–Two Pacific Northwest teams are joining forces to enter a new manufacturer and program in the 2017 IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Motorsport USA, the official team of The Ridge Motorsports Park (www.ridgemotorsportspark.com) and Lowe Group Racing (www.lowegroupracing.com), a long time stalwart of the Seattle racing scene, are coming together to bring some of the Pacific Northwest’s best driving talents into IMSA competition in their Maserati GT4.
The team’s first entry will be the September 23rd Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca round, which will feature a three-driver lineup for the 4 hour race in sunny Monterey. Pacific Northwest drivers will include Lowe Group Racing team members Cavan O’Keefe and Mike McAleenan, who are both running for the first time in IMSA GS. Cavan (team principal) last ran in the ST category at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
“We are beyond ready to get this program off the ground,” Cavan O’Keefe says, “and flying the Maserati Flag in IMSA competition along with my great friends is truly an honor.”
Mike, who is a multiple time NASA, ICSCC and SCCA race winner and champion, will be running in IMSA for the first time at Laguna.
“I am thrilled to be racing with Motorsport USA in the Maserati GT4 for the Continental Tire series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca,” says Mike McAleenan, “the Monterey Peninsula is a special place. The track is one of my favorites and we have had many successful races there in the past – although the Continental series will certainly be a new challenge.”
For the MUSA, Lowe Group Racing and their sponsors, one of the more exciting announcements is the partnership the team put together with Memo Gidley to become the team’s third driver, and bring him back to IMSA competition for the first time since his 2014 accident at Daytona.
Team owner of Lowe Group Racing and Principal of MUSA, Jerold Lowe had this to say, “It was a dream come true. Memo was one of my biggest inspirations in becoming a driver, his story of being a grass roots driver and transitioning into a full time successful racer echoes my story. Both of us got into motorsports racing later in the game, have had our health struggles and pushed thru, he’s an inspiration.”
For Memo, it offers the opportunity to come back to a place where it all started, “Laguna is where I went to my first Indy car race as a spectator and got hooked, my first race was in one of Jim Russell’s cars. Laguna is very special to me and holds a lot of great memories.”
Maserati has long been a premium driver’s brand on and off the track, and Motorsport USA is “proud to be bringing the race version of the Granturismo GT4 into the series.”
The team successfully completed an initial shake down at the Ridge Motorsports Park, and recently did a two day test at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca August 30th & 31st where they made a lot of progress on race pace. One of the reasons the team choose the car was the ease and fun of running.
“It was my first time in the Maserati, and the team expected there to be some challenges with any new car shakedown, but being that Maserati has such a huge history in producing fast efficient cars, it was not surprising how turnkey the car was right out of the box, it was very easy to get comfortable with and fast,” Memo Gidley said.
As for future races, the team is using Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as a test ground for potential entry in 2018. For team Principal Cavan O’Keefe, the race is a year in the making.
“We have been working to get this program off the ground in the right way for at least a year,” Cavan says. “Having been a part time participant in the ST category I loved what IMSA and Continental Tire had to offer from the quality of the racing, to the overall experience. I wanted to get a Seattle team involved. We look forward to showing them what we have, hopefully it rains because we have guys who are used to it!”