Action Express Racing’s Filipe Albuquerque and Jõao Barbosa used strategy and cunning to emerge victorious in the BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach Saturday (April 14). While the Portuguese duo didn’t have the speed of Acura Team Penske, or even their own teammates, pit strategy was the key.
“Our strategy all day was perfect,” Albuquerque said after the race. “When I got in after the pit stop, I was able to get in the lead. It seemed like the Penskes were struggling on the hair-pin, and I was pulling and pulling away. Sometimes it gets more dangerous to back off, but in the end the car was great. We were in control and it was a great race for us.”
Juan Pablo Montoya started his No. 6 Acura ARX-05 on pole and instantaneously ended up in a battle with Action Express Racing’s Felipe Nasr. After an early yellow due to Kyle Masson stalling his ORECA 07-Gibson at the Fountain turn, the two drivers opened up a small gap on the rest of the field and battled among themselves. 32 minutes into the race, Nasr was able to get past Montoya and take the overall lead. A full-course yellow came out almost immediately afterwards due to Robert Alon stalling in the runoff at turn 8.
The vast majority of the field stopped during the yellow for fuel, tires and a driver change. Nasr and Montoya chose not to stop and maintained first and second.
On the restart, Nasr was able to pull away from Montoya and opened up a lead of nearly 10 seconds before he had to make his one and only stop. Further back, Ricky Taylor won the race out of the pits in the No. 7 Acura, while Albuquerque got by Mazda Team Joest’s Jonathan Bomarito shortly after the restart for fourth.
A fast pit stop allowed Albuquerque to beat Taylor out of the pits. While Nasr did have a 12-second lead over the field at the time of his stop, it was not enough to stop and maintain the advantage. Contact with the No. 911 Porsche of Nick Tandy didn’t help matters either.
Once in the lead, Albuquerque was able to pull away from the pack and score the win, the team’s second of the season.
The margin of victory was 4.766 seconds over Tequila Patron ESM’s Ryan Dalziel and Scott Sharp, who were on the same strategy as the No. 5. Wayne Taylor Racing’s Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande were third, followed by Mazda Team Joest’s Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez. Montoya and Dane Cameron ended up fifth.
In GT Le Mans, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA’s Joey Hand started on pole, but got the boot on the first lap from Porsche GT Team’s Patrick Pilet. That contact loosened some bodywork on Hand’s Ford GT and allowed Laurens Vanthoor to take the class lead.
Vanthoor was able to maintain the advantage until the first round of stops. While teammate Earl Bamber won the race off pit road, he dropped back to second due to an alternate pit strategy from BMW Team RLL’s No. 25. That strategy put Alexander Sims into the class lead.
Bamber immediately went to work on Sims after the restart for the lead. The two drivers bumped each other a number of times, but Sims was able to hold off Bamber. Then, Bamber took a page from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and executed a bump n’ run at the Fountain turn to take the lead.
With a pack of angry dogs behind, Sims struggled to keep his BMW in front of them, knowing that he had to get to the end on his fuel. Unfortunately, he ended up on the outside in turn 9 and slid into the concrete wall, heavily damaging the BMW M8 GTE. The crash ultimately ended the day for the No. 25 team.
Bamber had a steady five-second lead until the yellow flew due to debris on Shoreline Drive from Tandy’s Porsche. That put Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner on Bamber’s tail.
Issues on the restart resulted in a broken right front suspension for Bamber. That allowed Gavin to take the class lead. From there, Gavin held off the Fords to claim the win.
Milner and Oliver Gavin‘s margin of victory was 2.157 seconds over the No. 67 Ford of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook. The No. 66 Ford of Hand and Dirk Müller was third, followed by the No. 3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen. BMW Team RLL’s No. 24 for John Edwards and Jesse Krohn was fifth.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship takes a couple of weeks off before returning to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the first time since 2013. The Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio is scheduled for May 6 and will air live on FOX Sports 2.