Monterey, Calif. (19 September 2017) – Mustang Sampling Racing will be back in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition this weekend as the series stages a race in California for the second time this season with a visit to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey.
With deep roots in sports car racing, the 2.2-mile circuit has long been a part of IMSA history as well as a driver and fan favorite. Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi will share the driving duties in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R as they look to bring the No. 5 another run to victory lane in 2017.
With four podiums – including a victory at Watkins Glen so far this year, the 2017 IMSA season has seen the No. 5 Mustang Sampling entry regularly a factor at the front. The Monterey race, which will be broadcast live on FS1 (Sunday, 5:00 PM ET), will see Fittipaldi and Barbosa target their first IMSA Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca podium this weekend.
“I have to admit, that this track has not always been too kind to us but that can change so quickly so we will go out there and try to change that luck!” said Fittipaldi, who scored a runner-up result at the track in Champ Car competition in 2002. “It will be our first time there with the Cadillac of course so I’m looking forward to getting out there. It is just an iconic track, one of the most iconic places in this country.”
With a counterclockwise lap, some very tight technical sections, a low-grip surface, and the postcard-perfect Corkscrew corner, the track is unlike any other. And that is part of the challenge as the team prepares for the debut run of the Cadillac DPi-V.R this weekend.
“It would be great if there was a track that we’d run already this season that would be similar to use as a base when thinking about our set-up, but Monterey is so different from anything else that we’ve got to come up with something specific for the track,” said Barbosa, who like Fittipaldi first took to the track in open wheel competition. “There isn’t much grip, so the car can slide around a lot and that can make it hard on the tires. You’ve got to be able to find a balance where the car is stable through the stint so you can deliver the lap times all the way through.”
The track originally had an ultra-high speed turn one that went right up the hill, but then developed an infield section in 1988 that Fittipaldi particularly appreciates.
“I like the first part of the lap the best, the flat section through turn two and then all the way around through that left hander before heading up the hill,” said Fittipaldi. “That corner, you can’t see the exit to it when you turn in, and you really have to commit to what you are doing and get your braking just right. It is a rewarding corner to get right and it’s important to the lap time because you carry that speed all the way up to the top of the hill before the Corkscrew.”
The Corkscrew itself is a challenging corner that Barbosa enjoys each time through.
“The car does so many things in a short time when you are going through the Corkscrew with how you are loading and unloading it through the corner—it is very technical,” said Barbosa. “We’ve not had the best luck in the past at this track, but we have been working hard to change that. I think that no matter what, it will be a very good race for the fans. It is at the point in IMSA where there are five or six very good cars every race and you’ve got no idea who is going to win. Hopefully it will be us!”
While the weekend focus will be on the track, a lot of people in the country are working through the process of recovery following the destructive path that Hurricane Irma cut through the south eastern part of the country. Fittipaldi, who calls Miami home, was able to get out of harm’s way, but only by keeping up with the changes.
“I follow the weather pretty closely and had of course been paying pretty close attention when Irma was developing,” said Fittipaldi. “We had our plans all in place with what we were going to do and where we were going to evacuate to. But then of course Irma changed course! So we had to do the same to stay out of danger. We are back home now and there is a lot of cosmetic damage around us, but overall we were fortunate and were able to stay safe and get back home okay.”