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Bourdais: Resurfaced Laguna Seca “to be at least a couple of seconds faster”

Cadillac Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais believes the new track surface at Laguna Seca will provide a significant increase in speeds for this weekend’s round of the IMSA SportsCar Championship.

#01 Chip Ganassi Racing, Cadillac V-LMDh, GTP: Renger van der Zande, Sebastien Bourdais

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

Last year saw a full resurfacing of the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course for the first time since 2006, which also included a new pedestrian bridge on the front straight as part of a $14.9 million project.

The project began shortly after last May’s IMSA event and was completed by July, with IndyCar the first major series to race on the new – and quicker – surface in September.

Ricky Taylor holds the DPi track record with a 1m13.924s (108.987mph) flying lap, which came in April 2022. Matt Campbell’s Penske Porsche 963 hit a 1m14.774s (107.748mph) lap on the old surface during the current GTP generation's – that replaced DPi – inaugural trip to Laguna Seca last year.

For Bourdais, who comes in as the defending race winner with No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R co-driver Renger van der Zande, a recent test showed promise of increased grip, which will likely lead to a jump in pace.

“We did come and test with both Cadillacs, both BMWs and both Penske Porsches, so we did have time to experiment and try quite a few things,” said Bourdais. “Grip has gone up a lot.

“It’s probably going to be at least a couple of seconds faster and it’s always an awesome feeling when you drive on a repaved track. I’ve always enjoyed Laguna, but tyre degradation was high, and grip was quite low at the end of the cycle of the old pavement.

“So, now it’s full force, maximum attack and commitment, so it’s a ton of fun to muscle those GTPs around. You should see some pretty incredible speeds around the weekend.”

crash, Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

crash, Rinus VeeKay, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

When looking back at the IndyCar round on the new surface, van der Zande noticed cars “flying off” because of the lack of grip off the one racing line.

However, in recent IMSA testing cars did not suffer the same issue, with “grip everywhere” on the track. With that, though, he believes the increased speeds will still lead to several cars venturing off course but also tighten up the field.

“Those new tarmac changes will most likely bring the field together,” van der Zande said. “I expect a close fight again.

“Also, strategy-wise it’s going to be very interesting because of the tarmac, so we’ll see what plays out. It looks like we’ll be quite a bit faster than the GT cars at Laguna Seca compared to the other tracks. From that perspective, it’s easier to overtake them.”

With 34 cars spread across three classes, with GTD Pro and GTD also on track this weekend, managing traffic could be tougher than normal with faster lap times.

“When the cornering speeds increase, traffic tends to have a bigger influence on pace because you’re getting checked up and losing more time in the corners,” Bourdais said.

“It’s the same for everybody, but timing where you hit traffic and how it pans out tends to have a bigger effect on the race. Laguna still tends to be much of a one-lane track, and it gets dirty on the outside.

“The multi-class racing tends to help widen the line, but as the track grips up and rubbers up on line it tends to get dirtier and it’s a bit less encouraging you to go around the outside of people and pull an optimistic move.”

#01 Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-Series.R: Renger van der Zande, Sebastien Bourdais

#01 Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-Series.R: Renger van der Zande, Sebastien Bourdais

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Considering how much quicker the pace could be per lap this year, he was asked if that would play a role in energy deployment and pit strategy: “It will be higher because you need more energy to go faster,” Bourdais replied.

"It just doesn’t happen through cornering speeds. You are on the throttle. We tend to have fairly wide windows with the GTP cars over those races, so we’ll see how it shakes out.

“But it should be feasible on two stops.”

Watch: BrrrakeF1 - How IMSA use Advanced Data to Enforce the Rules

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