WeatherTech Laguna Seca Raceway, USA

MONTEREY PRE-REUNION
07 – 08 August 2021

RACE REPORTS

Masters Endurance Legends USA – Race 1
Pit Stop Timing Propels Romak to Masters Historic Legends Race 1 Victory; Nearburg Tops GT Competition

The first race of the day for the Masters Endurance Legends run group at the Monterey Pre-Reunion saw Stephen Romak emerge victorious in a 40-minute sprint where pit strategy became a crucial factor. Charles Nearburg, who won the earlier Historic Formula One Race 1, was the top driver in the GT category.

The early part of the race had great action up front with Spencer Trenery taking the early lead and being reeled in by the No. 09 2009 Coyote Corvette DP driven by William Hubbell and Eric Curran. Before the Visit Florida entry could make a pass, a yellow flag was caused by teammate No. 90 Dante Tornello who spun at Turn 3.

The race got interesting with a handful of drivers pitting before their window and receiving 40-second penalties and two such drivers receiving drive-through penalties for jumping the start.

“Our pit window is between 15 and 25 minutes in,” said Romak. “The Visit Florida car spun outside of Turn 3, so they put out the double yellows since it was in a bad spot and took the pace car off. It was still not our pit window. Danny [Baker] got into his pit a lap early. As soon as the window opened up, we went in and he got the penalty.”

Despite accumulating 80 seconds worth of penalties, Nearburg was able to capture the top spot among the GT cars, finishing sixth overall in the No. 4 2007 Chevrolet Corvette CR6. David Alvarado (Porsche) and Plucinsky (BMW) gave their respective marks hope in the early going before Nearburg worked his way to the front and pulled away.

Meanwhile, Romak ran toward the front but trailed Spencer Trenery’s No. 15 Riley DP MkXI until Trenery went into the pit with issues that eventually forced him to retire.

“I think the exhaust came apart,” said Trenery. “I pulled in and had it looked at, and I think it melted some plug wires. Maybe we could have sent it back out there, but we also have to think about having another race this afternoon and the event next weekend. We came into the race with a good plan until that happened. We’ll sort it out and be back out there.”

Romak took the checkered flag and was joined by second-place Travis Engen and third-place Danny Baker, who fought his way back into the lead lap after early adversity with his pit stop.

“This is fun,” emphasized Romak. “The car works really nice. Spencer was quick — I didn’t know what happened to him. We came in when the pits were open, put our two minutes in, and had some fun.”

Masters Endurance Legends USA – Race 2
Romak Scores Dominant Overall Race 2 Win in Masters Endurance Legends; Plucinsky Brings BMW the GT Victory

Race 2 of Masters Historic Endurance Legends concluded the racing action at the 2021 Monterey Pre-Reunion at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. The 40-minute race came to a close with Stephen Romak scoring a dominant overall victory — his second of the day — and Thomas Plucinsky carrying the BMW banner to the GT win. The race was completed without any flags breaking the action.

Romak speaks of his 2011 Pescarolo Morgan with the same newfound enthusiasm a child might hold for a recently-unwrapped Christmas gift. After acquiring the long-sought-after Prototype last December and shaking it down under less-than-ideal conditions, he found his groove with the track time provided this weekend.

“It’s on rails,” said an elated Romak. “It’s fantastic. It’s clicking away laps. It was as quick as the other [Formula One] car but way less work. You just listen and count gears — up two, down 1, up 3, down 2 — and it was real consistent every lap. We ran on medium compounds this afternoon, and it was just stuck. It was a really nice weekend for us to be out here.”

Romak, to the possible delight of his competitors who hope to take the checkered flag next weekend, is one of the few participants at the Monterey Pre-Reunion who won’t also be attending the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.

Only two other cars finished on the lead lap. Spencer Trenery valiantly returned from the mechanical issues that plagued his chances in Race 1 to come up from the back of the field and finish second. Danny Baker, whose No. 34 2011 Oreca FLM02 LMP2 posted the quickest individual lap times next to Romak’s, continued to have bad luck during the race with a spin on Turn 11 of the second lap that set him back. However, Baker continued on and worked his way up to third.

William Hubbel (fourth) and Travis Engen (fifth) finished the race one lap down. Pit strategy didn’t have a large effect as all of the mandated two-minute stops were completed in the window under green-flag conditions.

The sixth overall driver was GT leader Plucinsky. Plucinsky was beaming after a great drive in the No. 56 2011 BMW M3 GT that bested the other full-bodied marques. A representative of BMW North America, Plucinsky is happy to fly the company banner in a solid outing that precedes a celebration of the M3 and M4 models at this coming week’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.

“It was fantastic out there,” said Plucinsky. “It is great to be here. The Masters setup is really great. The 40-minute races really give you a bit of a workout in the car. It’s a blast. It’s fun having the Prototypes pass you and getting a chance to pass other cars out there. You have to be on your mirrors all the time, but that’s part of the fun of having a multiclass group which is authentic to when this car originally raced.

“This is the year of the M3 and M4. We just launched the sixth generation of the car and have one here in the paddock. We’re here this year to celebrate everything M3. We brought two E92 M3s, which are fourth generation. We’ll have an E46 M3 that was a Grand Am winner in 2004. We’ll have a DTM car from Europe here for display. We’re going to unveil the brand new M4 GT3 to North America. It will be a weekend of lots of M3 and M4. That’s why we’re here. The BMW fans love to see these cars running here, and that’s why we do it.”

Masters Historic Formula One USA – Race 1
Nearburg Pulls Aways for Race 1 Victory in Historic Formula One

The first of two Masters Historic Formula One races contested on the closing day of the Monterey Pre-Reunion featured polesitter Charles Nearburg taking the runaway victory. The Dallas resident found a groove with the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca circuit that produced consistently quicker laps for the first half of the race until he was able to sit comfortably on a lead of more than seven seconds with his No. 27 Williams FW07C.

“The mentality is not to let up,” said Nearburg, of running up front with a gap. “You can short-shift a little bit, but if you start letting up on your braking points and how you come of the corners, then you get sloppy. You try to maintain the corner speed and accelerate off the corners, otherwise your brain can tend to disengage which is when you can make a mistake and look like the village idiot.”

Positions swapped behind Nearburg with Cal Meeker making a remarkable run from P5 all the way up to P2 in the No. 14 1979 Tyrell 009. Meeker passed Bud Moeller by Lap 2 to take the fourth position. On Lap 5, he overtook Stephen Romak and set his target on Martin Lauber. Lauber, who ultimately finished on the final podium step, could only hold off the hard-charging Meeker until Lap 7.

Meeker made up a small bit of ground on the leader with a clean track in front of him in the closing laps but will have to wait until Race 2 to see how he matches up with Nearburg at the front of the grid. Meeker received some well-earned kudos from his team upon return to the paddock.

“It was just a beautiful race,” said Meeker. “These guys are so much fun to race with from the last guy to the fastest guy. The car is running great with the guys at J&L [Fabrication] doing a great job. I’m just happy to be here. It’s a fresh restoration that we’ve ran a couple times, so I’m getting used to it again. It’s a lot of fun.

“I don’t know what the other guys’ opinions are, but it felt like the track was rubbering up again and getting nicer and nicer. We have to turn this car a little faster and adjust your driving style. I think that was the key today.”

All 16 entrants completed the race with 13 of 16 finishing on the lead lap. With some shuffling of the grid order and all cars having a clean bill of health, Race 2 promises some great battles.

“I think the second race is going to be a lot more challenging,” added Nearburg. “I noticed Cal worked his way up to second. He’ll be coming, I know. That’s a good driver in a good car.”

Masters Historic Formula One USA – Race 2
Meeker Capitalizes on Opportunity to Win Race 2 of Masters Historic Formula One at Monterey Pre-Reunion

Cal Meeker had momentum on his side heading into Race 2 of Masters Historic Formula One. Not only did he drive his way to the front row of the grid by moving up from fifth position to second in Race 1, but he was also just minutes removed from victory in the previous run group where his 1973 Lola T294 won against other historic cars that competed in the FIA Manufacturers Championship.

As well as he was performing behind the wheel of the No. 14 1979 Tyrrell 009, he was processing the achievement of a second-place finish after chasing Race 1 winner Charles Nearburg for the good part of nine laps until a rare mishap on the famed Corkscrew turn opened the window for Meeker to pass. One lap earlier, Nearburg had posted the quickest lap of the race.

“Right as you get over the Corkscrew going down, there’s an upshift,” explained Meeker. “I think Charlie missed the upshift and just stopped. I went around him on the outside and beat him to the corner.

“In the points battle, I’ve come second five times, so I was actually thinking about that. When I got that close and had the chance to go around him, I thought, ‘Screw it, I’ll take it!’”

For Meeker, adjusting to three different vehicles in rapid succession and being able to perform in each has been achieved with planning and preparation.

“The transmissions and footwork are kind of the same,” said Meeker. “The cars go from very light to heavy to heavy-heavy. I have a cool suit, so I get to relax a little bit. I just have to concentrate.”

Martin Lauber maintained his third position throughout the race to put the No. 9 1974 March 741 on the podium once again. Bud Moeller (P4) and Wade Carter (P5) improved their Race 1 finishes by one spot at the expense of Stephen Romak (P6).

The race featured an early double-yellow flag when Dan Collins, who is competing on the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca circuit for the first time in his decades-long career, spun the No. 11 Lotus on the driver’s side of Turn 6. Fortunately for Collins, damage was minimal as he was able to rejoin the race and finish three laps back.

The Masters Historic Formula One group returns to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca next weekend for the prestigious Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.