Van der Zande looking to build on strong history at Laguna Seca

Ten years on from his first victory in IMSA competition at Laguna Seca, and with he and driving partner Sebastien Bourdais on a roll, Renger van der Zande is looking forward to returning to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca this weekend for the Motul Course de Monterey, the fourth round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

“Actually my first time coming racing in the U.S. was in Laguna Seca, and coming back there with some strong results in the past, it’s always a good feeling,” he said. “The favorite tracks of drivers are always the ones where they did well. And I think at Laguna Seca I have been doing well so far. So, much looking forward to being back there.”

Van der Zande took his first victory in IMSA in 2014, in the LMPC class, at the storied California circuit, so it’s naturally a favorite. He won there again in 2017 with Marc Goossens in a Ligier LMP2. It was also the site of the only 2023 victory for the No. 01 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R, although it came through stellar drives from both Bourdais and finisher van der Zande, with both having to make their way through the field toward the front.


“Winning last year and coming in second a few times, I’ve always done well there,” he continued. “Last year was actually one of the best races of my career, passing all those people on track – going from last to first – was spectacular. My mom was there for the first time in America and it was Mother’s Day and the picture was kind of perfect to do it that way. And 2017, when I made the move for the win, was very special as well.

“For me, winning there has been very special. I really enjoy it and that track has a special place in my heart. I’m looking forward to returning.”

His love affair with Laguna Seca actually began when he was young and he would drive it on his Playstation. It only heightened when he was able to race the track for real. He cites the elevation change, a favorite of many drivers, as part of the appeal. However, he less fondly remembers the time the loose parts of his harness flew up when he dropped into the Corkscrew, and the tightening loop caught the steering wheel, causing him to spin. But the section is still a favorite.

“I think with the new tarmac going down even faster through there, it’s just an incredible feeling you don’t get it anywhere else than at Laguna Seca,” he said.

“Even under the start finish and over that crest – they call it Turn 1, but for us, it’s flat – your legs are going up in the air a little bit, your knees are flying a little bit. It’s such a such an iconic track for for the elevation and you know, the little bankings that they have in those corners. If you make use of them in the right way, with the multi-class racing and the different track grips that during the race are changing, it’s really a fun track from a driver’s perspective to make a difference at. It’s very old school, and you have to be almost a little creative to to keep the pace up there.”

He and Bourdais hope to keep up their momentum that began with a second-place finish in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and progressed to a victory on the streets of Long Beach (van der Zande’s 20th in IMSA competition, and marking a victory in each of his 11 seasons). They’re second in the points behind Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Dane Cameron and Felipe Nasr, 1032 to 974.

Story originally appeared on Racer