2015 Tudor United Sports Car Championship
Sports car racing... it's a sport held close to my heart. And when the Tudor United Sports Car Championship is in Monterey my happy place is a quick drive to the California coast. This year the series is in year two of a marriage between ALMS and Grand-Am and by my track side observation there's no annulment in sight. Teams, drivers and fans all seem to be benefiting from the merger.
This year Kin and I decided to make a weekend out of it. We figured we'd take the extra time we had on the Peninsula and do some reconnaissance for Monterey Week.
First we had to find a place to stay. Since we're self-made hundredaires we try to save when we can and a place to crash is one of them. Hotels are nice but felt a little 'high-end' for our needs so we scoured the depths of Airbnb for a proper budget beater. We had our minds set on a fairly spacious place with a kitchenette and separate sleeping arrangements. But great minds think alike and someone else snagged the place the next day. Tasked with redeeming our hopes Kin booked us a place in the bowels of Seaside in what he thought was a studio. In reality it was an queen-sized bedroom with barely enough space for a sleeping bag on the floor and a detached bathroom - all infused with the distinct scent of an Asian supermarket. Motel 8 it was not but the money saved meant we could buy gifts for the wives... Brownie points!
After a very quick check-in it was off to Carmel to see what the weekend had in store. Unsurprisingly parking was a bitch and we landed five blocks up from Ocean Avenue. Walking through Carmel is always entertaining. The cars are top notch, the people are pretty, the sidewalks busy and the restaurants packed. Coincidentally a wine tasting event closed down one of the streets and being from a bit of wine country ourselves we dropped in to talk shop. After buying gifts for our wives we arrived on the rooftop bar at Vesuvios. The weather was sunny with nary a breeze which made the drinks and apps taste that much better.
After placing a gentleman's bets on the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight we decided to cruise out and scope the happenings in Monterey. We bounced around Cannery Row looking for a place to watch the fight eventually settling at a bar and grille in Downtown. My sister Z is also in town for the race and she joined us for dinner. We order a damn near buffet of apps, entrees, and beverages and enjoy each others' company while keeping an eye on the ESPN crawl for fight results. Hours later we decide to call it a night and get some sleep before race day.
Our goal was to wake up well before we wanted to and get to the track by 0800 hours. I'd been craving authentic chorizo con huevos for a couple days so we found a fantastic little Mexican place that will now become a regular haunt when we're in town. After getting our fill we set off to Laguna Seca.
The sound of screaming race cars fills the basin as race fans migrate from the parking lots to the track like elephants to water. It's truly hard to describe the excitement of being at the track. I love race cars. I love everything about them. I love the way they look hammered down with the wheel arches just covering the top of the tires and just enough gap so the tires don't rub. I love the livery of each team and how they design it to accentuate the lines the car. I love the sound of the motors and the deep growls and high pitched howls as they shift through the rev count. I love the engineering, the performance and the attention to detail each team tries to exploit to meet the rules and regulation. It's all fascinating to me.
We head to pit line for the fan walk to get up close and personal with the teams and cars. Z takes advantage of the access and manages to get almost the entire Corvette team to sign her flag. She's ecstatic. Soon enough we're all kicked off pit lane for the race start. We lose my sister in the crowd and find out later she staked out a vantage point next to pit exit and watched the race start.
We met up with one of our good friends Nate Risch who was providing race coverage for BMW and Michelin tires. He had an extra hot pit pass to share so Kin got a tour of the pit wall and team paddock from the Michelin reps. I was jealous but played a cool poker face.
After watching from the fence line I find open seating in the turn 4 bleachers and continue watching and shooting the race. A few hundred shutter counts later my sister finds me and we take the scenic route to the corkscrew to finish the race but not before finding some more spots to shoot from. Kin found us a short time later and bragged how awesome the pit tour was. Next year I get the pass!
Corvette had a strong finish in the Prototype class while the BMW Z4 GTE took the top stops in the GTLM class. The ORECA FLM09 and Porsche 911 GT are the winners in the Prototype Challenge and GTD class respectively. With only a few races into the season the points spread between positions is slim and now the teams are off to Detroit to continue the season. At this stage it's anyone's game.