GT Daytona McLaren 720S GT3
- Corey Fergus
- Jeff Kingsley
- Paul Holton
Duo bring home the top-finishing Honda keeping team's championship hopes alive
(Monterey, CA) -- Ryan Eversley and co-driver Simon Pagenaud knew they faced an uphill battle at Laguna Seca, despite the recent removal of a series-mandated inlet restrictor. "Laguna's a track that favours the rear-wheel-drive cars, and even with the restrictor gone, the Honda is still far from the fastest front-wheel-drive platform as the results show," explained Eversley.
The pair's task was made doubly hard when qualifying was stopped on the first lap when one of the Mini's lodged itself in one of the many gravel traps around the circuit, meaning that those cars in front of the stricken car were able to set a time and those behind were not. With Pagenaud having been sent out at the back of the pack for a clear-air run, it meant his #75 Skunk2/Honda Performance Development/Racing4Research Civic started very nearly at the back of the pack in 26th spot.
His team-mates, however, fared much better, with the #74 Skunk2/HPD/JC Concrete Honda of David Thilenius qualifying in eighth spot; the #76 Skunk2/HPD/Racer's Drive Civic piloted by Dan Rogers slotted in 11th.
As expected, Pagenaud began to make his way through the field at the drop of the green flag. Technical Director Ray Lee elected to use different strategies for all of the cars, and called the 75 car in for a driver change during one of the early yellow flag periods while the other two cars stayed out. This cycled Eversley to the back of the field, but he too made his way through the traffic. The 74 meanwhile, was running in the top five at the hands of Thilenius and 76 was holding position in the mid-pack with Rogers at the wheel.
With all of the pit stops completed it was 75 in sixth and 74 in formation right behind in seventh with Zach Lutz now at the helm. The 77 Honda was in 15th position, and Michael Browning was making up spots.. In the end, Eversley had nothing for the cars ahead, and finished sixth, scoring valuable points to keep himself and the team second in the championship. "The first-place Kia now has an 18-point championship lead, which means they need to have a bad race at New Jersey or Mid-Ohio if we've any hope of winning a third title," noted Team Principal Karl Thomson. "The battle for second is pretty tight, though, so as always we'll bring the best package we can to the next two races and see how it goes. We're thankful that Grand-Am's finally removed our restrictor, but I think by having two top-level drivers like Ryan and Simon only able to manage a sixth-place shows that the series still needs to do some performance balancing within the Street Tuner class."
Lutz battled cleanly with a competitor throughout the closing stages and was surprised by being bumped off track on the last lap. The resulting impact with the tire wall meant the car suffered substantial damage and was relegated to a 15th-place result. "It was great to run right behind Ryan, but I'm really disappointed with today's race." noted Lutz. "The BMW and I had such a great fight and it was a shame to have it ruined on the last lap."
Michael Browning meanwhile brought his 76 Civic across the line in 11th, a very creditable result in his first race with the team. "Thanks to Karl and Steve (Scala) and the whole crew for a great weekend," exclaimed Browning. "I had a blast, and the team gave Dan and I really great support. I would've like to finish in the top ten, but a fender short is not too bad!"
The team's #77 Skunk2/HPD/Dr. Kimberly Henry/Speed Secrets car didn't take part in the Laguna event, as team driver Andrew Novich was recovering from injuries sustained at the previous race at Road America. "I'm on the mend and getting back into my work-out routine," said Novich. "I'm looking forward to being back in the car at New Jersey in a few weeks, and had fun working on the crew in the pits this weekend."
As with every race this year, the team proudly supported the Children's Tumor Foundation and their Racing4Research fundraising initiative at Laguna. The team's cars displayed their CTF livery, and welcomed a large number of children suffering from Neurofibromatosis and their families to the track, as well as being in attendance for a gala dinner for fundraisers and donors in Monterey. For details and to donate visit http://racing4research.org.
The race will be televised, tape-delayed on SPEED July 17th at 1:00pm.
Photos copyright Barb Miller.