MORE ON DEMPSEY'S DEBUT – Patrick Dempsey's debut in P2 is one of the bigger stories this weekend. The team's Lola Judd completed its shakedown only last weekend at Miller Motorsports Park but showed impressive pace in the first practice sessions, largely with Jonny Cocker at the wheel.
Cocker, who starred with Drayson Racing when the team advanced into prototypes with a similar P1-spec Lola Judd at the end of 2009 and the full 2010 season, said he'd only got the call roughly four or five days before Monterey to race as the team's third driver.
Dempsey's team is also unique in that it's the only P2 squad running on Michelin tires, while the four other entries race on Dunlops. Dempsey said that as much as this race is learning about handling traffic, it also will be intriguing to see what difference there is between the two tire manufacturers within the class.
MAZDA'S BUSY WEEKEND – It may only have one car, the Dyson Racing Lola B12/60 coupe in the field, but Mazda has rolled out a series of announcements at its “home race” this weekend.
To start, Thursday, Mazda announced it has committed to another five years of naming rights sponsorship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The two organizations began their relationship in 2001.
“We first fell in love with this track and the Monterey peninsula as fans in the 1970s and '80s when Mazda was new to the U.S. and we were establishing our name with the American public and race fans,” said Jay Amestoy, vp of public affairs and motorsports for Mazda North American Operations.
To boot, Mazda is also working with the SPCA for Monterey County to promote “The SPCA goes to the races.” More information can be found on the SPCA's main page, event page and Facebook page. Mazda was kind enough to even name one dog in RACER's honor, “RACER,” a one-year-old Jack Russell terrier pup.
AROUND THE PADDOCK – Two PC class teams, Merchant Services Racing, and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, have new liveries this weekend. Merchant Services shifts from the white and orange display which has been on its two cars to a more vibrant white and yellow combination that should stand out.
PR1's No. 52 car and its traditional blue, black and white now is primarily white, blue and yellow in deference to sponsors Quest Software and Aviation Gin.
RACER and Team Falken Tire will be hosting a tweetup at 9 a.m. Saturday morning at RACER's tent in the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca infield. A tweetvite invitation can be found here. Register for a chance to win prizes and swag.
Some of the support races this weekend have been fairly interesting. The Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup race held Friday morning saw MAZDASPEED Shootout winner Elliott Skeer record his first victory; RACER's own associate publisher Steve Bottom finished a career-best sixth, and Kenton Koch won the Skip Barber Pro Challenge with a finish of seventh overall.
Randy Pobst scored the SCCA Pirelli World Challenge win over Alex Figge and Andy Pilgrim. Pilgrim, of course, provided the hot lap for me on Thursday in his Cadillac CTS-V two-seater.
Stay tuned to RACER's Facebook and Twitter pages for more updates from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca throughout the rest of the weekend.