Cadillac proves too good at Laguna Seca


MONTEREY, Calif. – Race day is the day that counts, as the old adage goes. Cadillac Racing proved that once again Sunday at the Motul Course de Monterey Powered By Hyundai N at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

After a slow start to the weekend with Sebastien Bourdais suffering a braking issue that sent the No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R into a crash at Turn 6 during Friday’s practice session, Bourdais, co-driver Renger van der Zande and their Chip Ganassi Racing crew regrouped and put together a perfect race day to take their first win of the 2023 season in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition.

Van der Zande ran second when racing resumed with 41 minutes remaining following the final full-course caution of the two-hour, 40-minute contest. He powered to the outside of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac driven by Alexander Sims through Turns 3 and 4 before edging ahead up the hill leading to the Rahal Straight.

The bright yellow No. 01 Cadillac was never again headed as the final segment of the race ran green to the finish. Van der Zande built a lead as large as 5.5 seconds before Nick Tandy in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 cut it in half as the two GTP class prototypes negotiated traffic. But he was never seriously challenged, crossing the line 3.882 seconds ahead of the Porsche shared by Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet.

The win culminated a tumultuous start to the ’23 campaign for Bourdais and van der Zande. After opening the season on the podium at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the duo failed to finish the last two races in the WeatherTech Championship. In addition, van der Zande’s Cadillac suffered a heavy crash on April 29 at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium during an FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) event that Cadillac Racing was using as a warm-up in preparation for participation in next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

So, it’s no surprise that the Ganassi crew erupted with joy as the No. 01 claimed its first top-class IMSA race win in nearly eleven months.

“Coming from a big shunt in Spa to win this race, that’s what you call highs and lows, or lows and highs,” said van der Zande after his 19th career victory in IMSA competition. “Our guys have been putting in so much effort. It’s days and nights – they’re not sleeping much.

“It’s amazing to pay it off with a win like this.”

Bourdais admitted that Cadillac Racing and all of the competing manufacturers in the GTP class are still learning about the high-tech, hybrid-powered prototypes. That led to his Friday accident.

But the 11-time winner in IMSA competition had confidence in his team. The Laguna Seca win lifted Bourdais and van der Zande from sixth to fourth in the championship standings, 72 points behind leaders Jaminet and Tandy.

“I think everybody knows how challenging the last couple of months have been,” Bourdais said. “It’s never fun to go through those phases, but opportunity is part of racing. It’s something you have to pull through, and obviously the whole group was starting to lose a little bit of spirit.

“So, it’s really good that we finally get our head out of it with a win like this today.”

After locking up the front row in qualifying, the Porsche team immediately lost that advantage when both Jaminet in the No. 6 and Motul Pole Award winner Matt Campbell in the No. 7 car locked their brakes into the Andretti Hairpin at the start, falling to third and seventh respectively. The No. 7 car never recovered, eventually finishing eight laps down and last in the GTP class.

Tandy took the final restart in fourth place, and at that juncture, he thought he could take the second consecutive race win for the No. 6. But van der Zande immediately passed Sims and built a cushion.

Renger just drove well,” said Tandy. “He got the track position early and built a gap whilst I was getting past the other guys. But I think the two cars leading at the end were clearly the fastest in the field.

“Another great GTP race,” he continued. “Another different winner, but through all this, we’re consistently scoring points with the No. 6 car, which I’m really proud of. We’re getting the most out of our package every week, and whether we’re slow or we’re fast, we seem to be scoring points.”

Added Jaminet: “All in all it was a pretty eventful day, but when you come home P2 and extend the lead in the championship, it’s a great day.”

Sims and Pipo Derani finished third in the No. 31 Cadillac, while Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque (No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06) and Phillipp Eng and Augusto Farfus (No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8) rounded out the top five.

The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, June 22-25. The 6-hour contest at Watkins Glen International is the third of four races in the 2023 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup.