A Rolex Series GT Class Lap of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Continental Tires With Joe Foster

8 July 2011-Following a dramatic accident in the Road America round that saw one car catapult over the catch fencing and forced Joe Foster to be cut from his car, it has been a fast two weeks for the Dempsey Racing crew. The group opened the season on a high note, taking a podium finish in the Rolex 24 At Daytona with Foster, Patrick Dempsey, Charlie Espenlaub, and Tom Long.

The team has taken on a substitute Mazda RX-8 for the Continental Tire Sports Car Festival round of GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series action as Foster teams up once again with co-driver Patrick Dempsey for round eight of the 2011 GRAND-AM season.

Despite still being a little bit sore from the impact two weeks ago, Foster took time out to talk his way through a lap of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in his Mazda RX-8 GT Class machine. Foster, who won the 2008 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Championship, will look to ignore the pain as he and Dempsey target success on Mazda’s home track.

“Coming down the front straight at MRLS, keeping our eyes on the mirrors because in a GT car we’ve got DP traffic coming around us. You come to the crest which is also known as turn one, just as we grab sixth gear, and look to the left to make sure there’s no one exiting the pit lane. Then it’s down the hill toward turn 2 which is a nice, long and challenging braking zone that requires a lot of patience. You make hard initial contact with the brake pedal, but you need to release the brake pedal early because the car is going down hill and avoid locking up the brakes. Also, it tends to get very dusty there. Roll off the brake and roll along the inside of the corner, again keeping an eye out for the DP cars, with the goal being to get the Continental Tires to get as much forward bite as possible to get down to turn 3.

“Turn 3 kind of sucks you in a little bit,” says Foster with a knowing smile. “It’s wide at the entry, but there are some curbs that you’ll want to avoid at the apex. Again, the goal is to get a smooth power down exit, trying not to charge the corner too much which is something that really carries over to the whole of this track. You don’t want to be too aggressive anywhere on this track and keep it at 90-95% the whole way around otherwise you’ll end up driving off the track.

“Going down to turn 4 in the Mazda, we’re going to go up one gear to fourth and do a quick tap of the brakes. It’s a very fast corner and very enjoyable when you get it right. You have to use all the road turning in a little early. Don’t hit the big part of the curb, instead, hit the little part of the curb and get the power down early onto the infield straight, where again, you’ll look for DP traffic behind you heading toward turn 5.

“Brake just before the bridge from fifth gear down to second or third gear depending on rations. There is lots of elevation change there that creates a bowl effect, so you’ll want to use that banking and that bowl to your advantage. You’ll turn in a little early, again using all the road to get the power down. The exit camber falls away slightly, so expect a little understeer there, and as long as your prepared for it, it’s no big deal.

“Up the hill toward turn 6, it’s my favorite corner because it’s blind, it’s scary, it’s one of the signature corners of the track, and I really like it. Again check your mirrors to make sure you’re clear, make a quick tap of the brakes, maybe drop down a gear and you’ve got to commit before you see the corner which is really exciting. Commit over the brow, there’s the corner hopefully and get back to power. It’s not a corner that rewards the timid because the car becomes very unstable if you don’t commit to the throttle which is how you keep the car steady through that corner – the Continentals get really good grip there – and now you’re up the hill to the infamous Corkscew.

“There, you have to be really, really patient. It’s so tempting to be aggressive and brake late into the Corkscew, but if you do, you’ll just go sailing off it into never, never land in a big cloud of smoke and dust. In the GT Mazda you brake just before the crest into second gear. There’s a tree on the exit that you look at, and in the Mazda it’s very difficult to see through the A-pillar to the apex, so you use the tree as a reference mark. If they ever cut it down, I’ll be in big trouble! Very gentle power application on exit of the Corkscrew. It’s very easy to get oversteer there and get the car to whip. The main thing is to get forward bite toward turn 9.

“Up a gear and little left foot brake, nurse the car into turn 9 where you get a bit of compression at the apex, but then it’s off camber at the exit. So you can feel like a hero midway through the corner only to have it all go horribly wrong at the exit if you’re not lined up right.

“Again going down hill toward turn 10, go up one more gear. There’s lots of bowl there, so we find that you can turn in quite earlier than you think so you use some of that camber to give the car some more grip. Also, like in turn 9, the camber falls away at the exit so you have to be ready for some oversteer at the exit.

“Zipping down toward turn 11, it’s a great opportunity for overtaking if your racing another GT car, or to let the DP cars past if they are close. Again, be patient, don’t overcharge it, and focus on the exit speed not the entry. And that’s a lap of Laguna Seca.

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