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About the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA)

International Motor Sports Association, LLC (IMSA) was originally founded in 1969 and owns a long and rich history in sports car racing. Today, IMSA is the sanctioning body of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the premier sports car racing series in North America. IMSA also sanctions the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge and IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, as well as four one-make series: Ferrari Challenge North America, Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America and Porsche Carrera Cup North America. IMSA – a company within the NASCAR family – is the exclusive strategic partner in North America with the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) which operates the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a part of the FIA World Endurance Championship. The partnership enables selected IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competitors to earn automatic entries into the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.


‘89’ Is Prime for Lexus at Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Manufacturer Celebrates 35-Year U.S. Heritage with GTD Win



April 20, 2024

By John Oreovicz

IMSA Wire Service

Unofficial Race Results

 

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Lexus fielded a special entry in the Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach carrying the No. 89 to signify 1989, the year the brand debuted in America.


 

Parker Thompson and Ben Barnicoat helped the now-well-established auto manufacturer celebrate that 35-year milestone by driving the No. 89 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 to the GTD class victory in the first sprint race of the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. They won by 1.449 seconds over Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3.


 

Thompson earned the Motul Pole Award with a track record lap on Friday, then he and Barnicoat combined to dominate Saturday’s 100-minute race. They only briefly lost the lead during their single pit stop and driver change.


 

The No. 89 was an amalgamation of the Vasser Sullivan team’s two-car Lexus team that is normally split between the GTD and GTD PRO classes. Thompson generally co-drives the No. 12 Lexus with Frankie Montecalvo in GTD, while Barnicoat is teamed with Jack Hawksworth in the No. 14 GTD PRO entry. At Long Beach, Hawksworth and Montecalvo shared the No. 12 since the GTD PRO class wasn’t in action.


 

The Vasser Sullivan Lexus program has achieved 15 wins in IMSA competition, including 10 in GTD. The team’s last GTD win came at Watkins Glen International in June 2023.


 

Barnicoat, whose FIA Platinum driver grade earned him the nickname “Platypus” within Vasser Sullivan, heaped praise upon Thompson, who at age 26 is considered a rising star in international sports car racing.


 

“He crushed it,” Barnicoat said. “Track record, and he was faster than me in the race too, so I might have to look out for my seat in the No. 14. He’s definitely one of the up-and-comers. He’s got a bright future and I’m very lucky to drive with him now. He’s going to achieve great things, no doubt.”


 

Thompson, who has earned the Motul Pole Award twice in three races this year, demonstrated his trademark enthusiasm in Victory Lane.


 

“It’s Long Beach, come on!” he exclaimed. “This is the crown jewel of the sprint season. (The first) sprint race in my GTD career and already a win thanks to the ‘Platypus,’ Ben Barnicoat. Mr. Platinum himself brought it home for us. I can’t thank him enough.


 

“The year 1989 was the year Lexus came stateside,” Thompson added. “It’s pretty awesome to honor them with the number on the car. I’ll be remembering this one for a long time. This is a big one.”


 

The No. 96 BMW qualified seventh but vaulted up to second place when the Turner team chose not to change tires as Gallagher handed the car to Foley. His deft tire management was key to the podium finish.


 

“We have the best guys in the business on pit lane and had a really good stop, which we knew we needed to leapfrog everybody,” said Gallagher. “The strategy here is always whether you take tires or not, and we worked on (maintaining tire life) all week long to put us into this situation.


 

“But the Lexus was in another zip code.”


 

The No. 32 Korthoff/Preston Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT GT3 qualified sixth, led briefly during the pit stop exchange, and finished third in the hands of Mikael Grenier and Mike Skeen. Stevan McAleer claimed fourth place in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 he shared with Sheena Monk after a forceful drive from the back of the pack following engine problems kept it out of qualifying and forced the car to start last on the 17-car GTD grid.


 

The No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes finished seventh, maintaining a commanding 185-point lead in the GTD standings for drivers Russell Ward and Philip Ellis.


 

The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N, May 10-12 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. GTD PRO will rejoin the fray for a bill along with the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) and GTD classes.

 


Single-Set Tire Run Propels No. 01 Cadillac to Long Beach Victory

Cadillac Claims Sixth Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Win in Last Seven Outings



April 20, 2024

By Tony DiZinno

IMSA Wire Service

Unofficial Race Results

 

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The pace exhibited by the pair of Cadillac V-Series.R prototypes this weekend indicated one of their two cars would likely win Saturday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Round 3 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.


 

The only question was which one. The answer came for a second straight year by a strategic masterstroke on the only pit stop of the 100-minute race that often comes down to time spent on pit lane.


 

Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande took home the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class and overall honors in the Chip Ganassi Racing-prepared No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R, after starting third.


 

Bourdais bided his time and pitted a lap later than Motul Pole Award winner and early race leader Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac, on Lap 27 to Derani’s Lap 26.


 

Both cars changed drivers, Bourdais to van der Zande and Derani to Long Beach rookie Jack Aitken, but the difference came in the tire selection.


 

With a softer compound Michelin tire on offer this year compared to last year, it was unclear going into the race whether the 2024 winning car would be able to repeat the 2023 winning strategy of running the whole race on a single set of tires.


 

The Whelen Cadillac team from Action Express Racing changed two left-side tires, while the Ganassi Cadillac team opted to go for it by not changing any tires.


 

That proved the difference in the race, with van der Zande returning to the track ahead of Aitken and hanging on for the remaining hour through a pair of restarts that provided ample opportunity for overtakes while maneuvering through Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class traffic.


 

Ultimately, van der Zande held off Aitken by 0.564 seconds in the 68-lap race. Afterward, van der Zande noted it was a late call to opt for the no-tire-change approach.


 

“It was quite cold, then the sun came out and it started to warm up,” van der Zande said. “We left it to the last minute to decide. They made the right choice for sure.


 

“Strategy won this race. The tires were kind of gone at the end; it was quite slippery. But I’m very proud of my team.”


 

Aitken ran within a few tenths of van der Zande, but a series of incidents around the track cost him time before one final restart, when he was unable to make a move.


 

“It was pretty much the same as the last 50 minutes. I gave it everything,” Aitken said. “It was a big call for them to go on one set, and they jumped us there. I really tried. But it was a great drive by Renger.


 

“Once they had track position, it’s extremely difficult to pass without taking a huge amount of risk. The couple yellows we did have helped Renger to take care of the tires. They lasted surprisingly well, better than I think we expected at the start of the weekend.”


 

The win is van der Zande’s 20th of his IMSA career and Bourdais’ 12th. The duo teamed in a Ganassi car to win at Long Beach in 2022. Bourdais crashed out on the opening lap last year when a mechanical malfunction made the car veer into the front straight wall.


 

“When we make it through Turn 1, we win,” van der Zande joked toward his co-driver, who promptly followed with a humorous water toss back at van der Zande.


 

For IMSA’s GTP class, it’s the second consecutive year three different manufacturers have won the first three races. Last year it was Acura, Cadillac and Porsche in that order and this year it’s Porsche, Acura and Cadillac.


 

Coincidentally, an Acura won this year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac, while a Cadillac captured today’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.


 

Behind the pair of Cadillacs on Saturday were three Porsche 963s. The championship-leading pair of Felipe Nasr and Dane Cameron in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 finished third ahead of the sister No. 6 car and the customer No. 5 Proton Competition entry.


 

Unofficially, Nasr, Cameron and the No. 7 Porsche have 1,032 points and a 58-point gap to van der Zande, Bourdais and the No. 01 Cadillac, with Derani, Aitken and the No. 31 Cadillac 77 points in arrears.


 

The WeatherTech Championship returns to California from May 10-12 for the Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

 


Unofficial Results, Points & Post-Race Nuggets | WeatherTech Championship
Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
Long Beach Street Course - Saturday, April 20, 2024

 
Additional results are available at results.imsa.com.

 
Unofficial points are available at pitnotes.org/points.
GTP
No. 01 Cadillac Racing (Chip Ganassi Racing)
  • 66th class win
  • Last win was at Laguna Seca 2023
  • Fourth win at Long Beach (2006, 2014, 2022, 2024)
  • First team to win four races overall at Long Beach
 
Sebastien Bourdais
  • 12th career win
  • Second Long Beach win
  • First win of 2024
 
Renger van der Zande
  • 20th career win
  • Second Long Beach win
  • First win of 2024

 
GTD
No. 89 Vasser Sullivan
  • 15th class win
  • 10th GTD class win
  • Last GTD class win was at Watkins Glen 2023
  • Won last race at Sebring in GTD PRO
 
Ben Barnicoat
  • Seventh career win
  • Last win was at Sebring 2024
  • Second class win at Long Beach, first in GTD
  • Last class win at Long Beach was in 2023 in GTD PRO

 
Parker Thompson
  • Second career class win
  • First win was at Watkins Glen 2023
  • First start at Long Beach

 


 

 

Thompson Leads Lexus Beach Party in Long Beach GTD Qualifying

Manufacturer Qualifies 1-2 While Celebrating U.S. Legacy



April 19, 2024

By John Oreovicz

IMSA Wire Service

Unofficial Qualifying Results


 

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Safe to say Vasser Sullivan and Lexus put a fair amount of emphasis on the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Parker Thompson and Frankie Montecalvo delivered in qualifying on Friday.


 

With Vasser Sullivan’s two-car lineup reconfigured to fit the single-class format of the 100-minute round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Thompson prevailed over his regular teammate Montecalvo to claim the Motul Pole Award for the Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class.


 

Thompson whipped the No. 89 Lexus RC F GT3 around the classic 1.968-mile street course in 1 minute, 17.357 seconds (91.585 mph). Montecalvo was second fastest (1:17.619/91.276 mph) in the No. 12 Lexus he normally shares with Thompson.


 

At most WeatherTech Championship races, Vasser Sullivan Lexus fields the No. 12 in GTD along with a No. 14 entry in the GTD PRO class driven by Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth. The cars that compete in the two classes are actually identical.


 

GTD PRO is not part of the field at Long Beach, so Vasser Sullivan and Lexus decided to enter the second car as the No. 89. Hawksworth is teamed with Montecalvo in the No. 12, while Barnicoat is sharing what is regularly the No. 14 car with Thompson. The number 89 was selected to honor Lexus’ first year in the United States market.


 

Barnicoat and Hawksworth claimed the GTD PRO class victory for Lexus and Vasser Sullivan in 2023 on their way to the season championship.


 

On Friday at Long Beach, Thompson displayed sizzling form in qualifying, laying down three laps that were fast enough for the pole. It was his second pole of the season following the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and this one set a new track record for the class.


 

“There was a lot of pressure today,” Thompson said. “We did a qualifying simulation in Practice 2, and I thought we were going to have to work really hard for that pole. To be 1-2, I’m really proud and that just shows how good our Lexus is around the Grand Prix of Long Beach.


 

“But that’s only half the job, unfortunately,” he added. “They only give you a medal for pole, they don’t give you a trophy. Tomorrow is the big day.”


 

Thompson credited engineer Geoff Fickling for easing his transition into what normally operates as the No. 14 GTD PRO team for the Long Beach weekend.


 

“He didn’t throw the kitchen sink at it, but he gave me a lot of changes for qualifying,” Thompson said. “You never really know how that’s going to go, but you can’t not trust Geoff Fickling. The guy is just pretty on it, and today is a testament to that. The car was fantastic.”


 

Saturday’s race sets up the fascinating prospect of Lexus drivers who are normally teamed together racing against each other. For Montecalvo and Thompson, it carries title implications since the points they score at Long Beach count toward the season long driver’s championship. And one is going to outscore the other.


 

“I think everybody wants the No. 12 to have a good race; that is the priority,” Thompson observed. “Obviously, they’re in the full-time championship, and that’s my full-time home. So, I’m sure that we’ll play friendly to make sure both cars get through Turn 1 (at the start) and hopefully finish 1-2 in the race.”


 

Albert Costa Balboa qualified third in the No. 34 Conquest Racing Ferrari 296 GT3, while Roman De Angelis completed the second row in the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo.


 

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be broadcast live on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA Radio from 4:30-6:30 p.m. ET Saturday April.

 


Derani Delivers Third Consecutive Motul Pole Award of '24 at Long Beach

No. 31 Cadillac Driver Recovers from Quick Run-In to Ensure Top Spot on Grid



April 19, 2024

By Tony DiZinno

IMSA Wire Service

Unofficial Qualifying Results


 

LONG BEACH, Calif. – The Motul Pole Award streak rolls on for Pipo Derani.


 

The 30-year-old Brazilian, the two-time and defending top prototype class champion in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, added another mark to his resume with his first Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) pole position on the streets of Long Beach ahead of Saturday’s 100-minute Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach race.


 

It’s Derani’s third consecutive pole overall and 12th in his IMSA career, after also scoring the top spot in qualifying at the first two races of 2024 – the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac.


 

This one saw Derani bank his eventual pole lap of 1 minute, 11.388 seconds (99.243 mph) on his sixth lap, driving the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R.


 

It was fortunate that he set the lap when he did because, when trying to improve it toward the end of the 15-minute session, he nosed his car into the Turn 9 tire barrier.

Derani was able to reverse out and make it back to the pit lane to avoid losing his pole-winning flag for causing a red-flag stoppage, whereupon he covered up the left front quarter panel damage with an astutely placed Motul Pole Award sign.


 

“I put the lap in early and it was enough,” said Derani, who shares the car with Jack Aitken. “The last flying lap I requested the team not to talk over the radio. I came to the end a little bit quicker. I thought I’d try it to push an extra gap if necessary.


 

“It starts to get a bit quicker. I locked up and went into the barriers. I had to come off the barriers quickly and had to remind myself how to get it done. I knew how important it was to get on pole here. We can swap the nose. A race here is so important to start on pole.”


 

Coming up just shy of the pole was Nick Yelloly, only 0.009 seconds in arrears, in the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8. The Englishman and teammate Connor De Phillippi will roll off second, the same position they finished this race last year.


 

Cadillac Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais came close to knocking Derani off the pole despite not taking the track until five minutes were left due to an electrical issue with the Chip Ganassi Racing-prepared No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R. Limited to two laps at speed, Bourdais dodged slower GTP traffic twice but made it only up to third fastest on his final lap, just 0.023 seconds back of pole.

 

“I think we were on the money, just obviously had a hybrid fault and couldn't start the car,” Bourdais said. “The guys managed to find a default position that disabled something and managed to get us going. I got impeded on two of those three laps that we had, and particularly the quick lap. It's a shame but at the same time it's mixed feelings. … Starting P3 is a lot better than not putting a lap in and starting P10.”


 

The pair of Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 cars line up fourth and fifth, with defending race winners Mathieu Jaminet and Nick Tandy fourth in the No. 6 Porsche 963 and Dane Cameron and Felipe Nasr fifth in their No. 7 Porsche 963.


 

Jordan Taylor placed the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 sixth, best of the two Acuras, just over three-tenths of a second in arrears of the pole. Taylor shares the car with Long Beach debutante Louis Deletraz.


 

Heading into Saturday’s race that airs live at 4:30 p.m. ET on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA Radio, Nasr and Cameron, with 732 points, hold a one-point lead in the championship points over Taylor and Deletraz.

 


 

 

Qualifying Results | WeatherTech Championship

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Long Beach Street Course - Friday, April 19, 2024

Qualifying Results


 

Practice 2 Results

Practice 1 Results


 

Additional results are available at results.imsa.com.

 

Practice Results | WeatherTech Championship

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Long Beach Street Course - Friday, April 19, 2024

Practice 2 Results

Practice 1 Results


 

Additional results are available at results.imsa.com.


 

Practice Results | WeatherTech Championship

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Long Beach Street Course - Friday, April 19, 2024

Practice 1 Results


 

Additional results are available at results.imsa.com.


 
Event

Acura grand prix of long beach
 

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is ready for a Southern California sprint around the most storied temporary street circuit in North America. Catch all the battling, bumping and passing action as the GTP and GTD classes wage a street fight in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Live coverage on USA Network and Peacock begins at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday.

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What to Watch For: Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Qualifying Matters … or Does It? And Wild Cards to Watch



April 18, 2024

By David Phillips

IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – At 100 minutes long, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is many hours shorter than the brace of endurance events that kicked off the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. But whatever it lacks in length, the event makes up in importance to IMSA’s dozen participating marques and tens of thousands of sports car racing fans given its location amid Southern California’s car culture and automotive industry. What’s more, the iconic 11-turn, 1.968-street circuit promises – and usually delivers – an action-packed sports car race from start to finish.


 

Qualifying Is Key


 

Although the prestige and championship points on offer in qualifying are every bit as important as in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac, the track position afforded by a strong qualifying performance is vastly more important at Long Beach than at the opening rounds of the season. Not only is overtaking much more difficult on the street circuit than on the comparatively wide-open spaces of Daytona International Speedway or Sebring International Raceway, there’s also far less time to take care of business.


 

At Sebring, for example, owing to a technical infraction that voided its qualifying time, the winning Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 started from the back of the class grid and didn’t take the lead until the checkered flag would have waved at Long Beach. Thus, Friday’s qualifying session figures to be of critical importance in determining the outcome of Saturday’s race.


 

Equally, drivers and their pit crews need clean performances during “sprint” events such as the Long Beach GP. Penalized infractions on the track and in the pit lane are virtually certain to “put paid” to a team’s hopes for a strong finish. At Sebring, for example, it took the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 the better part of 10 hours to regain the GTD PRO lead after an early penalty for (lightly) striking a crew member during the first round of pit stops. Should a similar situation arise at Long Beach, there would be nowhere near enough time to recover from the penalty.


 

Qualifying Schm-alifying


 

Paradoxically, starting position proved to be of little consequence at Long Beach last year to the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963, which looks to successfully defend its 2023 overall and Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class victory this weekend. After all, Nick Tandy qualified the No. 6 Porsche a full 1.5 seconds behind the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 of pole winner Filipe Albuquerque, only good enough for sixth on the grid.

And while the Porsche improved its position during the course of the race, it appeared doomed to finish no better than second behind the No. 10 Acura until a “Hail Mary” strategy put Tandy’s co-driver Mathieu Jaminet in position to win the race.


 

Given the fact that Michelin’s tires designed for double stinting required a bit longer to come up to temperature, all of the GTP competitors changed tires during their scheduled pit stops – all but the No. 6 Porsche and its No. 7 sister car. Eschewing the 10 to 12 seconds that would have been spent fitting new rubber during their stop, the No. 6 Porsche emerged from the round of stops in the lead with the No. 7 in second.


 

While Ricky Taylor used his new Michelins to great effect in catching and passing the No. 7 Porsche, he only had time enough to put the nose of the No. 10 Acura to the tail of the No. 6 Porsche for the final 10 laps. When Taylor’s bold attempt to overtake the lead Porsche in Turn 1 came cropper, Jaminet was free to steer the No. 6 Porsche to the win, from sixth place on the grid.


 

Will such a strategy play out again in GTP or, for that matter, GTD, which is running on new Michelin rubber this year? Much depends on if and when full-course yellows occur. Had there been a full-course yellow in the final five laps last year, for instance, Taylor would likely have used the superior grip of his newer Michelins to overtake Jaminet. Or had there been a caution around the time of the pit stops, the time the Porsches saved by skipping the tire change would have been largely negated when the pack formed up behind the pace car for the restart.


 

Wild Cards

The Long Beach field will feature a couple of wild cards: drivers and/or cars that are not running the full schedule but who have every chance to win on Saturday. On the GTP front, 24 Hours of Le Mans and Rolex 24 winner Mike Rockenfeller is set to make a cameo appearance in the No. 5 Proton Competition Mustang Sampling Porsche 963 together with Proton regular Gianmaria Bruni.


 

After a partial ’23 WeatherTech Championship schedule in the JDC-Miller MotorSports Porsche 963, Rockenfeller joined Ford Multimatic Motorsports this season as part of its factory GTD PRO program with the Ford Mustang GT3. Given that Long Beach is not on the GTD PRO calendar, Rockenfeller is available for a GTP one-off with Proton.


 

Meanwhile, with an eye firmly fixed on bettering the chances of capturing a GTD title for Lexus, Vasser Sullivan is entering a second car at Long Beach, namely the No. 89 Lexus RC F GT3 that normally competes in GTD PRO as the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan entry. In order to meet the GTD driver requirements of one pro and one amateur per car, GTD PRO drivers Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat will split up at Long Beach, with Hawksworth joining Frankie Montecalvo in the latter’s familiar No. 12 Lexus. In turn, Montecalvo’s regular GTD running mate, Parker Thompson, will be paired with Barnicoat in the latter’s familiar Lexus, albeit with different numerals on its flanks.


 

Additionally, Long Beach sees the welcome return of the Lizards, namely the Flying Lizard Motorsports team that won no fewer than six IMSA championships, 69 podiums and 25 race wins (including two at Long Beach) over 11 full-season and two partial-season efforts between 2004 and 2016. The Lizards have since enjoyed considerable success in the SRO America and Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series.


 

While much of the Flying Lizards’ IMSA success came in Porsches, Long Beach will see the team field the No. 28 Aston Martin Vantage EVO GT3 for drivers Elias Sabo and Andy Lee. Although this is a one-off appearance for the Flying Lizards (at least for now), there is every reason to believe they will be competitive at Long Beach on their return to GTD.


 

Regardless which of the 17 cars entered takes the GTD class win at Long Beach, one thing is for sure: Saturday will see the three-race win streak come to an end for Paul Miller Racing and drivers Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow, given that they are running for GTD PRO honors in their No. 01 BMW M4 GT3 this season. Thus, will Turner Motorsport fly the BMW flag alone in GTD this weekend with Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher piloting the No. 96 BMW.


 

Will Porsche Penske Motorsport stage a repeat of its 2023 success? Who will assume the mantle of GTD Kings of Long Beach? Catch all the action on the Peacock and USA Network on Friday and Saturday.

 


From Risk to Reward, Long Beach Win Sent Penske Porsches on Upward Trajectory

Gambling by Using a Single Set of Tires in the Race, the No. 6 Porsche 963 Claimed the Marque’s First GTP Victory



April 17, 2024

By Jeff Olson

IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – One race in 2023 will always hold significance for Porsche Penske Motorsport. With the added challenge of a new, hybrid-based car, the season hadn’t started the way the team had planned.


 

Then came Long Beach.


 

An unlikely yet timely victory by Nick Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet in the No. 6 PPM Porsche 963 was the team’s first in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class and its complicated new vehicle. What was considered an improbable win sent the team on a mission for more.


 

“The season hadn’t started out so great,” Tandy recalled. “We were still having issues with the car and some of the teamwork together, but (Long Beach) was a boost to team morale and the hope and realization that even if the car isn’t on point and we’re not the fastest one out there, we do always still have the chance. We showed we have the ability to produce a result.”


 

Foregoing fresh tires on the final pit stop, the No. 6 car found its way to the lead and held it to the finish. The team’s sister car – the No. 7 co-driven by Felipe Nasr and Matt Campbell – finished third.


 

From there, Porsche Penske Motorsport honed the new technology and got a handle on how it races. The team recorded two wins and four podium finishes in the following five races, and the No. 6 car went into the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans thick in the hunt for the GTP championship – just five points from the lead.


 

The journey began with one difficult but successful race on an 11-turn, 1.968-mile circuit through the streets of Long Beach.


 

“It had a huge significance,” Tandy said. “It was a win, obviously, but we had two cars on the podium. It wasn’t the fact that we dominated the weekend. We really struggled for pace. It was not our best weekend by a long shot. To get two cars on the podium and our first win was a huge shot in the arm for the whole operation and everybody working there.”


 

When the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship returns this week for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, the event once again will serve as a touchstone for Porsche Penske Motorsport’s continuing development of the 963. One of just two street circuits on the 2024 schedule, Long Beach is known for its unforgiving nature. 


 

“It is the place where the smallest mistake can have the biggest consequence,” Tandy said. “With that in mind, that challenge is what excites a lot of people – us as drivers, especially. You know that you have to be right up to the limit to not give away anything, but any tenth of a percent over that limit could be race-ending.”

Despite the difficulty, Long Beach holds appeal for Tandy and his teammates. It’s a rare opportunity in which Roger Penske’s IMSA and IndyCar operations are together outside team headquarters in Mooresville, North Carolina. Tandy relishes the opportunity to point Team Penske’s IndyCar fans toward the sports car side.


 

“I’m hoping when they watch the IndyCar race that they’ll support our cars, and vice versa,” he said. “We see people from other parts of the workshop when we’re in Mooresville, but it’s nice to see everybody at the racetrack again.” 


 

That’s where the personal aspect of Long Beach comes into play. Last year at this time, Porsche Penske Motorsport had no wins and just one podium finish – Tandy, Jaminet and Dane Cameron’s third in the No. 6 car at Sebring – to its credit. Then came an unexpected win that set everything straight.


 

Starting with Long Beach, the two Penske Porsches scored more points than every other GTP car but one the rest of the season and wound up deadlocked in points, with the No. 6 finishing fourth in the standings by virtue of more race wins and the No. 7 taking fifth.


 

“Obviously when you have bad results, not a lot of people are happy,” Tandy said. “We’re competitive people, everybody on the team. On the other side of that, when we win, it’s a huge morale booster. … You never give up. If everybody does their best work, anything can happen.”


 

The bid for a Long Beach repeat begins Friday with practice and qualifying. The 100-minute race airs live at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA Radio.


 

 

Does Experience Count at Long Beach? GTP Newcomers Hope Not

A Number of Drivers Will Be Racing a GTP on the Street Circuit for the First Time



April 16, 2024

By John Oreovicz

IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s difficult enough to wrestle a big, powerful Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) car around Daytona International Speedway or Sebring International Raceway – the pair of expansive, wide-open tracks that hosted the first two rounds of the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.


 

This week, the action moves to a venue that couldn’t be more different: the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and its iconic street course. Long Beach is the second shortest and as is the case with temporary circuits, extremely tight with concrete walls looming on both sides of the bumpy city streets.


 

Three of the 10 GTP entries at Long Beach have at least one driver who has not taken on a street course in one of the hybrid-powered prototypes: The No. 5 and No. 85 customer Porsche 963s fielded by Proton Competition and JDC-Miller MotorSports, respectively, and the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06.


 

Last year at Long Beach, Nick Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet earned the first international sports car victory for the Type 963 for Porsche Penske Motorsport, which operates the factory team running the Nos. 6 and 7 cars. But at that point of the ’23 season, neither of the private Porsche teams had yet received their cars – their campaigns started at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca (JDC-Miller) and Road America (Proton).


 

While Porsche provides basic guidance for how to run the complex 963, Proton and JDC-Miller won’t be gaining access to Long Beach setup sheets from PPM. Richard Westbrook, who shares the No. 85 JDC-Miller car with Tijmen van der Helm, has the most Long Beach experience among the customer Porsches; he posted back-to-back second-place finishes at Long Beach in a Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT in 2017 and ’18 in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, and added another podium in Daytona Prototype international (DPi), the prototype class that preceded GTP in 2022. In the No. 5 car, Gianmaria Bruni’s last Long Beach appearance came in a GT-class Ferrari in 2010 and Mike Rockenfeller’s in a Daytona Prototype-class Porsche Crawford in 2006, when Rockenfeller and then co-driver Patrick Long finished second.


 

The No. 40 Acura and drivers Jordan Taylor and Louis Deletraz have a stronger foundation to work with. The WTRAndretti team’s No. 10 car shared by Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque took pole position last year for GTP’s first Long Beach appearance. They also nearly won the race, only to see Taylor crash while hotly pursuing the leading No. 6 Penske Porsche in the closing moments of the 100-minute sprint. The No. 40, a new entry for the team this year, can expect to enjoy the benefit of all the data WTRAndretti collected on the way to its Long Beach near miss in 2023.


 

Like Westbrook, Jordan Taylor has prior prototype experience on the narrow street course – and a strong track record in any car he drives there. Taylor co-drove to three consecutive Long Beach victories from 2015-17 – the first two in a Corvette Daytona Prototype (DP), the last in a Cadillac DPi. The last three years, Taylor competed in Grand Touring classes for Corvette Racing; he started from the class pole and recorded podium finishes in 2021 and ’22.

Taylor and Deletraz are coming off a victory with co-driver Colton Herta in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac and are tied for the lead of the GTP class point standings with the No. 7 Porsche and drivers Felipe Nasr and Dane Cameron.


 

“I think going to Long Beach where there’s no time to get up to speed, it’s important to be comfortable and ready to go,” Jordan Taylor said. “The Daytona Prototypes were smaller cars that felt more nimble. This GTP car is big and a little bit heavier, has a lot of power, and there’s usually a lot of tire degradation. Around a place like Long Beach, it could make for a pretty exciting race.”


 

Taylor believes his transition back to prototypes after competing for four years (and winning two championships) in GT cars was made easier by the fact that Corvette Racing transitioned from the front-engine C7 to the mid-engine C8.R platform.


 

“The C7 had a very unique driving style,” he said. “It was very unconventional to get that car to work or to get a lap time out of it. It was pretty much different from every other car I’ve driven. When Corvette went to the C8.R and the mid-engine platform, it made it way more user-friendly for the driver. It was way more predictable. It felt like it was designed as a race car, basically. So, I think transitioning back to prototypes was much easier coming from the C8.R.”


 

Deletraz has more recent prototype experience than Taylor. He won consecutive LMP2 class championships in the European Le Mans Series and added an LMP2 crown in the FIA World Endurance Championship in 2023. But it’s been nearly eight years since he last drove any car on a street course – the 2016 FIA GP2 single-seater race at Monaco.


 

“For sure I’m not scared to go to Long Beach – I’m really excited,” Deletraz remarked. “But it’s a new challenge. Those prototypes are big with a lot of power, and with traffic there will be a lot of firsts. For sure, the traffic is quite different on street tracks. But I’m really excited. The Acura was strong last year, so hopefully we can continue on that momentum.”


 

Jordan Taylor’s recent GT experience at Long Beach could also be an advantage.


 

“I’d say it’s a lot easier to defend around there as a GT car than it is to be the aggressor,” he commented. “It’s pretty easy to make a mistake around there when you’re trying to attack and not lose time in traffic. But if you’re in a GT car with ABS, you can really attack the brakes and hold guys off – make it difficult for the guys in prototypes. So, I think coming back to prototypes, understanding what it was like to be in a GT car and where it was OK to make a move or be extra-aggressive, will be helpful. I think we’re pretty excited to get back there to see what we can do.”

 

Broadcast coverage of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is available on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA Radio starting at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday.


 


GTD Teams Have No Buffer in Long Beach without GTD PRO Traffic

With No GTD PRO, GTD Race Strategy Becomes Much Simpler



April 15, 2024

By Mark Robinson

IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Simpler is better. That’s the general consensus of Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) drivers headed to this week’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.


 

For the first and only time in the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, the GTD cars will race without their GTD PRO class counterparts. Both classes of cars adhere to identical global GT3 specifications, the only difference being that GTD lineups must include a Bronze- or Silver-rated driver while GTD PRO cars are usually filled with all-pro lineups including manufacturer-supported drivers.


 

The equality of the cars themselves and the fact that both classes – when racing together – qualify as one often results in a starting lineup that’s a mash-up of interspersed GTD PRO and GTD cars. That typically continues throughout the race, with a driver from one class trying to maneuver past a driver from the other class to get closer to another same-class car or create a buffer from a pursuing same-class car.


 

All of that goes out the window at Long Beach, however. With only GTD on the docket (along with the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class), there will be 17 GT3 cars battling for the same prize and points. Those involved like the cut-and-dried nature of it all.


 

“It simplifies it,” said Frankie Montecalvo, co-driver of the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. “Everyone in your mirrors is for position.”


 

Montecalvo is paired this week with Jack Hawksworth, who normally shares a ride with Ben Barnicoat in Vasser Sullivan’s No. 14 Lexus in GTD PRO. The team opted to run two GTD cars at Long Beach, but to satisfy driver rating requirements teamed Montecalvo and Hawksworth in the No. 12 while Barnicoat joins Parker Thompson in the No. 89 Lexus.


 

“We’re going to be racing everybody around us,” Hawksworth said. “That keeps it quite simple.”

Robby Foley is co-driver of the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3 with Patrick Gallagher. Foley said the Long Beach race will be “a little bit more old school” since there won’t be the constant jockeying for position between GTD PRO and GTD cars that can wreak havoc on a tight street circuit.


 

“You'll still be aggressive racing,” Foley said, “but you won't have a GTD PRO car trying to pass a GTD to get to his next GTD PRO car, so less desperation for sure.”


 

Misha Goikhberg concurs. The Silver-rated driver of the No. 78 Forte Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 that he shares with Loris Spinelli appreciates that he won’t need to check the color of the differentiating windshield decals, mirrors and number plates of the cars around him to know what class they’re in. At Long Beach they’ll all be GTD green, with no GTD PRO red in sight.


 

“You'll never have to wonder or try to take a look which sticker’s on the car to understand if it's directly for position,” Goikhberg explained. “You just know it’s for position, so from that perspective it's almost easier because every car in your visibility is for position.”


 

Besides, he added, racing with the GTP cars on a street course could pose more threat when the much faster prototypes are looking to overtake the GTD cars.


 

“Because the track is quite short, the GTP traffic is going to be a factor,” Goikhberg said. “You have to be very cognizant of where they'll try to pass you and how they're going to go about it. I think that could ruin a race.”


 

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach practice and qualifying are scheduled for Friday. The 100-minute race airs live starting at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA Radio.


 

 

Entry List Notebook – Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

GTP and GTD Cars Will Take It to Streets of Famous Circuit on April 19-20



April 10, 2024

By Mark Robinson

IMSA Wire Service

Entry List (Click Here)


 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship takes the action and drama of North America’s most popular and competitive sports car racing series out west next week for the first of two California races in a four-week span. The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is set for April 19-20 on the iconic street course near Los Angeles.


 

Two WeatherTech Championship classes – Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) and Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) – and a total of 27 cars will attack the tight and challenging Long Beach temporary street circuit for the 100-minute, all-out sprint on Saturday, April 20.


 

Porsche Penske Motorsport seeks to repeat its overall and GTP class win from a year ago, when No. 6 Porsche 963 co-drivers Nick Tandy and Mathieu Jaminet succeeded with the assist of the team’s decision not to change tires on their lone pit stop. There will be no repeat winner in GTD; Paul Miller Racing, which won the last three GTD races at Long Beach, is no longer competing in the class.


 

There have been a few changes within the GTD class for Long Beach. Flying Lizard Motorsports makes its return to the WeatherTech Championship with the No. 28 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo to be driven by Elias Sabo and Andy Lee. Veteran driver Spencer Pumpelly joins Roman De Angelis in the No. 27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin, and Stevan McAleer returns to the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 to drive alongside Sheena Monk.


 

Practice and qualifying take place Friday, April 19. The race airs live on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA Radio at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 20.


 

Here’s what else you need to know heading into race week:


 

Fast Facts

Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Long Beach Street Course – Long Beach, California

April 19-20, 2024

  • Race Day/Time: Saturday, April 20 – 4:35 p.m. ET

  • NBC Sports Coverage: USA Network and Peacock from 4:30-6:30 p.m.

  • Live Qualifying Stream: Friday, April 19 – 7:55 p.m. ET on Peacock (U.S.) and IMSA.tv (globally)

  • IMSA Radio: All sessions live on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com; SiriusXM live race coverage begins Saturday, April 20 at 4:30 p.m. (Sirius 211, XM 206, Web/App 996)

  • Circuit Type: 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street course

  • Race Length: 100 minutes

  • Classes Competing: Grand Touring Prototype (GTP), Grand Touring Daytona (GTD)


 

Track Social Media: 

Event Hashtags: #IMSA, #AcuraGPLB


 

WeatherTech Championship Track Records

  • GTP: Filipe Albuquerque, Acura ARX-06, 1:09.909 / 101.343 mph, April 2023

  • GTD: Marco Sorensen, Aston Martin Vantage GT3, 1:17.811 / 91.051 mph, April 2023

 

2023 Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Winners:

  • GTP: Nick Tandy/Mathieu Jaminet, No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963

  • GTD PRO: Jack Hawksworth/Ben Barnicoat, No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3

  • GTD: Bryan Sellers/Madison Snow, No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3


 

Storylines


 

Who’s Hot?

  • No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3: Russell Ward and Philip Ellis head to Long Beach on the strength of back-to-back GTD wins to start the season, allowing them to open a sizable lead in the class standings. The duo has finished 14th and fifth at Long Beach the last two years.

  • No. 7 Porsche, No. 40 Acura: The co-leaders in GTP – the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 and No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 – have swapped first- and third-place finishes in the two races to begin the season, the only teams in the class to have achieved two podium results thus far.

 

Who’s Good Here?

  • Tandy and the Taylors: With his GTP victory in 2023 with co-driver Mathieu Jaminet, Nick Tandy earned his third Long Beach victory; the first two coming in the former GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. Tandy joins brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor as the active drivers with the most wins on the street circuit. The Taylors accomplished theirs together from 2015-17 driving for the team they’re both back with in 2024, though they’ll race in different GTP cars this time.


 

Previous Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Winners in 2024 Field (12)

  • Nick Tandy (3): GTLM – 2016, 2021; GTP – 2023

  • Jordan Taylor (3): P – 2015, 2016, 2017

  • Ricky Taylor (3): P – 2015, 2016, 2017

  • Filipe Albuquerque (2): P – 2018; DPi – 2019

  • Ben Barnicoat (1): GTD PRO – 2023

  • Sebastien Bourdais (1): DPi – 2022

  • Pipo Derani (1): DPi – 2021

  • Misha Goikhberg (1): PC – 2016

  • Jack Hawksworth (1): GTD PRO – 2023

  • Mathieu Jaminet (1): GTP – 2023

  • Felipe Nasr (1): DPi – 2021

  • Renger van der Zande (1): DPi – 2022


 

Previous Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Pole Winners in 2024 Field (8)

  • Jordan Taylor (2): GTLM – 2021; GTD PRO – 2022

  • Ricky Taylor (2): P – 2015, 2017

  • Filipe Albuquerque (1): GTP – 2023

  • Sebastien Bourdais (1): DPi – 2022

  • Jack Hawksworth (1): GTD PRO – 2023

  • Felipe Nasr (1): DPi – 2021

  • Marco Sorensen (1): GTD – 2023

  • Nick Tandy (1): GTLM – 2019


 

Previous Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Winning Teams in 2024 Field (9)

  • Action Express Racing (3): P – 2018; DPi – 2019, 2021

  • BMW M Team RLL (3): GT – 2011, 2013; GTLM – 2015

  • Chip Ganassi Racing (3): DP – 2006; P – 2014; DPi – 2022

  • Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti (3): P – 2015, 2016, 2017

  • Flying Lizard Motorsports (2): GT2 – 2009; GT – 2010

  • Penske Racing (2): P2 – 2007; GTP – 2023

  • Heart of Racing Team (1): GTD PRO – 2022

  • JDC-Miller MotorSports (1): 2016 – PC

  • Vasser Sullivan (1): 2023 – GTD PRO


 

Previous Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach Winning Manufacturers in 2024 Field (11)

  • Chevrolet – 10

  • Porsche – 10

  • Cadillac – 5

  • BMW – 5

  • Acura – 3

  • Aston Martin – 2

  • Ferrari – 2

  • Lexus – 2

  • Ford – 1

  • Lamborghini – 1

  • Mercedes-AMG – 1


 

Flying Lizard Returns at Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

Iconic Team Set for First WeatherTech Championship Start Since 2016



April 9, 2024

By Tony DiZinno

IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The history of North American sports car racing can’t be written without Flying Lizard Motorsports. Its IMSA legacy dates back 20 years to the American Le Mans Series era and its current program is spread across IMSA and SRO America paddocks.


 

However, it hasn’t made an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship start of any kind since the 2016 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, in a joint effort with Krohn Racing, with an Audi R8 LMS Ultra.


 

That will change with next week’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, when the Lizards will field the No. 28 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo with drivers Elias Sabo and Andy Lee in GT Daytona (GTD).


 

It will mark both Sabo and Lee’s WeatherTech Championship debuts, but it also is a welcome return for the Lizards both at Long Beach and for its program manager Darren Law.


 

Sabo, who joined the Flying Lizard fold in 2022, has progressed through his sports car career first in GT4 machinery and then this year up to GT3. The Southern California native had this race circled as a career “bucket list” item, and as Law explained, the stars aligned for what, at the moment, is a one-off WeatherTech Championship race.


 

“It’s close to home and something he’s always wanted to do,” Law said. “One of his companies, 5.11, is located in Southern California. There are suites, corporate personnel, lots of guests and a new GT3 car, so it all worked out!


 

“It’s a pretty big project for one race, but that’s the commitment we’ve shown for this effort. You have to sort things for IMSA like electronics, series monitoring and a different tire.


 

“But it’s important for Elias as a home race,” continued Law. “And important for us where it’s a homecoming back from the American Le Mans Series days to be back in IMSA!”


 

Law joked that while he couldn’t remember what he did earlier in the week, he could easily recall a runner-up finish co-driving with Patrick Long at Long Beach in a Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR back in 2007.


 

Current Lizard activities are far busier. The Long Beach weekend comes at the tail end of a whirlwind offseason where the team prepped its four Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America cars for the season opener at Sebring last month where they scored a win, two additional podiums and two pole positions, as well as its five SRO cars for the start of that season at Sonoma Raceway earlier this month. 


 

There’s another major project that’s encompassed the offseason. The team is in the process of transitioning from its Sonoma shop where it operated for 20 years to Apex Motor Club in Phoenix, where it should be operational by the end of April. As Law related, that’s as big a task – if not bigger – than traditional season prep.


 

“You don’t realize how much comes with 20 years of loading and unloading a shop until you do it,” he said. “You also don’t know how many boxes you need for trophies!”


 

In the team’s 11 full-season and two partial-season IMSA efforts, they earned six championship titles, 69 podiums, and 25 race wins. 

 

Though it shifted from a factory-supported effort to a primarily customer program in the last decade, its presence at the front of the field is expected whenever it competes.


 

That’s the legacy the Lizards established during its time in the WeatherTech Championship, through its prior guises. At Long Beach specifically, the team won twice with Porsches and added other success in other series in later years since its most recent start there in 2019.


 

For Law, Sabo and Lee at Long Beach though, the goal is slightly different: make the laps first, gain the experience for later, and soak up the joy that is one of the highlights on the calendar.


 

“Elias has a simulator, so he’s spent time driving the track and learning it,” Law said. “He has Andy as his coach and I’m so happy to help as well; I’ve done Long Beach many times in the past.


 

“Our goal is that this is his first foray into IMSA so it’s to enjoy the race, get through it and complete it. If we have a great result, that’s an added bonus.


 

“Long Beach as an event is super cool. I grew up in Southern California and have been going to this since I was a kid. And I still catch up with friends during the weekend.


 

“For a driver, it’s a bucket list and high-profile event to do. I loved racing there. It’s really neat for us to be able to do.”


 

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is a 100-minute sprint race that features the GTD and Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) classes. USA Network and Peacock will carry flag-to-flag live coverage from 4:30-6:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 20.


 

To Change or Not to Change, That Is the Long Beach Tire Question

Porsche Penske Motorsport Used a No-Change Strategy a Year ago to Win; Will It Happen Again?



April 8, 2024

By John Oreovicz

IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – As one of only two 100-minute sprint races on the 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship calendar, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach represents a significant change from the 24- and 12-hour endurance events that traditionally open the season.


 

Unlike the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac, competitors aren’t allowed the luxury of time to develop strategies and watch them play out. With less than two hours on the clock – and likely only one pit stop – there’s no time to waste.


 

That was on clear display on the Long Beach street course last year, when Porsche Penske Motorsport employed a radical strategy that delivered the hybrid-powered Porsche 963 prototype its first victory in international sports car racing competition. Having experienced difficulty getting the car’s tires up to temperature for qualifying – a shared challenge for all Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class entries at Long Beach last year given cool conditions with temperatures in the lower 60s – the Penske team elected to run the entire race without changing its Michelins.


 

Nick Tandy started the race from sixth place in the No. 6 Porsche but immediately moved up to second behind the Motul Pole Award-winning No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06 when Sebastien Bourdais crashed the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R at Turn 1, jumbling the field. The two Porsches, with Felipe Nasr in the No. 7, ran second and fifth for the first 30 laps until pit stops started. That’s when the Porsche crews sprung their no-tire-change surprise.


 

The Porsche pit stops were 10-12 seconds faster than that for the leading Acura, which as expected took on a fresh set of Michelin tires. That elevated Mathieu Jaminet in the No. 6 and Matt Campbell in the No. 7 Porsches into a 1-2 formation, with Ricky Taylor charging after them in the WTRAndretti Acura.


 

Also as expected, the Porsches lost speed as they experienced tire wear near the end of the race. Taylor forced his way past Campbell into second place, then set off after Jaminet. The Acura caught the No. 6 Porsche with just a handful of laps to go when Jaminet encountered Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class traffic, setting up a classic finish.


 

But Taylor misjudged a passing move into Turn 1 and drove into a tire barrier with less than three minutes remaining in the 100-minute contest. The race ended under caution, with Jaminet and the No. 6 Porsche triumphing over the No. 25 BMW M Hybrid V8 driven by Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly. Campbell completed a 1-3 finish for Porsche in the No 7.

The result was hugely significant for Porsche, with the first victory for the Type 963 building on a legacy inspired by the successful 917, 956 and 962 prototypes from decades past.


 

“The Long Beach race will go down in history as one of the defining moments for our team,” said Jonathan Diuguid, managing director, Porsche Penske Motorsport. “That day in Southern California, we played the strategy game, which was certainly risky, but it paid off. Once the No. 6 car got out in front, the sister car played it perfectly to help defend the lead. That race was the starting point of our run for the IMSA championship and was a monumental moment for the team moving forward. The weekend is something we will never forget.”


 

Last year’s Long Beach race was important on a more fundamental level because it demonstrated how a well-planned and executed strategy can make all the difference in a WeatherTech Championship race – even one that is just 100 minutes in duration.


 

“That’s the beauty of sprint races in the IMSA series: There are always many conceivable scenarios, and sometimes a gamble pays off,” said Tandy. “It was clear to us before the start that we couldn’t win the race based on our pace. We didn’t have the fastest car. So, we thought through all possible strategies before race day and agreed not to change the tires. We didn’t know whether the tires would last the distance, but it worked out.”


 

In 2023, Long Beach was just the third race for each of the GTP class contenders, and all the competing manufacturers and teams were still very much in a learning phase. The cars have been painstakingly developed over the past 12 months for performance and reliability, and a much greater understanding exists now about how to get the best out of tires and the hybrid energy regeneration technology.


 

Will Long Beach ’24 come down to another daring pre-planned strategy, or will an unexpected mid-race event require everyone to regroup and make key decisions on the fly? Find out Saturday, April 20 starting at 4:30 p.m. ET, with live broadcast coverage on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA Radio.

 


 

Talk about Customer Service! Mercedes Has It with Winward Racing

The Marque Has Compiled Five GT Class Wins in the Last Four Races



April 4, 2024

By John Oreovicz

IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Mercedes-AMG is on a four-race win streak in Grand Touring (GT) class competition in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. And Winward Racing has been the star performer for the three-pointed star in that stretch.


 

Winward’s current heater started at the TireRack.com Battle on the Bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last September in the penultimate round of the 2023 season, when Russell Ward and Philip Ellis took Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class honors in the No. 57 Mercedes-AMG GT3. Joined by Indy Dontje, Ward and Ellis opened the ’24 GTD campaign with consecutive IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup victories in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac.


 

The successful four-race run for the Mercedes-AMG GT3 actually includes five class wins, because the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes was the Grand Touring Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) winner at both Indianapolis and the ’23 season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.


 

“Of course, we are delighted that Winward Racing has made such a successful start into the 2024 season,” said Stefan Wendl, head of Mercedes-AMG Customer Racing. “Over the years, a very good relationship and a very respectful and professional partnership has developed with the team. When we both use the full potential of each organization and cooperate on the best possible way, the more successful we are.


 

“With the current Mercedes-AMG GT3, we still offer our customer racing teams a great base to be successful at different tracks and under special conditions. We prove this again and again, both in IMSA and in other racing series around the world.”


 

From Lemons to Petit Le Mans


 

Co-owned by Ward and his father, Bryce, Winward Racing has always been a family affair.


 

“We were into cars and anything with an engine, really, from jet skis to four-wheelers to tractors,” related Russell Ward, who recently celebrated his 32nd birthday. “Whatever it was, we were on a daily basis messing with this stuff.

“We always watched IMSA and really loved the endurance racing,” Russell continued. “Just for fun, we put together a car for the 24 Hours of Lemons grassroots series, a Nissan 300ZX with a ‘Back to the Future’ theme we called ‘Back to the Past.’ We did our best to make it as reliable as possible, and that’s where we started doing any form of racing, really. Just really enjoyed that and put our heart and soul into optimizing every component of it.”


 

Whatever they did worked, because the Wards won six races in the "Back to the Past" ZX. For Russell, the next step was turning pro in 2017 with CJ Wilson Racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, followed by the opportunity to form a team with his father that would be the first to field the GT4 version of the Mercedes-AMG GT in the Michelin Pilot Challenge.


 

Winward Racing found its feet in the WeatherTech Championship in 2021, running the endurance races at Daytona and Michelin Raceway. It operates a satellite team in Europe that provides the American arm with considerable engineering support.


 

“It slowly evolved into what it is now, never with the intent,” Ward said. “When we’d watch IMSA on TV, we always thought, ‘Aw, those guys are too good. We’ll never be near them, we’re hobby focused.’ As we got in there, we realized that we may be lacking experience, but we have the same tool set that the rest of these guys have – good reaction times, passion and a little bit of funding behind us to get it done. It’s just our drive to do better and optimize more and go faster and compete with the bigger competition and bigger teams, and five years later, here we are.”


 

Forgiving Car, Flawless Support


 

Neither of Winward’s 2024 victories have been simple or straightforward. They lined up 17th on the GTD grid at Daytona and 20th at Sebring (the latter the result of a technical infraction that negated a Motul Pole Award-winning lap from Ellis). But the No. 57 car came out on top both times, controlling the second half of both races.


 

“I always knew we had the pace, especially in the endurance races,” Ward said. “It’s awesome to feel it all come together. There’s a lot of people involved that work days and nights to get that race car out there and prep it perfectly. Plus, just the hunger of the guys on the engineering stand. We’re taking risks when we need to with strategy and we’re playing it safe when we need to. It’s hats off to those guys because they’ve pretty much performed flawlessly. We just kind of just need to do our jobs as drivers and bring it home in a clean fashion.”


 

For Wendl, Winward’s success is the product of a customer service philosophy that Mercedes-AMG has worked hard to perfect over the last decade. Introduced in 2016, the Mercedes-AMG GT3 received an Evo upgrade in 2019 and has quietly become one of the strongest cars in the GT classes. In addition to Winward, Korthoff/Preston Motorsports is operating a full-season Mercedes program in GTD this season and Lone Star Racing is competing in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races.


 

“This makes us very happy and confirms that we have lived up to our claim and have developed an absolutely brilliant vehicle in technical terms,” Wendl stated. “In my opinion, it’s the combination of a 360-degree approach service package, starting with a competitive great car which has its strength in performance potential, drivability, user-friendliness and durability. Add established and well-experienced technical support at each race allocation paired with worldwide spare parts support on demand.


 

“Another deciding fact is the Winward team itself, which has a fantastic run so far,” he added. “In the past years, they invested a lot in infrastructure and developed their own staff enormously, which finally results in the successes we all saw in last races.”


 

Winward is in the process of finalizing its move into a new 40,000-square-foot base in Houston later this year.


 

Putting It All Together


 

Ellis, 31, of Swiss and English descent, has been a key part of Winward Racing’s growth and success. The Mercedes-AMG factory driver has been associated with Winward since 2020.

Winward’s hot start to 2024 is the culmination of learning and maturity, including on the part of Ellis himself. He admitted that he is approaching the new season with a renewed and reinvigorated approach.


 

“I think it’s just maturing in racing, gathering more experience; especially in IMSA itself, which is quite different to run compared to other series in Europe,” Ellis related. “I would say we always had the pace to run up front but couldn’t always nail that result for various reasons. We changed the approach a little and it just feels that the team and drivers have matured over the years. We sat down over the winter and looked at what was going wrong and why, and tried to change what we could change.


 

“I think the main reason they are so successful is they just enjoy being at the racetrack,” he added. “Everyone works to the same goal and they’re all hard workers. Mistakes happen, of course, but they just put down their heads and work toward the next one.”


 

Opening the season with back-to-back wins has put the Winward drivers in a comfortable position in terms of the GTD standings. But Ward and Ellis are slightly wary heading to the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 20, accepting that the Mercedes-AMG GT3 is at its best on fast, flowing road courses rather than the stop-start Long Beach street course, where a tight hairpin leads into a long straight.


 

“We all really enjoy Long Beach, but it’s never been the track for the Mercedes,” Ellis acknowledged, although the manufacturer did score a GTD victory there in 2017. “I think it’s the shortest race on the calendar and also one of the most challenging for gaining track position. It’s just such a high-risk track to make a big move because there’s no margin for errors.


 

“Thankfully, we can go into the event quite relaxed and just see what we have to try to get through the event scrape-free.”


 

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is a 100-minute sprint race that features the GTD and Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) classes. USA Network and Peacock will carry flag-to-flag live coverage from 4:30-6:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 20.


 

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Street Smarts: IMSA’s Masters of the Temporary Circuit

Handful of Drivers Have Risen to the Top at Long Beach and Detroit



April 3, 2024

By Tony DiZinno

IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Conquering a street course on an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship weekend requires laser-sharp focus and time-sensitive cognizance.


 

The heightened sense of intimidating concrete barriers lurks harder at the pair of traditional street course races in Long Beach and Detroit, as does a faster ticking clock since both races are a season-short 100 minutes.


 

Inevitably, some drivers have risen more to the top than others at these two locations over the last decade since the WeatherTech Championship unified as one series, after both were off-and-on separate schedules from 2006 through 2013.


 

Here are some to keep an eye on at the upcoming Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19-20.


 

Taylor Brothers

 

Ricky and Jordan Taylor are inseparable here in terms of street course accolades. Both are now back in the top prototype class (now Grand Touring Prototype, GTP) on a street course for the first time since 2019. Somewhat surprisingly, neither has won at either track since 2017.

 

The brothers won overall co-driving for father Wayne Taylor from 2015 through 2017 at Long Beach and three out of four years in Detroit from 2014 to 2017. Jordan added two further Detroit wins in 2012 and ‘13, one apiece in GT and prototype to give him a total of five in the Motor City.

 

Jordan, fresh off a win alongside Louis Deletraz and Colton Herta in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac, has a pair of Long Beach poles in GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO). A third pole in as many classes would be quite a feat if he qualifies the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06.


 

On the challenge of qualifying at Long Beach, Jordan said after his 2021 pole: “Street courses are great and we love coming to them, but as a driver it’s very stressful when you have to get the maximum out of the car in a session like qualifying. It’s always nice to get through unscathed.”

 

Ricky shares the No. 10 Acura ARX-06 for WTRAndretti with Filipe Albuquerque; the Portuguese driver won at Long Beach back-to-back in 2018 and 2019, in a Cadillac.


 

Sebastien Bourdais

Bourdais has four wins in Long Beach – 2022 in IMSA and three in IndyCar – while also adding three wins in Detroit (2022 in IMSA, two in IndyCar). He’s also looking to atone from a first-lap lockup at this race last year.


 

His pole-to-last-to-first comeback drive in 2022 looms large, though, as he and Renger van der Zande go for their third street course win together as co-drivers in the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.


 

“When you have the confidence on a street course and really dig deep, you can really switch on the tires in a different way and get to a different level,” he said after his 2022 win.


 

“When you get in the zone and can really challenge the course and feel under control, it’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced in a race car.”

 

Renger van der Zande

 

Lest Bourdais be viewed as Ganassi’s only street course horse, van der Zande has a better record in IMSA street courses than his teammate. The Dutchman has five street course wins to his name.

 

He shared the No. 01 car with Bourdais to win both Long Beach and Detroit in 2022, won with Kevin Magnussen at Detroit in 2021, and added a pair of Prototype Challenge class wins with Starworks Motorsport at Detroit in 2015 and 2016, setting the fastest race lap in each of them.

 

Katherine Legge

The GT Daytona (GTD) class is up for grabs at Long Beach this year with three-time winners Paul Miller Racing having moved to GTD PRO, and that class not on the Long Beach schedule. But Legge has as good a chance as any in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 she shares with Sheena Monk at a track that put her on the map. She won her U.S. debut at Long Beach in Formula Atlantic in 2005 and will be inducted into the circuit’s Walk of Fame this year.


 

She won Acura’s first race for the NSX on the streets of Detroit co-driving with Andy Lally in 2017 and followed it up with an encore in 2018 alongside Mario Farnbacher. Coincidentally, Farnbacher, in his most recent Long Beach start, finished second with Gradient in 2022.


 

Nick Tandy

 

Tandy’s Long Beach win last year alongside Mathieu Jaminet in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 drew headlines as it was the new car’s first global victory, inspired by a tire-saving double stint. On reflection, it wasn’t surprising that the Englishman won yet another street race.

 

It actually marked his third straight street course race win, albeit with somewhat unusual statistical records. Tandy won at both Detroit and Long Beach in the No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R in GTLM in 2021, but the Detroit race did not count toward that year’s GTLM class championship.

 

He also won the GTLM race for Porsche in 2016 after emerging unscathed from a last-lap incident with two others and scored the Long Beach GTLM pole in 2019.


 

Felipe Nasr

 

The two-time WeatherTech Championship champion has two wins, two seconds and a third in seven total street course starts. His and Pipo Derani’s 2021 Long Beach win was pivotal in their title run that season. He’s paired this year with Dane Cameron in Penske’s No. 7 Porsche 963. Cameron has two Detroit wins, but none at Long Beach.


 

Frankie Montecalvo

While Montecalvo lacks the street course wins of others on this list, the series veteran is a solid GTD win contender in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. He’s the only driver in GTD entered in 2024 with multiple podium finishes at the track, having scored third each of the last two years co-driving with Aaron Telitz.


 

Montecalvo also secured a third-place finish with Vasser Sullivan at Detroit's Belle Isle in 2019.


 

Roman De Angelis

 

A first Long Beach win seems imminent for De Angelis in his No. 27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo. He was second at Long Beach last year, following up on second in Detroit in 2022 and a winner there in 2021.


Adelson, De Angelis Motoring to Long Beach with Momentum

The No. 120 Wright Motorsports Porsche and No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Drivers Want to Build on Their Promising Sebring Results



April 2, 2024

By Mark Robinson

IMSA Wire Service

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Fresh off impressive performances in the latest IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race, a pair of veteran Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) teams integrating new elements in 2024 are looking to carry that momentum to the next race.


 

Wright Motorsports is fielding a pair of full-season drivers new to the WeatherTech Championship this year, yet that didn’t hold the No. 120 Porsche 911 GT3 R (992) back from finishing third at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac on March 16. The Heart of Racing Team is still figuring out the new Evo version of the Aston Martin Vantage GT3 yet managed a fourth-place result at Sebring in the No. 27 entry. As a result, drivers from both teams are looking ahead to the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach with renewed vigor following their Sebring successes.


 

Adam Adelson is paired with long-time driver coach Elliott Skeer in the No. 120 Wright Porsche. While the duo has raced together in other series, including last year with Nolasport in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, both made their WeatherTech Championship debut in January in the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Teaming with Fred Makowiecki and Jan Heylen, they finished seventh before Adelson, Skeer and Heylen survived the bumps and surprises of Sebring to reach the GTD podium.


 

Adelson, who logged the opening three hours in the car, used the words “incredible” and “amazing” several times describing what it felt like to finish third in just his second series race. He battled through opening-lap contact with another car and a drive-through penalty for running the red light at pit exit before turning it over to Skeer and Heylen.


 

“To be able to have qualified the car, taken the start and did my first ever triple stint from the start all the way to the end of my minimum drive-time requirements makes it even more special for me,” Adelson said, “just because I felt like what I did out there on track and surviving what I survived and enduring what I endured really helped us get that result – more than my participation in some other races may have helped get good results. It's just an incredible feeling to participate in my second-ever WeatherTech race, my favorite one on the calendar at least as a fan, and to walk away with hardware.”

Roman De Angelis is in his fifth full season with the Heart of Racing Team. The seven-time race winner and 2022 GTD season champion teamed with fellow Canadian Zacharie Robichon and team principal Ian James at Sebring for the fourth-place showing, following the car’s early retirement at Daytona due to mechanical issues with the new Aston Martin Vantage making its debut.


 

“I don't think we had the outright pace of the (winning) Mercedes and the Porsche and even the (second-place) Ferrari in the GTD class, so honestly myself and the team were very happy with the fourth-place result,” De Angelis said. “If you consider all the events that happened in Sebring in those 12 hours like it always does, it's a bit of a messy race. If you could be sitting in the top five at the end of the race and gather some good points with a car that rolled into the trailer without any damage, it's always a good outlook.


 

“We'd like to win races and we'd like to get trophies, but there's one trophy at the end of the year that kind of matters the most that people remember,” De Angelis added. “So, we're just trying to build some points up after our struggle in Daytona and just keep progressing and keep getting good results.”


 

The No. 27 Aston Martin still sits a distant 14th in the GTD standings, 330 points behind the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 that’s won the first two events. The No. 120 Porsche is third in class, 155 points in back of the leader. But with eight races remaining and GTD fields ranging from 17 to 22 cars the rest of the way, no one has given up championship aspirations.


 

De Angelis believes the way the Aston Martin handled the notorious bumps of Sebring makes it a contender for the similarly rough street circuit in Long Beach.


 

“Actually, Long Beach is probably a bit smoother (than Sebring),” he said. “In the past we've had good success there – the (GTD PRO) car won there before, we had a podium there last year – so we know that the team understands what needs to be done in order to have a fast car at Long Beach. Once again, we're just going to go into that weekend and gather as many points as we can without making any mistakes.”


 

Adelson, meanwhile, is relying on the homecourt advantage since he lives in Los Angeles, as well as the 100-minute race length.


 

“Sprint format is really where I have all of my experience,” he said, “so I feel like the mentality of just full pedal to the metal for the entirety of the races is honestly the one that I'm more comfortable with and have more experience with.


 

“I have a special affinity towards street tracks,” Adelson added. “I love them, I love the high-risk nature of them and the precision driving that they require. And it's my home race too; I live in Los Angeles and it makes me even more excited to be able to sleep in my own bed, take my dog for a walk in the morning and then show up at the racetrack. It gives you an additional level of relaxation and mental clarity that I feel like you might not be able to get when you're traveling.”


 

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach begins with practice and qualifying on Friday, April 19. The race airs live at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday, April 20 on USA Network. Tickets are available at gplb.com.

 

Intercontinental  & america GT Challenge

INTERCONTINENTAL GT CHALLENGE POWERED BY PIRELLI

Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli represents the highest echelon of long-distance GT racing.Established in 2016, the series’ purpose couldn’t be simpler: reward the manufacturer and drivers who achieve the best collective results in the world’s greatest standalone endurance events. The proliferation of GT3, built on more than a decade of manufacturer involvement and SRO’s Balance of Performance stability, has resulted in it becoming the de facto senior class for all of the world’s most prestigious GT races. This, as well as using the same Pirelli tyres, offers manufacturers an incentive to compete in all such events by employing regional customer teams without the expense of freighting cars around the world.