After over 8 years of trying, Team Sahlen has achieved that long awaited victory in the ROLEX GT class. And to put a punctuation on the victory, the team accomplished this feat at Mazda's home track of Mazda Raceway - Laguna Seca.
The weekend started off with Team Sahlen doing their usual diligent work during test day to find the optimal set up balance for the undulating Monterrey, California based circuit. This effort was rewarded as practice day started with a Tops on the time chart during Practice Session #3. In Qualifying, Team Sahlen lined up 8th, 15th and 17th on the grid. A comfortable to be in, but nothing to foretell what was to come on race day.
"I was happy, but far from satisfied with the Qualifying position we were in for the race. Last year we were on the outside of the front row, so to have sunk back to 8th on the grid was a bit disconcerting, even if that placed us a the top Mazda on the grid." - Shared #43 qualifier Wayne Nonnamaker
At the start of the race, all three Team Sahlen Mazdas (#43, #42 & #49) survived the early lap chaos to survive to the 1st yellow at 20 minutes into the race. At this early point in the race, the #43 that was positioned 5th in class stayed out rising up to 4th after the pit stops. The #42 & #49 both pitted to strategize on a topped off tank, while those ahead would be dealing with pitting earlier then.
Another yellow soon followed at the 45 minute mark. At this time, the #43 pitted, and Dane Cameron jumped into finish the race. #49 also made a return visit to the pits to have Will Nonnamaker relieve Joe Sahlen in the middle stint of the race.
As the race continued forward, the #43 Team Sahlen Mazda kept plugging along, surpassing one GT competitor after another. Then all of a sudden, Dane Cameron found himself in the lead. Also discovering that Dane was in the lead was the SPEED TV cameras, that focused upon the RX-8 as it streaked around the twisty circuit for many profile sequences during the 2ndhave of the telecast.
Then as fuel strategy and pit stops unfolded, the lead in GT bounced back and forth, until eventually all stops were completed. At that point, the #43 Team Sahlen was out in front, not to be eclipsed in the run to the checkered flag. Victory at last in the GT class by Team Sahlen After 8 years of