By Mitchell Weitzman
The 2016 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship continues its tour of California this weekend with the Continental Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda, at the storied Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. While the M6 GTLM remains winless thus far this season, the new turbocharged challenger sees the return to a venue of considerable success for BMW Team RLL, who scored a sweeping 1-2 finish at Laguna Seca last year. It’s not to say the M6 has been off the pace so far this year, scoring two poles at Sebring and Long Beach in the hands of endurance veteran Bill Auberlen; the first win will surely come sooner that later. New competition from Ford’s new GT racing car as well as Ferrari’s new, and also turbocharged, 488 GTE has made the always competitive GTLM even that much closer. Also don’t forget the Corvettes and Porsches that remain as challenging as ever, with the #4 Corvette winning the Florida pair of enduros. Laguna Seca should be a good fit for the larger, F12-based racer, being able to use the wide, sweeping corners of the Salinas hills to it’s benefit. It’s surprising and a real testament to the speed potential of the M6 GTLM that it was able to score a pole at the tight Long Beach street circuit despite it’s size disadvantage compared to smaller, mid-engined American and Italian rivals. In GTD, Turner Motorsport will field a pair of M6 GT3s as well, making it a 4xM6 assault.
Interestingly enough, the race weekend will be split into two separate two-hour sprint races, the first featuring the Prototype and GTLM classes, with the second the Prototype Challenge and GTD classes. Race one starts at 11:15 a.m. PT Sunday the 1st with Race 2 following at 3:45 p.m. PT. A 3 day pass to see all events is $90 a ticket, with a Sunday pass coming in at $70. Supporting races include the one-make Lamborghini Super Trofeo Series, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the Mazda MX-5 Cup. For those that have not been to Laguna Seca, it’s well worth the trip to the scenic Monterey Peninsula. I highly recommend climbing all the way to the top of the famed ‘corkscrew’ as well as viewing from the hill above the Andretti Hairpin, turn 2, giving a great look at drivers overtaking under heavy braking.