Porsche GT4 RS Clubsport
Alain Stad, Porsche GT4 RS Clubsport putting in a fast time of 1:33:4 in Race 1. PHOTO © 2022 Rex McAfee

2022 GT Celebration at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca

Under crisp blue skies on the Monterey Peninsula, the 2022 First Orion Monterey Motorsports Celebration unfolded beautifully, hosted by racing organization GT Celebration. The weekend’s racing schedule included run groups from Masters Historic Racing (Formula Atlantic and Endurance Legends), the Porsche Sprint Challenge, and the BMW M2 Cup. Held at the historic Weathertech Raceway, Laguna Seca, the 11-turn course offered plenty of challenges, including the iconic Corkscrew corner that starts a 59’ elevation drop in just 450’ of track. Having never attended a GT Celebration race, it was time for Sports Car Digest to gain a first-hand account of what this group is all about.

Mclaren racecar at Laguna Seca

The GT Celebration series was created for GT cars that are no longer competitive or eligible to participate in IMSA or SRO sanctioned events. GT Celebration supports the following four classes:

1) The GT-3 RED class comprises recent model FIA-homologated GT3 cars ranging from production years 2014 to 2026.

2) The GT-3 YELLOW class comprises older model FIA-homologated GT3 cars ranging from production years 2006 to 2020.

3) The GT-4 class comprises recent RACB (Royal Automobile Club of Belgium) homologated GT4 cars featuring a variety of manufacturers, as well as the KTM X-Bow.

4) Prototype Celebration comprises LMP3 based homologated cars. 

Ligier prototype
Dave House crests the hill in his very quick Ligier prototype. PHOTO © 2022 Rex McAfee

At the helm of the organization is CEO Rob Morgan. Indoctrinated into cars at a young age, Rob took after his father, Charles Morgan, who raced in SCCA and IMSA, driving everything from a Datsun 260Z in SCCA Trans-Am to a Buick GTP Light in with IMSA. Rob started with the IMSA’s Firestone Firehawk series and quickly progressed to IMSA’s GTO and GTS categories. He eventually drove two years in the NASCAR Craftsman truck series before becoming a team owner. A life-long Porsche enthusiast, he opened TruSpeed in 2001 to provide track-side support to Porsche racers. 

Porsche 991.1 GT3 R
Jim Slavik, Porsche 991.1 GT3 R, TruSpeed Autosport PHOTO © 2022 Rex McAfee

Catching up with Rob at the track, we took a few minutes to discuss what prompted his relatively new series, now in its third season. As Rob explained, he used to support numerous Porsche racers who wanted to drive modern Porsche cup cars but didn’t want to run professionally. Typically, they were going to PCA (Porsche Club of America) or POC (Porsche Owners Club) events which often draw enormous fields of 50 or 60 cars, with a wide disparity in both speed and driver ability. Unfortunately for the fast drivers who qualified upfront, they only had a few laps of clear track before they were forced to slow down for traffic. Once that happens, the fun of racing diminishes. 

Audi R8 LMS Ultra
Bruce Leeson, Audi R8 LMS Ultra, on his way to a 6th overall finish in Sunday’s race. PHOTO © 2022 Rex McAfee

I commented to Rob about their 2022 schedule, which includes spectacular tracks, especially for a young series. Iconic circuits like Sonoma Raceway, Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca, Road America (Elkhart Lake WI), Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, and Circuit of the Americas in Austin, TX don’t come cheap. Rob explained it’s all about partnering with the right organizations who also value these top venues to make such a schedule possible. Besides Masters Historic Racing and the Porsche Sprint Cup, the BMW M2 Cup is a relatively new addition, with the Mazda MX-5 Cup a future possibility too. 

Porsche 997.2 GT3 R
John Cahalin, Porsche 997.2 GT3 R, Team: Vali Motorsports. PHOTO © 2022 Rex McAfee

Another asset Rob talked about is their partnership with KTM of Austria. Currently, a few competitors race the KTM X-Bow in the GT Celebration Prototype class, which is growing in popularity because of its high performance-to-cost ratio. Not only does KTM provide GT-Celebration with an X-Bow racer for their pace car, but each class champion at the end of the season gets invited to Austria to tour the KTM factory as well as enjoy some track time on the famous Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria (the same track where Formula 1 races). How’s that for some motivation! 

Ginetta G58
Rusty West pilots his Ginetta G58 up the back straight towards the Corkscrew. PHOTO © 2022 Rex McAfee

As for the racing, class sizes are still growing as the series gains momentum. Remember GT Celebration was started in 2020, the same year Covid-19 struck, so the fact that they have reached this point is a testament to their experience and proof of concept. Lap times from some of the top drivers are in professional racing territory, so don’t think there’s a lack of excitement in this growing series. Will Linn, driving the One Motorsports Ligier prototype, had a fast time of 1:26:9 in Sunday’s race. Alex Welch, piloting his Audi R8 LMS Ultra (GT3 Yellow), consistently delivered lap times in the 1:27 range. Yes, this is “gentlemen’s racing,” but these guys are moving! 

Ligier Prototype
Will Linn piloted his Ligier Prototype to an overall win in Sunday’s race. PHOTO © 2022 Rex McAfee

As Mallory Benson, Director of Marketing and Sales for GT Celebration, explained, “This is a fabulous series for drivers who want to enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere at the track, but without giving up the technology and performance of modern GT racecars.” Without a doubt, Rob’s experience and business acumen is keeping GT Celebration on the path to continued growth and success. I say “Job well done” to Rob and his entire team, and we will certainly be coming back for more.

Special thanks to Rob Morgan and Mallory Benson for their time and assistance. Please see GTCelebration.com for racing results and scheduling information.

All photos © 2022 Rex McAfee and available through [email protected]

2022 GT Celebration Photo Gallery