The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship needed a clean, trouble-free race at Long Beach to distance itself from the issues at the previous round in Sebring, and got everything it could have asked for as 100 minutes of pure, tight racing took place in Southern California.
Polesitter Scott Pruett and teammate Memo Rojas dominated the Tequila Patrón Sports Car Showcase, leading from the start in the No. 01 Riley-Ford EcoBoost turbo. Other than a great pit stop by the Action Express Racing team to get Joao Barbosa out in front of Pruett for a lap, the Californian followed up the great work produced by Rojas to claim the team’s second consecutive victory. The race was also run without cautions or on-track driving infractions.
“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Pruett. “It’s been a lot of work, but when we can pull these kinds of races off…Sebring was a disaster. Great [win] for the team, great for the fans.”
The 54-year-old crossed the finish line 0.75 second ahead of Wayne Taylor Racing’s Jordan Taylor, the first of the Corvette DP contingent. Barbosa claimed third in AXR’s Corvette DP, 3.4 seconds behind the WTR car.
The win is the 160th for the Ganassi Racing organization, its second from two sports car starts at Long Beach – the first coming in 2006 during Grand-Am’s lone appearance – and Pruett’s third win at Long Beach in three consecutive decades.
First home among the P2 Prototypes was the No. 42 Morgan-Nissan driven by Olivier Pla, a staggering 29 seconds back from Pruett. His teammate, Colombian open-wheeler Gustavo Yacaman, put in a spirited drive before handing the car over in fourth. A slow pit stop dropped the duo back, but they fought back to displace birthday boy Ryan Dalziel in the Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b P2 car by the finish.
Barring Yacaman’s jousting with the Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP, the P2s were in a (slower) class of their own.
In what was a theme on Saturday at Long Beach, the GTLM polesitters also transitioned their qualifying speed into victory as Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen earned the first win for the new Corvette C7.R. The Spaniard rocketed away at the start, keeping four Prototypes behind him.
He’d stretch his lead out to more than 10 seconds on the No. 56 BMW Team RLL Z4 driven by John Edwards, and handed over to Magnussen who kept the throttle down in the yellow No. 3 ‘Vette. The Dane would see his lead shrink to 5.4 seconds as the checkered flag waved, finishing ahead of Edwards’ teammate Dirk Muller. Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner did his best to make it a 1-2, but fell 0.27sec short in third.
“That’s a rare thing for us to have a completely clean race,” said Mags. “It’s really good for us. Antonio did a good job and got us a big gap. Everyone really deserves this.”
The sister Porsche 911 RSRs improved one position apiece from qualifying as the Nos. 911 and 912 took fourth and fifth, respectively, while the second factory BMW Z4, which had been running in third, settled for sixth after a long stop to replace a door ruined its chances of a podium result.
If there was an unexpected standout GTLM drive, it went to Risi Competizione’s Dane Cameron, subbing for Matteo Malucelli who is serving a one-race ban for the poor decision-making abilities he demonstrated at Sebring.
The 25-year-old Californian, son of Spirit of Daytona race engineer Ricky Cameron, turned just 20 laps in the team’s Ferrari F458 before the race, and once he climbed in to take the No. 62 entry to the finish, began setting lap times within a tenth of a second of his veteran teammate, ex-Formula 1 driver Giancarlo Fisichella. A flat tire late in the event would drop Cameron to ninth in class, but after a stop for fresh rubber, he posted the team’s fastest lap of the race, lowering Fisichella’s 1:19.8 to a 1:19.6.
A few retirements were recorded as the No. 70 Mazda P2, No. 31 Marsh Racing Corvette DP, No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Riley-Ford and No. 93 SRT Viper failed to finish.
Next up for the TUDOR Championship is Round 4 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on May 4.
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