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Laguna Seca Diary:
Days One and Two
Send Contract Renewals

Laguna Seca, CA, September 11 — Greetings from good old Dry Lake. The weather is beautiful. Send contract renewals.

I certainly hope this isn’t the last year Champ Cars runs here at the “home of the Corkscrew.” Natural road courses weren’t part of the Pookian CART vision. Papa Chris wanted the series to concentrate on major markets and big cities. Here in old Dry Lake, Salinas passes for a big city (not) and a major market would be Ralph’s or maybe Safeway, if you catch my drift (not drifting). But, natural road courses show a driver’s mettle, his true grit, and thus it would be a shame if places like Laguna Seca and Elkhart Lake go the way of Mid-Ohio in future Champ Car schedules.

In this Brave New World of Champ Car, all races must make some kind of economic sense. I think that means at the very least that they are not allowed to cost more than what they bring in. Achieving that in North American open wheel road racing is tough. Unlike ovals and street races that can come to a fan in a major market, in road racing, the fan must come to the racecourse. And, in coming to Laguna Seca, lovers of road racing are richly rewarded for their trouble.

There is only one other place in North America that approaches the sheer majesty of the Monterey Peninsula. Cobalt blue skies, lush greenery, and the salty air from the bay all combine to make this a place worth visiting even without its world class race course.

The challenge in keeping Laguna Seca on the schedule is making new road racers, so if you love road racing, make it your business to bring at least one person who can afford a race ticket to every road race that’s run. All of which brings us to this day – or these days – Friday and Saturday, of perhaps the last days of practice and qualifying for the Champ Car World Series at this glorious track.

We have an early morning on Saturday, courtesy of those gentlemen (and it’s always men, because no woman would mandate these things) who decide that photographers’ meetings are mandatory and must be at the crack of dawn. Since I’m traveling with a photographer, this necessitates that I, too, get by with the hotel’s continental breakfast in addition to whatever they’re serving in the Media Center for at least 9 hours.

Friday found us spending little time at the track due to it taking over an hour to get out of LA. We did get to see the Atlantics top three qualifiers – Dalziel, Fogarty, and Ranger. While there are frequently talented drivers in the series, the chance to move up to Champ Car often comes down to, in Jon Fogarty’s words, “having a boatload of money.” There will be a conclusion Sunday to the season long battle between Fogarty and Dalziel.

It’s always good to see our racing friends, but Brad Bernstein, who we always have so much fun with, is working for LAT, so it’s just Lisa and Jeff Saturday night. We enjoy the wonderful seafood buffet at the Embassy Suites in Seaside, and then Jeff spends the rest of the evening editing his photos.

I spend most of Saturday morning looking for Julie Andre, as there are questions we’ve been sent that need to be posed to the drivers. Instead of Jules, I see Memo Gidley working pit lane like the seasoned veteran that he is, and am hoping one of those teams he’s talking to come up with a car for him next year.

Jules had to go to the ER; she is fine but will not be here until this afternoon. In the meantime, I notice Nelson Phillipe is looking much less girly these days – the long hair is tied back. Strangely, his girlfriend stands at the edge of teammate Justin Wilson’s pit, rather than Phillipe’s – the two pits are at least 3 feet apart from one another.

Also strange – the ever-polite Patrick Carpentier is at least 10 minutes late without explanation for the top 3 press conference that also includes Bourdais and Tracy. As usual, Sea-Bass is incredibly intelligent and polite with everyone. Tracy leaves the conference faster than my husband avoiding a Jehovah’s Witness, all of which leaves me just enough time to talk to Patrick.

I ask him if it’s true he’s going to the IRL, and wouldn’t he rather stay in Champ Car. He loves the series, he says, but wishes that it would unify, because as a driver, it would just make things easier. He denies a defection to the other series, but says he doesn’t know where he’s driving next year.

Remembering his memorable jog around the track after Mid-Ohio when he won the race there, I ask Pat if there is anything fun for us to look forward to if he wins at Laguna Seca? I get a very mischievous smile out of him with this question. Yes, he says, if he wins he will do something unbelievable. I can’t wait!

But, maybe I’ll have to. Sebastien Bourdais has looked incredibly strong in every session and it looks to many of us as though this is his year. We’ll see tomorrow.

Copyright © 2004 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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