Saturday, September 8, 2018 – Race 1
In the GT4 classes, Bronze Class championship leader Laura Ely (No. 09 Black Sheep Racing) had a great jump at the green flag, but Silver Class leader and GT4 pole sitter Chris Bellomo (No. 67 The Racer’s Group) held off Ely as the pair went side-by-side through Turn 2. Ely was able to stay on the rear spoiler of Bellomo but could not get close enough to make a move. Ely and Bellomo, both Northern California natives, took their respective class victories. The race was even more special for Bellomo, with his family and TRG team owner (and the owner of Sonoma-based Adobe Road Winery) Kevin Buckler there to cheer him on.
“There were so many motivating factors today,” said Bellomo. “This is the first time my family has seen me race and that’s so special. This is my coach’s home track (veteran driver coach Robert Orcutt) and his experience here is so valuable. And the TRG team, Kevin and Debra and the crew, have done a great job. Laura got a great jump at the start and I knew we would go into Turn 2 side-by-side and I did the best I could managing the car on cold tires. I came out ahead and that was important. Robert and I have worked hard on video this season, so even if things don’t go right at the start, I stick with it.”
Sunday September 9, 2018 – Race 2
Black Sheep Racing’s Laura Ely started on the GT4 pole, with Chris Bellomo (The Racer’s Group) alongside. Bellomo edged ahead on outside at the green flag but couldn’t hold the position around the outside in Turn 2. The pair once again battled nose-to-tail for the entire race, including a final lap that saw two lead changes and a drag race to the finish. Ely bested Bellomo for the overall and Bronze Class win, with Bellomo taking the Silver Class victory.
“This has been a pretty unique experience,” said Bellomo. “Laura had a good gap on me before the yellow, but I managed that gap a little better when we went back to green. I was right on her bumper til the end, and I actually got ahead in Turn 5. It was pretty tight through the melee in Turn 11, but that was really fun. I’m so lucky to have a great coach (Robert Orcutt), a great team, and a family that’s extremely supportive. This is as competitive as it gets but it’s also really fun. I’m fortunate to be here.”
From CEO, Kevin Buckler:
What an absolutely fantastic weekend for our entire team. Chris has come such a long way and I have been so impressed with his dedication, abilities and, maybe more importantly, his excellent judgment and situational awareness that becomes paramount as you inch ever closer to the professional end of the grid… He’s done a great job. It was super cool seeing his wife and kids here, joining us for the weekend and having them watch their dad driving the wheels off that Porsche and winning the race on Saturday!!
Dr. Jim is so impressive. We’ve known each other now for several years and just had a fantastic season together. I love seeing his improvements and pace continue to escalate throughout the season and the huge smile on his face every weekend. He has extremely good judgment in the racecar and I always tease him that I love working with surgeons and pilots because in their day jobs there are “consequences” for any type of “off-track” excursion… same as in the racecar!! He had a great group of friends and family here this weekend and I’m glad we were able to entertain and that the TRG team did a great job both on and off the track.
And, of course, a huge callout to our professional driver coach and my friend, Robert Orcutt. Robert drove for the team back in the early days with IMSA and we had a great run and have always liked working together. He is one of the most dedicated, astute and professional driver coaches we have ever worked with and takes huge pride in what he does and is not afraid to slap these boys around a little bit when they need it!! It’s been a great team effort for everybody and Robert really helped bring everything full-circle.
We are looking forward to a strong finish for the season at the upcoming race in Utah and a fantastic 2019 racing season with some new surprises and exciting announcements forthcoming!!
Report from Robert Orcutt, professional driver coach:
This weekend was the one we had circled on both Chris and Jim’s calendars since June. WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca is my home track and to share the billing during a major IMSA weekend made this event a true long-term pressure cooker from all respects…meaning, I was putting a lot of pressure on our TRG drivers to do better than their best this weekend and they exceeded expectations. Podiums and victories!
Chris is blossoming into a formidable racer. Over the past 6 months he’s put in the dues from karting, to track days, to renting other types of racecars for test days, to adding out of series races with his Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport. He wants wins and they’re coming. It’s great fun for me to be a part of.
Jim is truly having the time of his life this year. Every weekend seems to yield this quote from Doctor Jim, “best time ever in a racecar!”. Just a week before this one we had Jim doing a bucket list race weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin and, of course, it rained. Most drivers, especially rookies, would be panicked, but not Jim. A duck to water, literally….and again, ” best time ever!” as he got out of the car a 2x winner in the GTD Porsche Club of America class.
From my coaching perspective, it’s really been my pleasure to groom both of these driver’s. Working as an in between with TRG and our drivers has been a neat little laboratory for me as well. What I mean is, as the drivers grow and need more from the racecar and the race team, the more we’ve been able to provide. It’s all been really well controlled and calculated. It’s fun. The driver’s trust me and TRG to raise the bar at the appropriate times and at the best rate possible for development, with both long term and short term objectives, goals and accomplishments. We have fun and everyone works hard towards those objectives. Management, Crew, Coach Drivers…Team. It’s fun.
I keep telling these two gentleman drivers, “these are the times of our lives”. In fact, it’s written on our strategy board in the TRG race transporter and, after every new milestone for these two, we each look at each other and quote it…”these are the times of our lives”.
Chris is pretty exhausted, I’ve been pushing his development pretty hard. It’s paid off and he’s really looking forward to next month’s Pirelli Porsche Trophy Cup race weekend at Utah Motorsports Park, although he’s really looking forward to a week or two of resting with 2 class win trophies from WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on his trophy shelf.
Doctor Jim leaves the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Pirelli Porsche Trophy Cup weekend with 2 more podiums to his palmares yet he is more anxious than ever for next month’s UMC race weekend to arrive. He takes ever more new race craft and driving skills with him from this weekend and he wants to implement what’s been gained asap.
About the Series and the Race:
The series, which has staged primarily stand-alone race weekends this season, joined the premier American sports car series, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, for the Monterey weekend. The race combined the GT3 Class (featuring the Diamond Class for 2017-18 second-generation Porsche 991 GT3 Cup machines, the Platinum Class for 2014-2016 Porsche 991 GT3 Cup cars, and the Gold Class for 2010-2013 997.2 GT3 Cup Cars) and the GT4 Class (for the Silver Class Porsche Cayman ClubSport GT4 MR and Bronze Class Cayman GT4 Cup Trophy).