IMSA: Fittipaldi leads Long Beach pole winners

IMSA: Fittipaldi leads Long Beach pole winners

IMSA

IMSA: Fittipaldi leads Long Beach pole winners

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Christian Fittipaldi, Bill Auberlen, and Robert Alon earned pole positions for Saturday’s three-class BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.

Two red flags added extra time to IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying session on the renowned street course, and once it was over, two familiar names and a first-time pole winner were celebrating their achievements.

“It means a lot for myself, for my family,” said Fittipaldi, who earned the overall pole in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP. “I’ve been coming here since ’95, [and] I’ve had hard times at Long Beach, so to get a pole here, it’s really important for us. I’m really happy and really happy for the team.”

The Brazilian’s lap of 1:14.962 was marginally faster than Ricky Taylor’s 1:15.133 in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP and the remarkably fast Mazda Prototype piloted by Tom Long (1:15.641), who earned the best starting position for the Japanese brand since it joined the class in 2014.

A red flag appeared when the No. 70 Mazda clouted the spun and stalled No. 90 VisitFlorida Racing Corvette DP in the hairpin. Mazda driver Tristan Nunez hit VFR’s Marc Goossens, despite the clear presence of a yellow flag waving on entry to the corner.

Defending Long Beach GT Le Mans winners BMW Team RLL held onto pole position by the narrowest of margins as Porsche North America’s Earl Bamber came within 0.003 seconds of displacing Bill Auberlen from the top spot. The Southern Californian’s best lap in the No. 25 BMW M6 (1:17.272) was still good enough to keep Bamber’s No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR at bay (1:17.275). The Kiwi’s teammate Patrick Pilet completed the top-3 in the sister No. 911 Porsche RSR (1:17.458).

“I love this track,” Auberlen said. “When we come to Long Beach it is so much fun. To [earn pole] at your home track is amazing. I can’t be happier.”

The first qualifying session for the PC class was halted when the No. 88 ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet driven by Mark Kvamme spun in Turn 1 and required a prolonged extrication to clear the track. IMSA red flagged the session, and having failed to meet the minimum time required to make the times official, PC’s starting grid will be set by Drivers’ points.

Santa Monica’s Robert Alon was initially positioned by IMSA as the polesitter in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen (LEFT), but a further review by the series determined he would be penalized for his part in Kvamme’s spin and moved him to the back of the grid. The No. 54 CORE autosport PC team will lead the class to the green flag on Saturday at 4:05 p.m. PT at the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.

The BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach starts Saturday at 4:05 p.m. PT.

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