Race Report by Matthew Overton
Images by Jerry Chen
Broadcast by Ross “Tnadz” Smith
September 16, 2021 – 18 teams (8 LMH and 10 GTE) arrived at sandy Laguna Seca, ready to contest the next round of the VMSC. Conditions were warm and sunny for both practice and the race, a blessing that was appreciated by all on this tight and twisty track that is a real challenge for multi-class racing.
For the fourth race in a row, it was PRO Jason Whited in the Nissan GT-R that set the pace for the remainder of the LMH field, posting a 1:11.223 about midway through the session. While several other drivers posted times in the 1:11s after his mark, none could best it.
In AM, it was Ross Smith (Nissan) and Matthew Overton (Ferrari FXX-K) dueling for top honors, with Overton taking top seed by .4s on his final run, recording at 1:12.485.
PRO Cameron Sansano led the GTE field in qualifying, with a 1:19.040 in his Ferrari 488, almost a second ahead of his closest challenger, Jon Uyan in another Ferrari. AM driver Gilles Lalonde took top honors in his class, piloting his Porsche 911 RSR to a 1:20.799, a good 1/2 second ahead of Stuart Barge in his Ferrari 488.
For much of the race, it was Jason Whited’s Nissan that led the PRO race through and then beyond the pit cycle. While lapping traffic proved as difficult to navigate as was expected, Whited managed to maintain a steady 3-4 second gap on his closest challengers, first Brian Hall and then JT Tami.
It came unglued, however, in L39 when his brakes locked on the approach to the Corkscrew, sending him into the gravel where he had to wait for traffic before rejoining, pushing him firmly into 3rd place in class. Tami and Hall quickly leaped at the opportunity, with Hall relentlessly pursuing. L48 saw Hall reap the reward of his dogged determination, taking the lead and holding it until the checkered flag.
In AM, it was again the Corkscrew that played a mean hand for both Overton and then Ross in their battle for the top of the podium in class. Leading into L6, Overton misjudged the braking and his Ferrari washed wide, leaving the door open for Ross to take the lead.
On L9, the favor was returned when Ross locked up the brakes on his Nissan and went left into the gravel, ceding the class lead back to Overton. Neither was seriously damaged by their incidents and they continued to put distance between themselves and the McLaren Senna of 3rd place finisher John Maher. The issue was finally decided on L40, when after several laps of closing up, Ross had another offtrack, to finish about 40 seconds behind the class winner Overton.
It was a race to remember for Cameron Sansano in his Ferrari 488, leading from flag to flag and with a gap of 40s to his closest rival, Sahil Mustac in his Porsche 911 RSR. Mustac emerged from the pit cycle with a gap over Uyan and Porsche driver Jerry Chen, who found themselves locked in close racing for over a dozen laps, much to the delight of the fans, with Chen edging out Uyan for the final podium spot.
It was a battle of attrition for the AM field as three drivers, Gilles Lalonde, Stuart Barge, and then David Anderson took shares of the lead. It was Anderson, driving with poise and consistency, that outlasted his rivals to take the checkered as the class leader.
Also finding consistency, though not quite the same pace, was Ferrari driver Tom Nasella, to be rewarded with 2nd place in class for his efforts. It was Gilles Lalonde, gamely chasing Nasella but unable to narrow the gap, to take 3rd in class for his determined recovery drive.
It was a testy race in the sand dunes of California, with several GTE drivers remarking post-race on the sense of urgency that surrounded the LMH racing, making for very tense moments particularly in the stretch of track between T2 and T4. As usual, the Corkscrew claimed its share of victims, again making for some hairy moments as drivers negotiated cars strewn from left to right in that section of track.
With all four classes won by Scuderia machines, the stands boiled over with Tifosi celebrations. While McLaren, Nissan, and Porsche could claim shares of the podiums, with almost half the winning drivers in a Ferrari, it was another race emphatically in their ‘been there, done that category.
In what is becoming a regular occurrence, “Top Mover” went to David Anderson, up five places from his gridding spot!
LMH Pro: While the leader, @Norm Graf has been uncharacteristically off-form the last couple of races, he still has a firm grip on the series win however the extra points are being hoovered up by Brian Hall, Jason Whited, and JT Tami in the hunt for 2nd and 3rd.
LMH Am: Series lead Matthew Overton has put some breathing room between him and Ross Smith, however John Maher and Guilherme Bencke are still battling over 3rd.
GTE Pro: Jon Uyan holds a good lead in the series, however, Jerry Chen is moving steadily up the rankings in the absence of Ahmed Abdalla and James Walker
GTE Am: David Anderson holds the series lead with Stuart Barge and Tom Nasella battling over who will take 2nd.
The next race will be in Bahrain, October 21, 2021!