Albuquerque blasts WTR Acura onto IMSA Long Beach GP pole

Perry Nelson/Lumen

Albuquerque blasts WTR Acura onto IMSA Long Beach GP pole


Albuquerque blasts WTR Acura onto IMSA Long Beach GP pole


As was to be expected based on the two practice sessions today, the battle for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach pole in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship came down to Acura vs. Acura. This time it fell to Filipe Albuquerque and the Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport team, Albuquerque getting the No. 10 ARX-06 into the 69s range with a 1m9.909s lap, an average of 101.34mph around the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary circuit. Albuquerque’s time was half a second off the DPi record set by Sebastien Bourdais last year.

“We knew we had a good car, and we had a little bit of an edge on on the competitors, other manufacturers,” stated Albuquerque. “But we’ve seen as well, the No. 60 was very competitive, so this pole position would not come for free and easily. So obviously the tension was there between us. But yeah, I really wanted this pole position and, for sure, the No. 60 wanted it as well. But at the end of the day, I was super pleased with pole position by half a second. It’s pretty good.”

For several teams, the first half of the 20-minute GTP-only qualifying session was dedicated to scrubbing the second set of tires for tomorrow’s race, and then getting the qualifying set up to temperature. Representative times didn’t begin to appear until about five minutes left, and Albuquerque set the pole time on his 11th of 13 laps.

“The boys were a bit nervous in the garage about that as well. But I knew what I was doing. I must say that here specifically in Long Beach, cold tires, it’s just a nightmare. So hard to bring up the temperature. So I’m glad that tomorrow, I’m not going to get in second and go with cold tires into the to the race because it’s hard; it’s very hard. It’s way harder than Daytona and Sebring. and here you do a mistake, you go sideways and you hit the wall, you’re done. So I took my time there to get the tires up to temperature. It’s about being patient and knowing what what you’re doing. So I was pretty sure about what I was doing, but as well a bit concerned because if there is a yellow, I could not post a lap and then that was it. But the car was good later on,” he explained.

Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian ARX-06 could only manage to get within 0.674s of Albuquerque’s time to sweep the front row for Acura. Sebastien Bourdais and the Chip Ganassi Racing team found some pace in the No. 01 Cadillac V-Series.R to claim the inside of the second row with a 1m10.981s lap. The next two cars were the two M Hybrid V8s from BMW M Team RLL, Nick Yelloly claiming the outside of the second row for the No. 25 and claiming intra-team honors over Augusto Farfus.

Records fell in the GTD classes, Marco Sorensen claiming the GTD and outright pole with the best lap for a GTD car in Long Beach history. In his first visit to Long Beach, his 1m17.811s (91.05mph) in the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 set the new mark for the class around the street circuit as he edged GTD PRO polesitter Jack Hawksworth by 0.06s.

“I think always when you’re coming to a new-to-you track, basically for me it was just learning the whole day,” Sorensen explained. “For sure they have all the setups and all this from last year. But we all know that everything always changes during the seasons and during the years. For sure the car was in the right window for today.”

Not only is this Sorensen’s first time at Long Beach, but his first time driving a GT car on a street circuit.

“It’s the first proper street circuit in a GT. I’ve done a lot in formula cars back in the day…I feel old when I say that, but it’s the first time in a GT and I freaking love it,” he declared.

Two teams have a lot of work ahead of them to get their cars ready for tomorrow’s race after contact with the wall that brought out a red flag. First Ashton Harrison pancaked the No. 93 Racers Edge with WTR Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 against the wall at the exit of Turn 8. As the red flag came out to end the session with less than four minutes to go, PJ Hyett nosed into the wall at almost the same spot.

Hawksworth set the new GTD PRO mark with a 1m17.817s in the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 to start alongside Sorensen, leading three other GTD PRO cars, starting with Sorensen’s teammate Ross Gunn in the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin. Patrick Pilet was third in GTD PRO in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche, followed by Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette.

“We kind of gambled a little bit on going out a bit later in the session then, knowing the track evolution was going to be important in terms of the track was getting faster the whole time. Maybe that hurt us a little bit because obviously it just got cut short at the end,” Hawksworth said.

Hawksworth admitted consternation about not getting the overall pole, but was buoyed by the progression the team made at this track compared to last year.

“It’s obviously a little bit frustrating to be on the outside and not on the inside going down to Turn 1, but if we look at the day last year, it was kind of a bit of a struggle for us at this track. We raced forward, but it was more through good fortune rather than speed, so it was really good to come back here and see the work the guys have done. We really kind of concentrated on trying to find a way to extract the most from the car and the minute we rolled off the truck, the car has been in a window,” he said.

Frankie Montecalvo will start sixth overall in the GT field, second in GTD, having turned a 1m18.376s lap in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus. Madison Snow, who had a pole streak going at Long Beach, will instead start the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 on the inside of the fourth row, with the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG of Mike Skeen alongside.

UP NEXT: The 100-minute Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with green flag scheduled for Saturday at 5:05 p.m. Eastern.