LONG BEACH, Calif. – The Action Express racing strategists did it again.
With a premium on track position in Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling crew opted to bring Filipe Albuquerque into the pits five minutes ahead of the other Daytona Prototype international (DPi) leaders.
The decision paid dividends, as Albuquerque vaulted to the lead once the final round of stops was completed with between 35 and 40 minutes remaining in the 100-minute race.
Albuquerque had his mirrors full of Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi throughout the final 30 minutes of the race. As the laps wound down, Taylor – a three-time Long Beach winner – got right under Albuquerque’s rear wing a couple of times, especially within the last 15 minutes of the race.
Albuquerque’s Cadillac was strong when it needed to be strong, though, and he also had some good luck with GT Le Mans (GTLM) traffic over the closing laps, which gave him just enough breathing room to get away. He crossed the finish line 0.740 seconds ahead of Taylor to score the second consecutive Long Beach victory for himself and co-driver Joao Barbosa.
“When the Penskes came back there at the end, the (No.) 7 car changed the rear tires and we didn’t,” Albuquerque said. “So, the last few laps there my rear end was all over the place and I couldn’t do anything about it. There were a few times I thought I was clipping the wall with the rear because of the oversteer. He was just waiting for me to make a mistake; it was a bit of mind games.
“He was a little bit quicker, but not enough to pass me in clear air. It’s not the type of race that I would like to do, because I want to be in full control. But a win is a win, and where we came from the beginning of the race and where we finished. I think that’s the beauty about the IMSA races, anything can change at any moment, a crash, fuel, anything can change.”
It was the first victory for both Barbosa and Albuquerque since winning at Long Beach last year. Barbosa now has 24 IMSA victories (10 WeatherTech Championship, 11 GRAND-AM, two American Le Mans Series and one USRRC), while it was Albuquerque’s fifth IMSA win (four WeatherTech Championship, one GRAND-AM).
“Unbelievable results for us again, after the win last year,” Barbosa said. “I definitely didn’t have the best start of the race, it’s very difficult to overtake and I just got caught in the wrong spot at the wrong time in of the restart.
“The Mazda and the Acura got together outside of turn 1. They hit the wall. I thought about going around the outside to overtake those guys. They kept going and I got stuck on the outside and had no place to go. I tried to gather my thoughts, and to keep calm and not compromise any results and give him a good car.”
Taylor’s No. 7 co-driver Helio Castroneves started the race from the pole position and took the lead at the drop of the green flag. However, he lost two positions after inadvertently pressing the car’s pit-lane speed limiter. Nevertheless, the team battled back for its second podium in three races this season and made up valuable ground in the DPi championship battle as other title contenders encountered trouble.
With three of 10 races now in the books, Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani have a scant, two-point lead over Castroneves and Taylor, 92-90. Nasr took the lead from Castroneves early on in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R and held it through the pit stop when he turned the car over to Derani, but the car lost a tire shortly thereafter, necessitating an extra stop. They battled back to finish sixth.
Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron made it two Acuras on the podium, taking third in the No. 6 ARX-05 DPi. It was the team’s first double podium since the No. 6 squad finished second ahead of the No. 7 in third at Detroit last year.
Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez finished a season-best fourth in the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest RT-24P DPi, followed by Simon Trummer and Stephen Simpson, who finished fifth in the No. 84 JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Porsche Continues Hot Streak, Wins On Streets of Long Beach
Porsche’s stellar start to the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season continued Saturday afternoon at the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix.
The No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor took the checkered flag at the end of a chaotic 100-minute sprint race one day after the team’s sister car, the No. 911 Porsche of Nick Tandy, scored the GT Le Mans (GTLM) pole at the iconic Long Beach street course.
Bamber made the winning pass with 45 minutes remaining when race-leader Dirk Mueller accidentally hit the pit road speed limiter button in his No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. Mueller was able to close the deficit at times throughout the race’s final stint, but was unable to regain the lead.
On the race’s final lap, Mueller’s car stumbled coming out of turn 8 and was turned into the wall by the No. 3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen and ultimately finished fourth.
“The Ford, I think hit the pit limiter one time and we got around,” said Bamber. “It was just a matter of controlling the race from there and just hoping the parts didn’t fall off, like the exhaust was falling off and a few bits here and there. We were really strong in Sebring and here in this race. It’s really tight between all of the manufacturers and the winner comes down to who makes the least number of mistakes.”
“I think this is very positive for us and for the whole crew,” added Vanthoor. “It was a big boost of extra motivation. I hope it’s the start of a big successful journey now and we can carry it on all the way to Road Atlanta.”
Through three races, Porsche has combined to win two of the three to date and also won all three class poles. Tandy earned the pole at Daytona in addition to Long Beach, and his co-driver Patrick Pilet grabbed the top spot at Sebring. Tandy, Pilet and Frédéric Makowiecki also combined to win the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts one race ago.
With the win, Bamber and Vanthoor moved into the GTLM class points lead, 91-87, over their No. 911 Porsche teammates and the defending champion duo of the No. 3 Corvette Magnussen and Antonio Garcia.
The last-lap contact between Mueller and Magnussen moved the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R to second, despite limping to the finish with significant damage to the front bumper. The team’s No. 4 Corvette C7.R of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin made it through the incident to finish third.
Corvette Racing entered the weekend as the winningest IMSA team on the streets of Long Beach with seven victories, including wins each of the past two years. The team now heads to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on May 5 in search of its elusive 100th career IMSA win more than one year after earning its 99th at Long Beach.
“The end was pretty crazy with the (No.) 66 running out of fuel ahead of me,” said Magnussen. “I thought I was going to get stuck behind him, so I had to get on the throttle full to push him out of the way to get that last half-lap back to the checkered flag. Corvette Racing did a fantastic job setting the car up and thinking about what we needed at the end of the race. I don’t know if we had the best car, but it was close. I’m super happy today. For sure we’d like to get a win soon. We’ve caught up in the championship so it’s a good day.”
Next up for the WeatherTech Championship is the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio on Sunday, May 5. The two-hour and 40-minute race will include all four WeatherTech Championship classes and also will mark the start of the inaugural WeatherTech Sprint Cup season for GT Daytona (GTD) cars.