Although this track is not lengthy, it holds a few other challenges. The course starts out with the Andretti hairpin and boasts 11 turns through the course. The most technical is The Corkscrew. After driving an upward slope to 929 feet, the cars then descend with a 18 percent drop (109 feet) through The Corkscrew, which is the most famous part of the track. There are many parts of The Corkscrew where things can go wrong: miss any part of the first turn and you are in the sand. Drop in too quickly and you can spin out on either side of the middle section. Come out of The Corkscrew too loose or too quickly and the sand once again will collect you.
When most cars go off course at this track, they are stuck in sand pits and require assistance getting out. During practice, the Subaru Road Racing Team (SRRT) #35 WRX STI Sedan, drove wide coming out of The Corkscrew in Turn 9 and went off into the sand. Skilled driving and the All-Wheel Drive of the Subaru pulled the car from being amongst those collected.
SRRT looked good through all the practices. They went out and posted the fastest lap to start out the qualifying session, which held up to place them in seventh to start the race. Overnight the team replaced the transmission and went out for practice the following morning with the third fastest lap. SRRT #35 was ready to challenge the other competitors.
Unfortunately, the team suffered some heavy damage from other competitors and had to retire from the race early.
SRRT brings an open and family atmosphere with them. I spent quite a bit of time talking with Jean Aquilante, wife of SRRT team principal Joe Aquilante. She told us how Joe first got into racing and how current SRRT driver Andrew Aquilante raced quarter midgets from the age of 10 until he outgrew that car.
Jean also said that within days of receiving the now-race-ready Subaru WRX STI Sedan, Andrew had that car completely taken apart. It is amazing how Andrew knows that car so intimately, and you can see the pride he takes in building the car. Read about his transformation of the #35 race car in Drive Performance Version 8.1 cover story.
The team tent is always a home away from home when covering a race with them.
Click here to view more images of SRRT at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.