“The Pass” occurred 20 years ago today, when Zanardi passed Herta (VIDEO)

4 Comments

MONTEREY, Calif. – Today marks a special milestone in both Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and North American open-wheel racing history, as it’s 20 years to the day when Alex Zanardi completed the move known as “The Pass” on Bryan Herta at the Corkscrew at the top of the hill.

A release from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is below:

It was 20 years ago today that Alex Zanardi pulled off, and Bryan Herta had an unfortunate front row seat to, one of the greatest passes in the history of motor sports.

It’s the possibility to make IndyCar history that serves as the inspiration for today’s up-and-coming open wheel drivers who will compete Sept. 9-11 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the Mazda Road to Indy season finale. Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires, and Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda are the three open-wheel competition rungs that make up the Mazda Road to Indy. Those series will be joined this weekend by the IMSA Mazda Prototype Lites Presented by Cooper Tires and the inaugural Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Invitational to create a true “Mazdapalooza” weekend.

“The Pass,” as it simply became known, took place Sept. 8, 1996, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca at The Corkscrew turns on the last lap of the Monterey Grand Prix, the final race of the 1996 PPG Indy Car World Series. The two decades that have since passed have turned the amazing pass into folklore drivers and race fans still talk about.

Herta, driving the No. 28 Rahal Reynard Mercedes, was leading Zanardi, who started from pole in the No. 4 Target Ganassi Racing Reynard Honda, on the 83rd and final lap. As the two entered the braking zone at the top of The Corkscrew, Zanardi dove left to the inside entering Turn 8, came in hot so the car shot to the outside on exit of Turn 8 but with the lead. The entire car was outside the rumble strip to the right and Zanardi’s right-side tires were in the dirt both entering and exiting Turn 8A, the exit of The Corkscrew. He went on to win the race, his third of the year, while teammate Jimmy Vasser finished fourth and clinched the championship for Target Ganassi Racing.

As part of the Mazda Road to Indy weekend, Military Appreciation Day on Sat., Sept. 10, will honor the heroism and dedication of the men and women of our U.S. Military. All military personnel with valid U.S. Military-issued identification are admitted free with one guest on Sept. 10 for the Mazda Road to Indy races. Children 12 and under are admitted free.

Gates open each day at 7 a.m., with tickets starting at $20 (every ticket includes a paddock pass). Click HERE to purchase tickets for the Mazda Road to Indy as well as the Pirelli World Challenge, the fifth and final event of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s 2016 major event season.

Click HERE for the full schedule of events during Mazda Road to Indy.

Photos: Al Manley

unnamed-16

unnamed-17

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.