Mazda MX-5 Drivers Take Opening Laps at Coronado
Sep. 21, 2013 - CORONADO, Calif. - Round Nine of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup got underway, officially, as the cars took to the 11-turn, 1.44-mile temporary airport course for Friday’s practice session.
James Vance navigates the Coronado Speed Festival circuit.
Due to a technical issue, official timing and scoring was not available. However, the 30-minute session was still beneficial for many of the competitors.
A total of 19 drivers got their first chance to drive the temporary course delineated by cones and traffic barrels. If just learning the course weren’t enough, the transitions between concrete and asphalt make this course much more challenging than a typical road course.
Three drivers have never seen this course before, making each practice lap that much more important. With only one hour of available track time for practice, every possible data point is at a premium.
James Vance, of Toronto, had his very first look at the track during the session at the controls of the No. 21 Exposystems MX-5. The team does have some minor repairs to make before tomorrow’s practice and qualifying sessions as he had a run in with a tire bundle that was off the designated course.
“Not being here before makes it a challenge,” Vance said. “With no simulator layout for this track, there’s no way to practice before you get here. By the end of the session we were running what I thought were pretty competitive times.
“We just have to keep working on it and try not to hit any more chicanes. We’ve got a sweet setup and we’ll be there. The front of the car is a little banged up right now, but an ugly car doesn’t always mean a slow car.”
Vance’s Speedcraft Racing teammate, George Jackson, of Houston, also had his first crack at navigating the course. While he was working on getting more experience on the unique course driving his No. 20 Pavecon MX-5, Jackson has no plans to let his competition get too far ahead.
“This is the first temporary course I’ve driven,” Jackson said. “It’s not the most sophisticated track I’ve raced, but it is fun. There’s a lot of surface variation mid-corner, and it will change the handling of the car.
“The guys that have been here before have a bit of a leg up, mainly because of they know the course layout. For me, the hard part is putting all the different aspects of a perfect lap together at once. While the surface it generally flat, there are cracks and other intricacies that can upset the car. I know I wasn’t the quickest that session, but with a little review, we should pick up some speed tomorrow.”
Patrick Gallagher, of Thornville, Ohio, is also driving the airport course for the first time. However, he has an advantage over his fellow rookie drivers as three of his teammates raced at Coronado last season.
“Coming here, I really didn’t know what to expect,” Gallagher said. “I’ve done a couple autocrosses back home, and wasn’t sure how I was going to like this course. It was actually a lot of fun, though. I was a little surprised at how much fun I ended up having.
“As far as temporary courses go, this is definitely the extreme. Because of the cones, the course can change from lap to lap. At times it seemed like a warzone, but the track is a lot of fun and it’s really great to be out here. It’s cool to be in front of all the military folks, and entertain them in appreciation for all they do for us.”
The cars of the Mazda MX-5 Cup return to the track on Saturday for a morning practice session at 7:30 a.m. (PDT) and are slated to qualify later in the day, starting at 12:55 p.m. (PDT). The lights extinguish, marking the start, for Round Nine, on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. (PDT).
Live timing and scoring will be available from the event page on MX-5Cup.com.
Follow the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup on Twitter @MazdaMX5Cup and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/48522898534.