Photo by John Thawley The two-car team of Krohn Racing heads west to northern California this week for the fifth round of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series with the U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express in Monterey, California.
The No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley of team owner/driver Tracy Krohn and co-driver Nic Jonsson and the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley of Max Papis and Colin Braun hope to continue their goal for consistent finishes in their quest for the 2007 Grand-Am Daytona Prototype team and driver championships.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca celebrates its 50th year in 2007 with the second split race event in Grand-Am competition this season. The Daytona Prototypes will compete on the 2.238-mile circuit for the Road & Track 250, a 250-mile/112-lap/two and one-half hour race on Sunday, May 20 and the GT cars will compete in a 400K event on Saturday, May 19th.
Krohn will pull double-duty, competing in both the Koni Challenge GS race on Sunday morning and the Daytona Prototype race on Sunday afternoon. Nic Jonsson will be pulling triple duty and flying between Monterey and Salt Lake City. He will drive the No. 61 Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT in the ALMS race at Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City on Saturday evening and the Koni Challenge GS and Daytona Prototype races on Sunday at Laguna Seca.
Tracy W. Krohn, team owner/driver, No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley:
How do you like the Laguna Seca circuit?
"Laguna is always a great place to race. The climate is good. The track is always fun. It's very competitive there. The track changes from dawn to dusk, so it is always challenging getting the car set-up. It is really all about getting the car set-up for the race. It's not nearly as important about qualifying as it is about getting the car set-up for the race."
Pontiac's have been strong in the past at Laguna (4 out of Top 5 places in 2005, 2 out of Top 3 in 2006). Do you think that will continue to be the trend this year?
"I can only hope so. I hope Krohn Racing will have the top two cars there. Pontiac motors have good torque. This is a track that you can play with the downforce on the car a good bit and see what most efficient. Pontiac has got a good motor and a good product."
With a split field race, is it difficult to pass and does that make it tougher to compete at Laguna with just the DP cars?
"I think it will be fine. I don't think that at this particular track that not having the GT cars on the track is any big deal. I think not having the GT cars and places like Iowa and Phoenix where we raced last year, had more effect. I'm sure that we'll probably see a little less carnage this weekend."
Nic Jonsson, driver, No. 76 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley:
What are your thoughts on the Laguna Seca circuit?
"I think Laguna Seca has a lot of character to it. It has a little bit of everything. It is famous for the corkscrew. If you've never been there and you're coming for the first time, you can be really intimidated by that. Once you've done it a few times, it's a really cool corner and that's what put Laguna Seca on the map. It's a beautiful facility that has interesting grip because there is always sand that blows onto the track. It makes every lap a little bit different because grip changes from one lap to another. It really makes it very challenging. You have to always be focused and stay on top of the game. If you relax for just a fraction of a second, it's very easy to make mistake there and it's not forgiving. If you go off, you basically fill the car up with sand and radiators gets overheated. It's definitely a track where the driver has to pay a lot of attention to what he's doing."
It will be another split field race weekend. Will that make it tougher at the Laguna circuit?
"I actually like it. I think we saw in VIR a few weeks ago that it makes for really good racing. As much luck as you can have with getting GT car between yourself and whomever you are competing with, you could have bad luck and the guy in front of you gets by and you get stuck behind a guy going up through the corkscrew, going into turn 6. If you get stuck, you can lose a lot of time. I actually enjoy driving the join races as well. It adds a different dimension to it. I think it is fairer to race everyone out there with all running together. It makes for a more fair and cleaner race."
It will be a very busy weekend for you with competing at both the Laguna Seca Grand-Am race in the Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley DP car and in Salt Lake City at the ALMS race in the Risi Competizione Ferrari. Walk us through your weekend plans.
"It sounds crazy to look at the schedule. Krohn Racing and Risi Competizione gave me the opportunity to drive both cars. I really appreciate that they were very accommodating to my schedule. I'm going to be in Laguna on Thursday for the promoters test day in the Daytona Prototype with Krohn and also testing with my Kinetic Motorsports team in the Koni Challenge. Then I'm going to fly to Utah to practice and qualify on Friday. I will stay for Saturday to run the race with the Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT with Eric Helary. Then I'll fly back Saturday night to do warm-ups Sunday morning and the Koni Challenge race in GS first, then the DP later in the day. This would never been possible if the teams had not been so accommodating and helping me to make it happen. It will be good practice for Le Mans."
Max Papis, driver, No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley:
As a former winner at Laguna Seca, give us your impressions.
"I love Laguna Seca. It is one of the racetracks that have a tremendous amount of history. Lots of great champions won there. I'm really proud to say that I was able to write my name in the winner's circle, together with many other more important names than mine, in 2001 in Champ Car. I think I still hold one of the unbeaten track records there of going from 25th to first. Laguna Seca itself is just an awesome race track. It's a beautiful place to be and one of those historical tracks for which you are always looking forward."
Pontiacs have been strong at this track in the past. What are your thoughts?
"I'm really happy for the support that Pontiac has been giving to our organization. Krohn Racing and Pontiac have been growing together very quickly and working well. I think this will be a key for the success there because you need to be able to be fast at the end of your stint and with the Pontiac engines that we have."
You and Colin have had two podium finishes in the past three races. Obviously you like to win, but how important is staying in the points chase?
"We don't need to forget we're just at the beginning of our adventure. A few months ago we didn't really know each other as David Brown (Race Engineer) had just come on board and now we are gelling very, very well together. Colin and I have two pretty different driving styles and we're trying to find the best compromise between what Colin likes and what I like in order to be fast. It looks like we are getting closer and closer, although we're not perfectly there yet. The moment we are going to hit, we are definitely going to win races. We have been leading races and running strong. We need to keep the championship open and keep scoring points and we know a win is going to come very soon. I really feel that maybe Laguna Seca could be the first time for a victory for us."
Colin Braun, driver, No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley:
How do you like the Laguna Seca circuit?
"Laguna Seca is a great track, one of my favorite tracks we go to. It's very much like Mid-Ohio or Barber with really good flow, character and elevation changes. It's a fun track to go to, you just have to be mindful of all the sand that blows around."
This is the second split field race with just Daytona Prototypes. How do you like those races?
"I'm not a huge fan of having the split races. I think part of being a good sports car driver, and part of sports car racing in general, is having multiple different classes racing at the same time. Part of being a good sports car driver is being able to get through the slower GT traffic. I think that is part of what everyone at Krohn Racing has worked on so hard -- setting up the car to be able to maneuver through traffic. It is kind of unfortunate that they take that fundamental part of racing out of sports car racing. I don't like it at all."
Is always finishing in the points always on your mind when you're racing?
"I think the whole goal at Krohn Racing, and certainly my goal and Max's goals, is to go out there and win races. We need to prove to people that we have a car that can win races and can get the job done. I think we've shown that we have a car that is quick. We just really have to put the whole deal together for a win. I'm hoping that will come at Laguna."
Jeff Hazell, Krohn Racing Team Manager:
What are your thoughts on the Laguna Seca race weekend?
"I think that the weekend's schedule is going to work against us, particularly for set-up on Saturday when we only have a 30-minute practice and 15-minute qualifying. It allows for very little productive track time. I wish the timetable had been better arranged to allow for more set-up time and to be able to use the drivers more efficiently. Not only does it waste time and the team's resources, but also the fans won't get to see much of the drivers they come here to watch. It will be interesting to see how the Porsches perform with the 30-pound weight break they are now getting."
The Krohn Racing team, now in its second year, is currently fourth in the Daytona Prototype points chase with the No. 75 entry and 12th with the No. 76 entry after four of 14 races this season. Papis and Braun have two podium finishes, a second-place at both VIR and Mexico City. Braun also captured the pole at both those races. Krohn and Jonsson have two Top 10 finishes so far this year.
Last year Krohn Racing won the Daytona Prototype Driver's Championship with driver Jorg Bergmeister and finished second in the DP Team Championship. In 2006, Krohn Racing collected three victories, six podiums, eight Top Five finishes, 13 Top Ten finishes and one pole position.
The U.S. Sports Car Invitational at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will be televised live on Sunday, May 20th on SPEED TV at 4:00 p.m. ET. For more information, please see www.grand-am.com and www.krohnracing.net.