On Saturday evening, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Prototype, Prototype Challenge and GT-Le Mans classes took to Long Beach’s 1.968 mile street course for a 100-minute duel on the streets. While Ricky Taylor was extremely disappointed on missing out on pole Friday, he more than made up for it on the start.
As soon as the green came out, Ricky made a daring move to polesitter Christian Fittipaldi‘s left on the run down to turn 1 and successfully outbraked the former Formula One and CART veteran. From there, Ricky pulled away from the pack with some ease.
With a 100-minute race, the prototypes needed only one stop to make the distance. Ricky stopped on lap 38, took four tires, fuel, and handed off to his brother Jordan Taylor. Mazda’s Tom Long took the lead briefly during the round of stops, but Jordan Taylor retook the lead when Long pitted.
CORE autosport‘s Colin Braun stalling exiting the hairpin with a broken suspension brought out the race’s sole full course caution and set up a 20 minute sprint to the finish. Jordan Taylor had both of the Action Express Racing entries driven by Joao Barbosa and Dane Cameron close in tow. Once the green came back out, Barbosa and Cameron kept close, then started fighting amongst themselves for second. That allowed Jordan Taylor to pull away to take his second consecutive win at Long Beach.
Afterwards, Ricky Taylor described his opening lap move.
“Sometimes when you’re second, it’s a nice position to be in, and you’re not the first person to feel the grip levels and you can be the one attacking,” Ricky Taylor said in the post-race press conference. “[Fittipaldi] gave me some room, there was some rubbing, but it was fun. From there, it’s really hard to pass under race conditions. Then I gave [the car] over to Jordan. It was a horrible half of the race to watch because I couldn’t do anything from the pits.”
Barbosa held off Cameron to finish second, just under three seconds back. Mazda’s No. 70 for Long and Joel Miller was fourth (best P2 entry), while the No. 55 Mazda of Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito was fifth.
In PC, JDC/Miller MotorSports‘ Misha Goikhberg claimed pole as a result of qualifying being red-flagged prior to the ten-minute mark. From there, Goikhberg opened up a decent advantage over Alex Popow in the Starworks Motorsport No. 8 and James French in the Performance Tech Motorsports No. 38.
Goikhberg led until pitting just before halfway to hand over to Stephen Simpson. The lead reverted to French, then PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports‘ Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 52. The PR1/Mathiasen team gambled on an alternative pit strategy and stopped early to top off. Once the stops were done, Kimber-Smith was in the lead with Simpson close in tow. Unfortunately for Kimber-Smith, it did not take long for Simpson to take the lead away.
From there, Simpson pulled away and took the second win of the year for JDC/Miller MotorSports. Popow and Renger van der Zande finished second. French and Kyle Marcelli were credited with third, but Marcelli (as seen in the clip below) crashed on the final lap exiting turn 7 and technically did not finish the race. Marcelli did walk away from the crash.
The real action on Sunday was in the GT-Le Mans class. Bill Auberlen led early in the BMW Team RLL No. 25 BMW M6, but the two Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR’s powered past at the end of Seaside Way on lap 12. With the Porsches seemingly the fastest, Corvette Racing chose an alternate strategy. Oliver Gavin was brought in 30 minutes into the race for their sole pit stop. Teammate Tommy Milner was supposed to go to the finish from there, a real stretch of fuel mileage.
Milner claimed the lead just short of halfway after Frederic Makowiecki was forced to serve a pass-through penalty for speeding in the pits. Milner stretched the lead to over ten seconds before Braun stopping on-course brought out the yellow.
With 15 minutes to go, it was looking like a Corvette Racing 1-2 finish. Then, as you can see in the video above, the trouble started. Antonio Garcia crashed on his own, then Makowiecki effectively took out Milner with a little more than two minutes to go in the hairpin. Nick Tandy, who was third in the No. 911, snuck to the inside to avoid the crash. That was all Tandy needed in order to take the class victory. Milner was able to recover and finish second, but he was 17 seconds behind. The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE for Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander was third.
Round No. 4 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix presented by Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on May 1. Originally a single race for all four classes, there will instead be two separate races, one for the Prototype and GT-Le Mans classes and the other for Prototype Challenge and GT-Daytona.