Questions and answers with David Brabham, Simon Pagenaud and Marino Franchitti about Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Q. Laguna Seca, what is your favorite corner and why?
DAVID BRABHAM: I think the best corner for me is turn six. You go up over a slight brow and the car gets a little light. And then when you turn in you dip down and then you’ve got to make sure you don’t run off the road on the exit. It’s a great corner. My favorite isn’t the corkscrew, because I think it’s overrated.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I love the corkscrew corner. It’s obviously an incredible corner in America and famous all over the world. It’s just impressive to go into that corner. You can’t see anything and all of a sudden you’re going down just like a ski slope.
It’s an amazing feeling. And, again, you have to be very precise with what you do, and the approach of that corner is very special.
MARINO FRANCHITTI: I’m not sure of the numbers, but there’s a lefthander after the corkscrew downhill. And in these cars, we pull huge Gs through there. And the car, you have to have the steering exactly right as you go in the corner because no matter how much assistance you have, the car completely locks out then and there.
I just love that corner. It’s just so thrilling.
Q. What is the most challenging aspect of the Laguna Seca race?
DAVID BRABHAM: Well, for us the most challenging aspect is the weather. It gets quite cold. The tires drop down in temperature and pressure, and restarts are extremely difficult.
To keep the car on the track is not easy. I know that sounds strange, but when you’ve got cold tires, tire pressures are low on that particular track because it’s a very fine surface. It’s near impossible to go out quickly on your first lap.
SIMON PAGENAUD: The traffic is very challenging. You’ve got to get around the GT cars and the track is quite narrow, and you feel like it’s a street track.
It’s also dirty offline because the gravel traps are sand. So when it’s windy, you get sand on the track. And it is very easy to make a mistake.
I love that racetrack for the traffic, which is very intense.
MARINO FRANCHITTI: Most challenging aspect is the dust that surrounds the track. The sand gets pulled onto the track. Sometimes we have the track where it’s dry and you have a dry lane and you go out on slick tires but it’s wet off line, and that’s almost the feeling at Laguna Seca.
If you make any little errors on your line or you get off line, it really just sucks you into the dirt. And then it takes many laps to clean the tires up. So you’ve got to be very precise and stay on that one clean part of the track.
Q. What’s the secret to a good lap at Laguna?
DAVID BRABHAM: The secret to a good lap at Laguna is to treat it much like a street circuit. You’ve got to be so incredibly precise there. The very nature of the track makes the car push a little bit. The grip level is low. So you can’t overstep, but you’ve still got to push it.
SIMON PAGENAUD: It is to be very precise. And, again, you have to push yourself every corner to brake late, put the power down very early.
The rhythm of that track is amazing as a driver. You really feel like you’re pushing yourself to the limit.
MARINO FRANCHITTI: The secret to a good lap at Laguna is being very precise. Since the MotoGP went there, they flattened the curves. So you have to use some of them, but if you take too much, you pick up dust and it costs you time at the next corner.
So it’s very much about getting the flow right. And the corners in a lot of places lead into each other, so you have to have the momentum to go in and just be, like at most places, really precise.
Q. How do you think the Patrón Highcroft car will go against the opposition at Laguna Seca?
DAVID BRABHAM: I think like all other street circuits, I think the Patrón Highcroft Racing car will actually go very well – it will be a very strong race for us.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think Laguna should be the best track for us all year. It is very sweepy, a lot of corners, highspeed corners which should suit very well to our car. We’ve got a lot of downforce, very lightweight. That should be exactly what we need there.
MARINO FRANCHITTI: I think right there, judging on last year when the car was a P2 against the P1, it was there the whole way through the race and was very competitive overall, never mind just in the P2 class.
So I really expect that to be a very strong race for us, and I think it’s certainly one that we’d be very disappointed if we didn’t win.
Q. If you could make a change to the circuit, what would it be?
DAVID BRABHAM: In terms of the circuit, not a lot, to be honest. I’d like to have less of the dirt which is around, but obviously it’s kind of like in the desert a little bit. Sometimes that dirt comes across the track very easily with the GT cars and makes it quite tricky if you’re on the limit through the corner. But other than that, it’s a great circuit.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Absolutely nothing. Just the way it is is absolutely brilliant.
MARINO FRANCHITTI: I think I would go back to the original Laguna Seca lap where when you came down to Turn 1 it wasn’t so much a hairpin as a sweeping lefthander, and then you’re flat up to I think it’s 5, Turn 5. And I think that would be really fun to take it back to as it was in the old days.
Q. What’s your favorite Laguna Seca memory?
DAVID BRABHAM: I’ve had a few, actually. I won a championship there back in ’98, and I was having a great battle with Eric Bernard in the other Panoz and I had to dive down the inside after he’d just come out of the pits. And he had slightly colder tires than I did and I managed to get past him.
It was only probably ten laps before the end, and whoever won that race was winning the championship. It was a brilliant race and it was great to win that championship in that way.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think it is probably my battle with Tony Kanaan in 2008. We were battling with the same cars wheel to wheel going through traffic at night.
It was great to battle with him and show him some a good fight.
MARINO FRANCHITTI: That’s a tough one. I think it was the first time I drove around there in the dark, because there’s no ambient light around and it’s completely pitch black. It was very eerie but quite exciting to drive around there and in the dark, and I really look forward to that again.
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