Rounds three and four of the Pacific Series NASA Prototype Championship took place mid-May at historic Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The NASA Elan NP01s were once again a crowd favorite in the paddock, and provided great racing action on track.
Saturday’s qualifying time of 1:34.644 put Andy Lee in the StopTech entry at the front of the field, earning the team four points for pole. Less than a half second off Lee’s time was Brian Lock in the Team Valkyrie Autosport car owned by Mark White. The Valkyrie team’s development and testing on its car showed with a lap time of 1:35.310. A third newcomer to the series was Team RK Motorsports. Car owner Skip Rebozzi was entered in another class, so he handed the keys over to teammate Andy Kwitowski for the weekend. Kwitowski put in a lap time of 1:35.453.
The NP01 field gridded in a second wave behind the Super Unlimited and Super Touring fields. At the drop of the green, Lock and Lee went side by side down the front straight and down to Turn 1. By this time, the pair had caught the tail end of the first wave and led Kwitowski, Croiset, Hope, Gray and Plavan through a maze of Super Touring cars, making for an exciting first lap. On the third lap, the RK Motorsports entry had a hard meeting with the inside curb of Turn 4 and damaged the suspension, sidelining the car. This allowed Croiset to slip into third. Meanwhile Hope and Plavan battled while contending with an out-of-class car. Hope put the BMW between them midway through the race and gained some breathing room. At the end of 14 laps, the top five finishing order was Lee, Lock, Croiset, Hope and Plavan.
Sunday qualifying again found the StopTech car besting the field with a fast time of 1:34.310. The Hope Racing Team had spent the evening working on setup, and it paid off with a 1:34.747 lap time and a spot on the front row. Croiset, Kowitzki and Plavan rounded out the top five. With the first four cars within a 1 second of one another, everyone knew the afternoon race would be a shootout.
At the drop of the green flag, the dash into Turn 1 was similar, but this time it was nose to tail, with Kwitowski in the Team RK entry barely edging out Croiset for third. The order remained Lee, Hope, Kwitowski and Croiset in a nose-to-tail battle until lap eight when Hope made an error exiting Turn 6, dropping four wheels off and spinning. This allowed Kwitowski and Croiset to take over second and third positions. At the checkered flag, the top five were Lee, Kwitowski, Croiset, Gray and Plavan.