A bold strategy by Porsche Penske Motorsports that saw both 963s complete the 100-minute Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on a single set of tires, combined with a pit stop issue for the polesitting Wayne Taylor Racing, left the No. 6 963 of Mathieu Jaminet and Nick Tandy with the marque’s first overall victory in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship since the days of the RS Spyder — the last win for Porsche and Penske coming at Petit Le Mans in 2008.
The team occupied the third step of the podium as well, with Matt Campbell and Felipe Nasr in the No. 7 sandwiching the No. 25 BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8 of Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly in second. The victory left Tandy and Jaminet in the championship lead by a single point over Action Express Racing’s Alexander Sims and Pipo Derani.
“To get the win and a double podium is massive, you know, huge,” said Tandy. “The effort that has gone in across the globe to get these Porsche Penske 963s out and racing has been enormous. The season hasn’t started as we’d hoped – the competition is tough but it hasn’t gone as we’d hoped, it’s no secret. So to get get a result, get some trophies, get some points, it’s amazing and a testament all the hard work that has gone in from everyone.”
Ricky Taylor CRASHES going for the pass!
Mathieu Jaminet WINS the @GPLongBeach! #IMSA pic.twitter.com/hCitC2nT7J
— Motorsports on NBC (@MotorsportsNBC) April 15, 2023
Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat converted their pole position for the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 into a GTD PRO victory, and Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers used a stellar pit stop to take the lead in GTD and their third Long Beach victory in a row for Paul Miller Racing in the No. 1 BMW M4 GT3.
For the second year running, Sebastien Bourdais was his own worst enemy, but unlike last year, there was no coming back from this one. Getting a bad start and forced over the left side of the track, he went deep into the braking zone for Turn 1, lost the rear end and nosed the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-Series.R into the wall on driver’s left. The incident left him parked in Turn 1, along with Tom Blomqvist’s No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian Acura ARX-06.
Blomqvist had turned into Turn 1 only to find the nose of the No. 25 BMW driven by Nick Yelloly on his inside, and while the contact was light, it was enough to turn him around and he stalled the car. With two GTPs parked in Turn 1, a full-course caution was called. Blomqvist got going again, a lap down, while the Cadillac was pushed into the runoff, unable to get restarted.
In the ensuing chaos of the first-turn incident, Tandy put the No. 6 Porsche into second. When the race resumed, polesitter Filipe Albuquerque put a gap on the field while Tandy and Yelloly battled behind. The Action Express Racing squad rolled the dice by bringing Alexander Sims in very early and putting Pipo Derani into the No. 31 Cadillac, likely counting on another yellow, but it was a gamble that didn’t pay off.
Cautions are nothing unusual at Long Beach, but the one that AXR and everybody else was expecting didn’t come. WTR was the first to pull the trigger on a green-flag pit stop, bringing Albuquerque in at 42 minutes into the race. But after the tires were changed and the energy replenished, the door of the No. 10 Acura remained open as Taylor had difficulty getting the gearbox to cooperate. WTR lost more than 10 seconds in the pits, setting up the drama for the rest of the race.
Having already considered the no-tire strategy and seeing WTR lose time in the pits, PPM decided to go with the single-set plan, replenishing the energy and changing drivers, but leaving the already hot tires on the car. The GTP cars have struggled to get heat into fresh tires, and that seemed particularly troublesome at Long Beach. The gamble was that the time gained after the pit stop would offset the lap time drop-off at the end of the race.
After the pit stop cycle, the order was Jaminet in the No. 6, Campbell in the No. 7, Derani – who had not yet pitted a second time – De Phillipi in the No, 25 BMW and Taylor. The hard racing began with a bit more than 20 minutes left. De Phillipi made a move inside Campbell, but ended up in the runoff; however, he continued with no contact in fourth behind Taylor. Taylor would spend the next 15 minutes on Campbell’s tail, trying several moves that failed until he juked to the outside heading toward Turn 8 before diving back to the inside and taking the apex away from the Porsche. Taylor’s pass slowed Campbell enough that De Phillippi passed him as well.
Taylor was now on the hunt for the lead. With only a couple of minutes left, Jaminet started having flashbacks to Sebring — when Albuquerque’s attack ended up with two wrecked Porsches and an Acura — as Taylor went on the attack. Taylor pushed the Acura inside Jaminet’s now-skating Porsche in Turn 1, but it was too optimistic and Taylor couldn’t make the corner, planting the Acura in the tire wall at the exit.
“I kind of saw it coming. He had fresher tires and I got caught up in traffic the lap before so with two to go it only made sense that he went for it,” said Jaminet. “I braked already late and I just saw, OK, he is going and I was like, ‘If he makes it stop, I’ll be impressed.’ I just saw him lock up and went straight in the fence. At that point, I just try to stop as much as I can and go through for the inside. So yeah, at the end we were lucky here, especially after Sebring — it was tough end of the race for for the team. So yeah, nice to end it that way and bring home the win.”
The race ended under caution, putting play to any idea De Phillippi had of mounting his own attack on the leading Porsche. Still, given the way the BMW program began at Daytona, to get a second-place finish with an honest shot at a win was an achievement.
“I’m very proud of this result as a team,” declared De Phillippi. “Nick has never been here. So that’s already … not to say a disadvantage, because he’s very talented; but obviously, having experience at a track pays off. He drove a brilliant first stint, and it was clear that we had the pace. We kind of we went longer than everybody else to give us some time to see what they’re doing with tires.
“And at the end, it looked like everybody was kind of staying pretty calm, cool and collected, which wasn’t the normal Long Beach. It looked like it was maybe going to go all green, so we opted to go for four tires, after the Porsches didn’t take any. We knew they would most likely cycle ahead of us after the out-laps, but we were hoping to try to have better tires underneath at the end — which we did, we had the pace.”
Squeezing around the hairpin!#IMSA | @GPLongBeach pic.twitter.com/TkliiCllyJ
— #IMSA (@IMSA) April 15, 2023
BMW getting the victory in GTD with Snow and Sellers was a nice add-on to the prototype podium finish. After Snow had minor contact to begin qualifying and ended up starting third, it looked like a three-peat was unlikely for the team, especially with Marco Sorensen putting the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage on pole ahead of three GTD PRO cars. But Snow immediately moved the car into second at the start.
“Going into the race, I thought, ‘OK, second is not only where I want to be able to bring the car into, but that’s probably the best shot, that is probably where we’re going to finish if everything goes perfect,” Snow said. “Not just that (Sorensen) outqualified me, but the fact that there were all the PRO cars between everybody, that was the big deal. And so off the start for me, you know, I got into second, and then there was all the GTD PRO cars and I sit there, like, ‘Well, maybe I can pass one, but I’m sure as hell not going to pass the whole GTD PRO field.”
But with the GTD PRO cars and Paul Miller racing all leapfrogging the Heart of Racing Aston in the pit stops, the first bit of hard work was done for the team. Then Sellers had to hold off Roman De Angelis. He was helped with that when Bill Aubleren in the No. 97 Turner Motorsports BMW came out of the pits, a lap down after serving a penalty, in between the Sellers and De Angelis, where he would remain for the race.
“Having that buffer is massive,” said Sellers. “I think that if he wasn’t there, we actually had a bit more pace that that we could have drawn out of the car and pushed a little bit harder; but the reality was with him there that I could conserve a little bit more, be a little bit more cautious and not be on the ragged edge as much. So I think if anything, it gave me just the ability to control the race in our favor a little bit more.”
Sorensen and De Angelis ended up second, with Aaron Telitz and Frankie Montecalvo third in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus.
Hawksworth had put the No. 14 Lexus on the GTD PRO pole, but Sorensen outqualified him. He made quick work of Sorensen at the start, and that was pretty much it for the No. 14 team, as Hawksworth seamlessly handed off to Barnicoat who then cruised almost effortlessly to victory.
“It was a perfect weekend for us really, one of the best-executed races I’ve been a part of,” said Hawksworth. “We obviously we had the pole in GTD PRO, but we were outside of the GT field overall, so it was good that we were able to clear Sorensen off the start. From there on, really, the Vasser Sullivan Lexus GT3 was really hooked up.
“There were a couple of moments in the race, both for me and Ben, where (lapped) cars would come out and they would kind of get in front of you, and it’s so hard to pass around here so they did have an effect on the race and made it a little bit difficult to manage. But overall I’ve got nothing but good things to say. The car has been great all weekend, the 100 Thieves livery looked awesome, the team did an amazing pit stop middle of the race, and Ben drove is drove his ass off there at the end to bring home a victory for us. So a perfect weekend and I couldn’t be more happy with it.”
All three winners in today’s race assumed the championship lead in their respective classes. Vasser Sullivan leads GTD PRO by 73 points over Daytona winner WeatherTech Racing, and Paul Miller Racing has a 99-point advantage over Heart of Racing in GTD.