Classic Mediterranean-style Spring weather conditions on the California coast set the scene for a beautiful April 1-3 weekend of racing with Masters Formula Atlantic Plus and Masters Endurance Legends USA at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Throughout the First Orion Monterey Motorsport weekend, held in conjunction with GT Celebration, morning fog gave way to warmer temperatures and blue skies each day as drivers, families and fans enjoyed the racing through green hills around the legendary circuit.
Masters Endurance Legends USA – Race 1
Spanning a 14 second difference in qualifying times, the Masters Endurance Legends race brought together several eras of race cars in a fun and friendly competitive race lasting 27 laps and carrying into the early evening hours at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca. At the front, the Proto 2 class field of Jim Devenport (Oreca 03 LMP2) and Stephen Romak (Pescarolo Morgan) battled for the overall win, with Spencer Trenery (Riley MK XI Gen 1 DP) close behind, as all three closed the distance to lapped cars.
There was drama right from the start, Tom Mueller’s Corvette C7R taking several places due to a jumped start, and later when John McKenna (Rlley & Scott DP MK II) pitted too early. Both drivers would serve drive through penalties. Farther back, Douglas Baron (991GT3R) and Loren Beggs (Porsche 996 RSR) battled with each other, trading fastest class laps with each other.
Loren had a lot to say about his experience running in the GT2-2 class at Masters Endurance Legends today, and he shared:
“I got a reasonable start and I had a bunch of good laps in there pretty close to the qualifying times to begin with and the prototype car guys were super nice… a good clean race and amazing weather here at Laguna Seca… We had a pretty good and consistent drop off with the tires, the track was good, it was nice and cooled down a little bit at the end of the day so that made it easy on the car… Everybody here has a super cool car and the people here treat you with respect, but its still good racing.”
Masters Endurance Legends USA – Race 2
The Modern Endurance Legends cars got Sunday’s first race off to a good start with another Devenport vs. Romak duel. Romak took fastest lap again with a 1m 23.302s but not the victory as Devenport won the overall, with Spencer Trenery again finishing third.
With todays starting grid based on yesterday’s results, two drivers found themselves at the back with everything to do over the 40 minute, 22 lap race: Charles Persico’s Ginetta 57 experienced a clutch failure in Saturday’s Race 1, but he was able to compete in the GT3-3 class today in his Audi R8 GT3 LMS Ultra, starting from the back of the grid to finish a respectable 11th out of 15 cars overall, and 3rd in his class.
“I hopped in the Audi for the first time. It’s always a little apprehensive the first time you’re going to go into a race, but I progressively went faster and faster, so it’s always fun…I’m just glad I got the track time today… They both have a ton of downforce but its easier to drive the Audi because the sight lines are so much better.”
Also starting from the back also was Mark Brannon (Ligier JS P315) which had been damaged in Race 1. Today was just his third race outing in the car, and he shared: “We started last after getting knocked out yesterday, but it was fun working our way through the field.”
Finishing fifth overall and first in his class, Brannon felt good about the result: “We finished about where I should have qualified so it’s probably about right, you know? Traffic is challenging, with 420hp vs 750hp on some of those big guys, it’s hard to get around them… but all in all pretty good day, better than yesterday for sure…”
During the race, Marcus Jewell pitted his Porsche 997R with steering issues, but completed the race just ahead of John McKenna (Riley & Scott DP MK II).
Masters Formula Atlantic Plus – Race 1
On lap 3, Gray Gregory (Chevron B39) suffered brake caliper failure approaching the pit entrance. Right behind Gregory on the approach to Turn 11, Dalmo de Vasconcelos (Ralt RT1) and Kyle Buxton (March 77B) came together in a racing incident that took both cars out of the race.
The safety car was out on track quickly, and both drivers were unhurt as their cars finally cleared with just minutes to spare in the timed event. With 10 laps completed and 7 under the safety car, the race was restarted. Polewinner Baker took the win and fastest lap at 1m 26.402s with Wade Carter finishing just .445s behind him in second.
De Vasconcelos’ Ralt was retired for the remainder of the weekend with a cracked transmission case, but he graciously loaned Gregory a front caliper that let him compete in Race 2 — such is the spirit of camaraderie in the Masters Historic paddock.
Masters Formula Atlantic Plus – Race 2
The final Masters Historic race of the was a smooth one for the Masters Atlantic Plus group, with Race 1 winner Danny Baker reeling off all 18 laps at the front of the field under steady pressure from Race 1 runner-up Wade Carter.
Baker also took fastest lap with a 1m 24.830s, but holds his competition in regard: “Wade being behind me keeps me moving … There’s no chance for me to take it easy so I tried to turn a qualifying lap every lap, and after the 15th lap I was just looking at the starter like, ‘Can you please throw the checkered flag? I’m beat!’
“I’d almost thrown the car away a couple of times—my rear [tires] had gone off. But it was super fun.”
Race 2 was free of safety cars but there were a few notable DNFs: Early on, Dwight Matheson (March 76B) felt a drop in power and retired the car on lap 4, while Steve Cook (Chevron B27) worked his way up to third, overtaking Romak and Willing when an exhaust leak forced him out of the running on lap 16.
Tom Minnich (Ralt RT4) battled for a spot in the top five with Chris Bender (March 76B) until the latter slid off the circuit three laps from the end at Turn 7. Minnich went on to finish fifth with Gregory’s Chevron behind in sixth.
Meanwhile, determination finally paid off for Gregory: “It finally was good today. Brakes held in there the whole [race]. I got to where I could see Tom and Chris, and Chris went off so I made up some time there at the end.”