Stoner Car Care Heads West to Laguna Seca

Friday, September 13, 2019

Carrying the bright colors of Stoner Car Care and Invisible Glass, the Automatic Racing team will feature a pair of Aston Martins with potent driver lineups for Saturday’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (live steam available at imsa.tv 6:00 PM ET Saturday).

Rob Ecklin Jr. and Akhil Rabindra share the new No. 07 Stoner Car Care Aston Martin Vantage GT4, while Kris Wilson and Gary Ferrera will co-drive the No. 97 Invisible Glass Aston Martin Vantage in the two-hour Laguna Seca 120.

“I like Laguna Seca a lot, I love the track,” Ecklin said. “Our car has been pretty good there over the years, too.”

In their previous IMSA outing, Ecklin and Rabindra ran at the front of the pack at Road America before encountering bad luck with changing weather conditions, resulting in a 19th-place finish.

“Akhil is learning these tracks quickly,” said Ecklin of his teammate, who made his American racing debut at Road America. “He had a decent qualifying effort and led that race for awhile, but we got caught up in the weather.”

Rabindra and new teammate Ross Gunn paired at Virginia International Raceway and finished sixth. 

“I think this weekend is going to be a little warmer than usual at Laguna Seca,” Ecklin said. “I don’t know if there were any significant changes made on our cars since VIR, but the car is in competitive form. For me personally, I did two races last year at Laguna in Michelin Pilot Challenge and Lamborghini Trofeo. I feel I’ve got pretty good knowledge and a good handle on that track, and I think the new Aston Martin and the new Michelin tire are going to be a benefit. We’ve been so close this year that I expect a top-10 finish.”

One of the keys to being fast at WeatherTech Raceway is mastering the famed Corkscrew Turn, a twisting 10-story plunge.

“Once you get used to the Corkscrew, it drives easier than it looks,” Ecklin said. “But you’ve got to get your visuals set up right, because you really go in there blind from a track standpoint. You got to pick out a tree in the distance so you can make sure you’re hitting the apex on driver’s left before you hit that apex on driver’s right. It’s a very unique and fun corner in the world of race tracks. But another challenge of Laguna is, because it’s dry, you get ‘sand dust’ on the track. That can make for some tricky situations in the flat corners – turns three and four – and it requires a bit of finesse to get a good pace through there.”

The event will be the fourth outing of the season for Wilson and Ferrera in the No. 97 Invisible Glass Aston Martin, with the pair opening the season with a second-place finish in the four-hour race at Daytona International Speedway.

“It will be good to have my old teammate Gary back,” Wilson said. “He could only do a few races this year, and Laguna Seca is one of his favorites. Personally, I’ve taught racing schools there for 20 years, and Gary went to school there, so this is a favorite place for him to go back to as well.”

With his years of experience coaching at the circuit, does Wilson have any speed secrets for Laguna Seca?

“I think the big thing there is getting the front end to work well, because it’s an understeering track,” Wilson said. “Also critical is getting the handling right, because it’s not a straightaway track. Having the momentum around the corners is a key factor around that place.”

The Laguna Seca 120 weekend opens with a pair of practice sessions on Friday. Qualifying will be held on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET, followed by the green flag at 5:55 p.m. ET. The race will be streamed live on imsa.tv.

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