Leh Keen and Eric Lux used their strong qualifying positions to good advantage as they ran in the in the top four throughout the opening 45 minutes of the Verizon Festival of Speed at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Keen had a fantastic battle with pole sitter Nick Ham as Keen’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup traded the lead with Ham’s Mazda. Meanwhile Lux was putting the pressure on in his fight with Bryce Miller’ Mazda for third. The two Farnbacher Loles cars were the only Porsches in the top eight at that point.
As the race neared the 90-minute mark, and the Porsche’s rear tires started to show the effects of the warm temperatures, Keen’s 87 was overtaken by Robin Liddell’s Pontiac and soon came under by Paul Edwards in another Pontiac.
With about an hour left in the race, both Lux and Keen made their pit stops for driver changes and much-needed tires. Dirk Werner took over for Leh in the #87 and rejoined the race in sixth place. Eric handed the #86 over to Kevin Roush, who was filling in for Wolf Henzler. Roush came out in the eighth spot.
A prolonged caution period bunched up the field and Werner took full advantage of the restart by passing Spencer Pumpelly to move into the third spot while Roush picked up a spot to take seventh.
Another yellow again bunched the field and the green flag fell with only 18 minutes to go. The top four cars in the GT Class were running nose to tail and began an exciting battle to the finish. Sylvain Tremblay led the class in the #70 Mazda, Paul Edwards ran second in the #07 Pontiac, followed by Werner in third and Pumpelly in fourth. Werner was heavily pressuring Edwards in the Pontiac and looking to take the second spot. Both drivers were driving at the limit, turning some of the fastest laps of the race. They would fight right to the end, with Dirk and Leh getting a well-earned podium spot. Eric Lux and Kevin Roush took eighth place to keep Eric right in the thick of the points race.
After the race, Werner was exhausted, but glad for their second straight podium. The strong finish seriously tightens the point race. After four rounds, Keen and Werner now sit only one point out of first place.
‘We are very happy with the performance of drivers,’ said team principal Gregory Loles, ‘as they really pushed in pretty hot conditions. But the Mazda was able to pull away at will, so winning here wasn’t possible. We’ll be patient to hear what will be done before the next race in terms of adjustments.’
The series now heads to upstate New York for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International on June 6.