New colors, flying laps and tricky grip: What to watch for at IMSA’s Motul Course de Monterey

Tribute liveries at Laguna

There are a couple of special liveries for the Motul Course de Monterey this weekend, both of which harken back to greats of the past.

The “Champion’s Spirit” liveries worn by the two Ford Multimatic Motorsports GTD PRO-class Mustang GT3s celebrates some of Mustang’s most iconic moments in sports car racing. The multi-color design pays tribute to the 1970 Boss 302 Mustangs as well as other Mustang Trans-Am winners, and IMSA winners such as Roush’s GTO cars of the ’80s.

Pfaff Motorsports has adorned its No. 9 McLaren 720S GT3 EVO with a special red-and-white scheme courtesy of sponsor Motul to honor Ayrton Senna 30 years after his death at Imola. Senna’s three Formula 1 world championships came in red-and-white McLaren MP4s.


Mustang GT3s carry FIA-approved improvements

A few days before on-track action began at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and at Spa-Francorchamps for the World Endurance Championship, the FIA approved some modifications for the Ford Mustang GT3s aimed at reliability. Teams running the cars discovered that in certain aero situations not encountered in testing, the rear decklid could buckle and even blow off the car. The Mustang GT3s running in the WeatherTech Championship this weekend carry the improved parts, including a more secure diffuser and a decklid with extra supports and additional latches on the forward attachment points.

Lots of grip — on line

New lap records for every class in qualifying — by seconds — show that the newly repaved Laguna Seca has a ton of grip. But as teams discovered at the recently repaved Road America last year, that doesn’t carry over to the areas outside the racing line. It’s not that the asphalt offline has less grip, but marbles, gravel and sand make the difference rather remarkable — and treacherous.

A couple of drivers who placed well in Saturday’s two-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge offered their opinion on how tough it is to move off the racing line to make a pass.

There’s plenty of grip to be had from the new surface…on the racing line, at least. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

“Offline? Oh boy… offline was sketchy,” said Daniel Morad, who finished third in GS with Bryce Ward in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes AMG GT4. “There’s so much debris and stones offline it’s really tricky. With the increased grip level, it’s just so treacherous because if you put a wheel off and you go onto the stones, the drop-off is insane. So you really need to drive a single-track racing line. It’s fast but definitely requires precision.”

“You’ve got to be really careful when you do that on a high-speed corner,” explained Stevan McAleer, who finished second with Trent Hindman in the No. 28 RS1 Porsche 718 GT4 RS CS. “You know, the low-speed stuff, I think so many people misjudge their braking zones that they probably shoved the marbles a little wider than typical, so you can always explore on the low-speed stuff. [Turns] 3, 4, 5, 6… man, you’re risking it if you try and turn it in too late, or if you’re side by side. It’ll be a big learning curve for somebody that tries to go side by side through there.

Stevan McAleer’s Pilot Challenge experience of the new racing surface in race conditions changed his mind about it – in a good way. Jake Galstad/Lumen

“It’s a great track. I was a little disappointed to hear about the repave because the tire deg was so fun; but every word I just said… I changed my mind. This place is wild with a new surface. So definitely up there as one of my favorites now.”

McAleer will carry the knowledge gained on Saturday into today’s WeatherTech Championship race, where he’s teamed with Sheena Monk in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo22.

Viscaal dives into the deep end

Bent Viscaal is taking on his first race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, his first race outside of Europe and his first time in an LMDh car — all at once. Brought in by Proton Competition to drive the No. 5 Porsche 963 with Gianmaria Bruni, the Dutch driver who has raced well with PREMA in LMP2 is getting a trial by fire as well as sensory overload.

“It’s quite a lot different compared to Europe,” he said after qualifying the 963 last in the GTP field, but still within 0.9s of the pole. “It feels very relaxed in the paddock. The racing seems of a very high level, so it’s a good mixture of all things. The track is amazing as well — the Corkscrew and all the blind corners, they are pretty awesome. Combining it with the first time in an LMDh in general is quite a tough one to digest, but I’m really loving it so far.”

Drive time

The minimum drive time for GTD is 45 minutes of the 2h40m race. GTP and GTD PRO minimum drive times are 10 minutes.

Tire allocation

The GTP teams have three sets of medium Michelin tires for qualifying and race, out of six sets for the weekend. GTD PRO and GTD have six sets for the weekend.

How to watch

The Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N is scheduled for a green flag at 3:10pm ET. NBC will carry live coverage of the race beginning at 3pm ET, which will also stream on Peacock. The race will be live on and; SiriusXM live race coverage begins at 3pm ET (XM 206, Web/App 996).

Story originally appeared on Racer