It's Friday afternoon at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and there are still no race cars on track for the A1 Grand Prix of Nations penultimate round of the inaugural season. Weather has been a concern for days due to the heavy non-stop storms battering Northern California.

Just when it started to dry out during a midweek hiatus, another storm hit Thursday night - Monterey's coldest day in 80 years. There were several rounds of hail, so loud that passengers flying into Monterey airport heard it inside their planes.

GILL CAMPBELL, general manager of SCRAMP (Sports Car Racing Association of Monterey Peninsula) was at the track Friday at 5am and it was snowing on The Corkscrew. The snow wasn't sticking; but the nearby hills - especially Mount Toro - were covered with snow. It was a lovely sight driving into the track via South Boundary Road. The last snow of any kind in the area was 13 February 2001 and it was just snowcaps. This time, the snow is all the way down the mountains - and sticking.

After a brief squall early Friday morning, it has been dry all day at the track. There have been several episodes of nice sunshine, blue skies and puffy white clouds, interspersed with grey skies. There is a stiff breeze, it's bitter cold, but ... it's dry!

Legions of workers (from SCRAMP, SCCA SFR, the campgrounds, spectators, and towns people) are out sweeping and shovelling, trying to make the track ready. The schedule has been put back hour by hour, and the latest word is that by 4pm PT, A1GP will say 'Yay' or 'Nay' about going on course. No matter what A1 says, the remaining two support groups will go on track this afternoon. Running this weekend are the Skip Barber National Presented by RACER Magazine and the United States Touring Car Championships. Originally the 55-car field of Sports Car Club of America Spec Miata's were to run, but they cancelled after the on again-off again scenarios last weekend.

The A1 GP cars were late coming from Monterrey Mexico to Monterey California, and didn't arrive until Wednesday night. An A1GP official acknowledged there was a delay in reaching California, saying there was a delay crossing the Mexico/California border. It was late at night, the border was closed and it was the weekend. A1GP let the teams into the track Thursday at 1pm, and it's been a thrash ever since to make things ready to race. Because of the delay, the schedule was (again) revised Thursday evening, so A1 GP wouldn't be on track until Friday afternoon, to give the teams more time to get ready. The second A1GP Practice was rolled over to Saturday. That schedule was then revised again and again on Friday, and since then all schedules have been verbal.

Northern California has been the victim of unrelenting storms, one after another, for an unseasonably inclement winter. The soil is totally saturated, and the water has no place to go. Laguna Seca has many elevation changes, and water naturally flows downhill. Last week, it poured buckets at the track.

FIA circuit inspector, CHARLIE WHITING, inspected the track last November and renewed the circuit's Grade 2 license for another three years. Once a circuit is approved, it is good to go until it expires or changes are made to the track itself. Inspections aren't required race by race.

When Laguna resurfaces the track in May, another track inspection will be required by FIA for the fall American Le Mans race, and by FIM for the July MotoGP.

It's standard procedure for Laguna Seca to take two weeks to prepare for every race, this one included, especially after the winter season. There are many things to do including, raking, grading, and painting kerbs and other buildings. The drains are cleared and left open during the rain.

A1GP hired D3 at the beginning of its season to handle Event Management. D3 is run by Australian track designer, RON DICKSON and his two sons. Dickson has been to the track in the days prior to this weekend's event. Campbell said Dickson has been very supportive, helpful and instrumental in working to ensure the track was running for the race.

The teams are now all ready and champing at the bit, the San Francisco Region SCCA race marshals are all on station eager to flag anything which comes by, and fingers are crossed.

Stay tuned.

RICK WEIDINGER, owner of A1 Team USA, conducted a business forum on Friday morning for the other teams and A1GP. This was the first one conducted within the series and it was well-received. A1GP founder, president and chairman, SHEIKH MAKTOUM HASHER MAKTOUM AL MAKTOUM was one of the speakers.

Weidinger's driver this weekend will be BRYAN HERTA, who certainly knows his way around the 2.238-mile elevated road course, having won here twice in CART. Also here this weekend as part of A1 Team USA is IRL driver, SCOTT SHARP, who is a consultant to the team.

Two Max drivers have been signed on for Team Italy - MAX BUSNELLI and 'Mad' MAX PAPIS, who also is no stranger to Laguna Seca, having raced here with CART.

GRAHAM RAHAL, son of BOBBY RAHAL, is racing for Team Lebanon, and he too has prior Laguna experience. Last season, he finished third in the Star Mazda race and, in 2004, he ran in the Formula BMW race. Bobby 'owns' part of the track. Rahal Straight, named for him two years ago, is the section of the track between turns six and seven, going up the hill.

The teams have listed their drivers for the weekend - up to three per team. There are deadlines throughout the weekend for nominating drivers. Saturday at 1pm PT is the qualifying driver nomination deadline, and Saturday at 5pm is the deadline for nominating drivers for the sprint and the feature races. There can be a different driver for each.

 

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