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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Watching Brumos at Laguna

Andrew Davis in the Brumos #59 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup said what he liked best about starting in the Grand Touring class on the pole was looking at all the cars in him mirrors and they kept getting smaller and smaller.

            It felt like returning to the warm and welcoming embrace of good friends. After a seven-week sprint to finish a Corvette history, I needed a Porsche racing fix. I charged the batteries in my cameras, blew the dust off my long lenses, and headed up to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to return to Porsche Racing History—this time, made live in front of my eyes.
            The Rolex Grand-Am Series came to Laguna on July 9 after missing the West Coast venues in 2010. The crowd and the racers were glad to see one another again. Some racing fans criticize the Daytona Prototypes for having a confusing sameness about them, although with the variety of engines—Porsche, Ford, Chevrolet, and BMW V-8s that powered them—the cars certainly sounded different.
            But it was the cars a bit further back in the field, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars competing in the Grand Touring class, that pulled me from quiet Santa Barbara to gloriously noisy Monterey.
To summarize the race succinctly, the Brumos team out of Jacksonville, Florida, always a formidable racing operation with a huge, important history running Porsches, did not disappoint. Covering the race for Excellence magazine’s website, gave me a purpose beyond the longer historical view I’ve been taking since starting this bigger project. It also gave me the excuse to spend time in the Brumos pits, watching and photographing people I will interview later this year for the book.
            I’ll make the two-hour-forty-five minute long race story short; the battle came down to what became a short sprint race after a full-course yellow on lap 88 of the scheduled 107-lap contest. The circuit went green again on lap 95 and seconds later another car went off, throwing the entire track under yellow immediately. A quicker clean-up got racing started again on lap 99, and Brumos team members watched driver Leh Keen with a mix of excitement and dread. Regulations introduced four races earlier reduced the fuel tank capacity by nearly 15 percent, enough that during full-green flag race, teams needed a third pit stop for fuel. Those 11 tours under yellow came late in the race and drivers lapped at an average 50-some miles per hour instead of racing at nearly 90 miles per hour. Keen crossed the finish first in Grand Touring. He and co-driver Andrew Davis added another Porsche victory to the more than 28,000 that I’m going to have to write about in this book.

Brumos co-drivers Leh Keen, left, and Andrew Davis share in the thrill of victorty at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday, July 9, 2011. Keen and Davis won Grand Touring class in the Rolex Grand-Am series event at Laguna.

            One of those in the pits through it all was Brumos and Porsche racing legend, Hurley Haywood. Winning co-driver Andrew Davis summed up what it meant to work with Haywood: “To have Hurley as our mentor is tough. Because he’s done it all. He’s won a hundred races. He’s set a hundred lap records. He’s taken a hundred poles. Or more!” It also means that when Haywood tells the Brumos drivers something now, it’s because he’s experienced it before.
            Hurley Haywood’s contribution to Porsche Racing History is one more element of what this project is about. So is the second 2011 season GT victory that Keen and Davis earned for Brumos in California. As one observer said, “It’s great to see the Brumos colors on a 911 again.”
            The interview list grows. The database expands. It’s really good to be back.
            Stay tuned.


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