be difficult to win against the Camaro. I think we will have a podium capable car."
While well recognized as an expert in generating low lap times, Sellers is also becoming an expert in time management off the track as well. The two official days of GRAND-AM practice, plus a CTSCC test day on Friday, will keep Sellers jumping. He'll open with practice laps in the Trim-Tex BMW on Saturday morning at 9:15 PDT followed by his first laps of Laguna in the Audi at 10:15 a.m. Each series will have a midday practice before qualifying for CTSCC GS at 4 p.m. The 15-minute Rolex GT qualifying session will start at 5:25 p.m.
On Sunday, the CTSCC race will begin at 10 a.m. PDT. The GRAND-AM Rolex Continental Tire Sports Car Festival will start at 2 p.m. Timing and scoring for all sessions can be found online.
The Rolex Series race can be seen live on FOX Sports 1 at 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The Motor Racing Network will also provide radio coverage.
The CTSCC race will be broadcast on FOX Sports 1, Sunday September 15 at 4 p.m. ET.
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