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Scene: Global Tuner Grand Prix; Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, CA

Setting The Pace

Sean Klingelhoefer
Jan 24, 2011

When I first heard about Global Tuner Grand Prix I knew I had to be there. A time attack event open to all makes and models from across the globe set to take place on one of the very rare unrestricted exhaust limit days on one of America's premier race tracks - what more could you ask for? Not that it takes much to get me out to the home of the corkscrew but this was the perfect excuse to visit Monterey.

Sstp_1102_01_o+global_tuner_grand_prix+front_view Photo 2/12   |   Scene: Global Tuner Grand Prix; Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, CA

When I arrived at the track on the second qualifying day the sky was heavily overcast with water misting gently from above, not the ideal climate for setting fast laps. An unfortunate byproduct of the weather was a decrease in competitors, some of which I was very excited to see run Mazda Raceway like Evasive's Evo and World Racing's new AWD tC that was set to make its world debut at this competition. What the event lacked in the shape of typical Japanese entries it more than made up for with other makes, namely Porsche.

As a matter of fact it was a complete track take-over by cars from Stuttgart. Aside from the time attack festivities there was also a Pirelli Driver's Cup event taking place, a one-make series for Porsche GT3 Cup vehicles. When I later found out that James Sofronas, co-founder of GMG, a world-renowned Porsche tuning shop out of Santa Ana, had helped to recruit entries it became very clear why so many 911s showed up.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, as it was a nice break from the typical time attack scene. Besides there's just something indescribably awesome about the unadulterated sound of a naturally aspirated flat-six running full-tilt out of turn six in a mad dash up the hill into the infamous corkscrew. Dicing it up with the rear-engine monsters were several time attack regulars like 034 Motorsport's A4, HPF's ultra-widebody E46 M3 and Sparco's super clean Evo X.

Sstp_1102_02_o+global_tuner_grand_prix+left_side_view Photo 6/12   |   Scene: Global Tuner Grand Prix; Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, CA

As if the diversity of the field wasn't already astonishing, Novitech Rosso brought down their Ferrari 430 Scuderia - a car capable of stopping any adolescent boy in his tracks. However, at the top of the list of "vehicles you'd never imagine seeing at a time attack event" had to be a group of vintage Audi racecars brought out by the Eurospec Motoring Collection. Unfortunately the poor weather conditions prevented me from seeing the S4 GTO draped in hardcore Rothmans livery run on the track. I did however see one of the Audi 200 DTM cars run which was hands down the loudest car of the weekend and emitted a sound I won't soon forget.

But the tuner cars, exotics and vintage racers were all significantly eclipsed by the raw performance of two World Challenge racecars. While time attack pundits might gripe that bringing a full blown racecar to a TA event isn't in line with the spirit of competition seeing these machines run was undeniably bad ass. Andy Pilgrim took top honors in his K-Pax Volvo S60R and clocked an unbelievable time of 1:28.517 on slightly damp conditions. But Safronas in his GMG WC-997 GT3 recorded the fastest time of the day, 1:26.549, but it was clocked during a winning session in the challenge race. Unfortunately after the race the GMG Porsche didn't make its scheduled appearance in the time attack.

The on-track action was fierce and with one of the best tracks on the west coast as the backdrop it was easy to overlook the rain as a spectator and a surprising amount endured the weekend. Despite the less than ideal forecast the event was still a very welcome addition to time attack and GTGP 2011 is already set to return. With more time to prepare, a better forecast and more cars this event has the recipe for success. Rumor has it that the 2011 event might even draw some bigger names from Japan.

STREET CLASS
Car # Driver Car Sponsor Fastest Lap
12 TC. Kline Porsche Boxter TC Kline Racing 1:42.780
Spyder
23 B. Todd BR Racing Porsche 997 GT3 1:44.201
36 C. Bertuzzi Nissan 350Z Specialty Car 1:45.596
Crafe / Precision Z
Service
TUNER CLASS
Car # Driver Car Sponsor Fastest Lap
29 G. Grant Dodge Viper ACR Grant Racing 1:37.604
30 J. Menczer Porsche 997 GT3 Menczer Racing 1:37.764
86 S. Eguina Porsche 996 GT2 Fairveiw Mortgage 1:38.312
UNLIMITED CLASS
Car # Driver Car Sponsor Fastest Lap
3 A. Pilgrim Volvo S60R K-Pax 3R / Volvo 1:28.517
35 C. Miller Audi A4 034Motorsport 1:31.221
21 P. Ward Subaru STI GT Garage 1:39.394

What constitutes a fast lap at mazda raceway?
We know most of you are probably scratching your heads about lap times at Mazda Raceway as this track isn't a standard yardstick like Buttonwillow or Tsukuba. Any time under 1:30 is considered very fast. For example the previous overall record for a time attack car was 1:31.440 set by Billy Johnson in the Factor-X NSX in 2007. Considering most of the times for this event were set on a wet or partially wet course is pretty amazing.

By Sean Klingelhoefer
211 Articles

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