For the sixth time since 2016, Nan and I went to Laguna Seca Raceway on May 13th and 14th to watch Corvette Racing. Unlike every prior year, this time we were missing Don, Shirley, and Bill Athas.
As in recent years, we drove the Z06 the 400 miles from our house to the racetrack. This year, we broke up the drive by stopping in Paso Robles on Friday night -- we enjoy the town, its wineries, and the scenery (and we would be returning to Paso Robles in a few weeks with Canon -- so this was a trial run). That strategy made it possible for us to arrive at the Corvette Corral early on Saturday morning so that we could take advantage of all the activities.
The Laguna Seca race has been traditionally held in September, but the IMSA people changed the schedule to allow the IMSA teams to stay on the West Coast for the Long Beach race, followed by the Laguna Seca race. We had been at the Long Beach race just four weeks earlier.
This was the 25th straight year that Corvette Racing was at the Laguna Seca track. After finishing P2 at Long Beach, we were hopeful for a good showing in Monterey on Sunday.
The first stop was to get our goodie bags.
Next, we spent time drooling over the same red C8 Z06 that we saw one month ago at Long Beach. I asked one of the attendants if Nan couldn't just drive this car home? We didn't get a satisfactory answer.
We made our rounds to the exhibits and vendors, then stopped by the pits to check on the preparation of the Corvette C8R.
Besides the race, our favorite activity at the Corral is meeting with, and talking to, the Corvette engineers and program managers to learn as much as we can about the new mid-engine Corvette. Over the years, Harlan Charles – Product Manager, Tadge Juechter – Executive Chief Engineer, and Josh Holder – Vehicle Chief Engineer have spent time with us sharing important information. This year we met Devon Blue – Program Manager.
Nan is concerned about the lack of rear visibility in the C8 convertible. Tadge and Devon explained the nuances of the rear view "mirror" -- which on the LT2 and LT3 cars is actually a camera and not a mirror!
As the day turned into evening, and the track got quiet, we drove the short distance to our hotel. Customarily we would do that with Don and Shirley, but tonight it was just the two of us. We stayed at the beautiful Hyatt Regency Monterey, located on the Del Monte Golf course. We were able to walk the grounds then enjoyed a nice dinner at the hotel.
As Saturday night turned to Sunday morning we checked out of our hotel and returned to the track, early enough to be among the first arrivals. The weather had turned foggy overnight and the usually noisy track was eerily quiet.
We spent time visiting with the nice people we always find at the Corvette Corral and checking out all the C8 Corvettes for options that we liked. Happily, Doug Fehan stopped by for a brief visit -- Just like old times!
Finally the weather cleared and the race was on. Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia have struggled all season to be competitive in a year in which IMSA has made an "exception" for Corvette Racing's entry, but saddled them with BOP limitations (I'll write more on this as the season draws to a close). But the Corvette team is always pushing, and we were hopeful for a good result. Although they qualified 5th, they were just 4 tenths of a second behind the pole winner.
We love watching the race from various vantage points -- the "corkscrew", the hairpin at turn #2, the elevation change leading up to the Corkscrew, and the final turns as the cars head back down the hill to the start/finish line.
Driving first, Jordan Taylor quickly moved up to 4th place, then an excellent pit stop catapulted the Corvette two spots to second place. When the leading Porsche was penalized for leaving the pit lane with the pit exit closed, the #3 Corvette was leading the race at the one hour mark. During the next pit stop Garcia replaced Taylor, and took on full fuel and four tires. Unfortunately, the Aston Martin exited in first place because they took less fuel and no tires. It was Aston Martin - Corvette in tight contention for the lead right up to near the end of the race when disaster struck for both teams. During the final full-course yellow, the Aston Martin, the GTD PRO leader, went around the Safety Car -- a penalty, and unfortunately, Antonio followed! Antonio -- what were you thinking? You would have won the race easily!! The race ended in a frustrating 4th place finish for the Corvette
Nan and I packed the Z06 and made a non-stop drive back to Carlsbad, arriving before bed time. We passed the time looking at the central coast vineyards, hills, and oak trees, and playing "name that tune and artist" for the 50's and 60's songs emitted from the Sirius XM radio.
We had traveled 861 miles in three days -- which got us prepared for our next Corvette adventure -- a Corvette Caravan to the Black Hills Corvette Classic.
It was a nice time, but it just wasn't the same without Shirley, Don, and Bill. 😢