There are two specific moments in a race weekend which seem to carry the most weight: when the green flag drops and when the checkered flag waves to signal the end of the day.
At the California 8 Hours it was Honda Team Motul and their Acura NSX which started the race on pole and, eight hours later, a series newcomer took the checkered flag after covering a record-setting 731.82 miles (1,177.75 kilometers) at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. While I will dedicate a future post to a good look around the pits – as well one for a gallery of shots throughout the day – I first wanted to take a quick look at the intricacies of these two emotion-filled moments.
In many obvious ways, they’re complete opposites from each other: a beginning and an end.
I’ve mostly been focusing on historic racing as of late, but there’s a different type of excited tension in the air at a proper points-earning race like the Calfornia 8 Hours. The teams, which travelled from around the globe for the Intercontinental GT Challenge series race, are here for one thing: to win.
Drivers, mechanics, and the pit crew seem calm enough beforehand, but everyone’s at least a little bit on edge. Meanwhile, photographers rushed to their first locations as everyone waited for the pack to come around the corner for the first time.
Safety car laps done and dusted, you could hear as the GT3 and GT4 racers opened their throttles through the main straight for their rolling start, rounding the first corner into the braking zone for the Andretti Hairpin.
The KCMG Nissan R35 GT-R got the jump on the pole-sitting Acura NSX, earning the driver his choice of line through the first turn. Behind him, organized chaos unfolded as cars entered Turn 2 three-wide, clamoring for position.
It seemed a miracle that no contact was made in the first lap, and in quick order the teams lined up in tidy rows. This didn’t at all mean the overtaking was done with, and although the KMCG Nissan was able to turn their quick start into a several seconds lead over the course of a few laps the race was far from over — 7 hours and 56 minutes were left, to be exact.
A few spots back there was plenty of vying around for position and cars were found running hardly a meter apart through 100mph turns all through the eight-hour race. The opening laps were finished, with several teams jumping spots, better setting themselves up for a winning weekend some hours later.
Through eight tiring hours of pit stops, mechanical failure, and fatigue, a race winner emerged, but only just. Only 20 seconds separated the top three, with the team finishing eleventh just two laps behind — the top four GT3 cars completed 327 laps.
It was the HubAuto Corsa team’s Ferrari 488 GT3 that came out on top, flipping positions with the Park Place Motorsports 911 GT3-R during the fifth pit stop. The Porsche ultimately fell into the hands of the Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing, who rounded off the podium in third and second, respectively.
The cars rolled into parc fermé with the leaders assuming positions in front of the podium. I love getting up close to race-weathered cars like this, there are just so many incredible details left on the car from the race.
Later, they would all need to pass a post-race inspection, of course, but this wasn’t where the emotion from the race could be seen.
I’m fairly certain everyone was supposed to remain behind the stanchions, but as the drivers pulled in and removed themselves from their cockpits all pandemonium broke loose. The defining moments were over with, and the emotions everyone had been suppressing all day long came out.
Relief, disappointment, and outright excitement — there was at least a little bit of everything on the podium as the champagne sprayed.
“It’s HubAuto’s first time here, so it’s a massive credit to our engineering group and team for slowly chipping away through the week and putting together what they needed to do,” said Nick Foster, one of the drivers for the winning team. It’s also notable this victory came in the teams second entry to the Intercontinental GT Challenge.
As such, extra congratulations are due to the whole group, including of course the three fastest drivers of the weekend over eight hours for their impressive performance behind the wheel of the HubAuto Ferrari: Tim Slade, Nick Foster, and Miguel Molina.
There’s so much more to a race like this than simply the beginning and the end, so I’ll be back soon with a bit more action from the California 8 Hours.
Trevor Yale Ryan
Additional Photos by Sara Ryan