NEW LONG BEACH MOTORSPORTS HALL OF FAMER MONTOYA GIVES THE ACURA ARX-05 ITS FIRST POLE; FORD CGR’S JOEY HAND SAVED PACE FOR A LATE CHARGE; TRACK RECORDS FALL IN LONG BEACH AS A YEAR OF DPI DEVELOPMENT YIELDS RESULTS
New Long Beach Motorsports Hall-of-Famer Juan Pablo Montoya hustled the #6 Acura ARX-05 around the Californian streets to grab pole and set a new Prototype track record of 1:12.922. The pole was the first for Montoya in IMSA competition and the first for the new Acura Team Penske effort – fitting, given that Montoya’s first ever career pole came at Long Beach.
The previous record holder Ricky Taylor saw his 2018 teammate Montoya better his pole time by over half a second in the new Acura DPi, and the defending race winner could only watch as co-driver Hélio Castroneves eventually took fourth with a 1:13.156.
Felipe Nasr continued his impressive debut full season in WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition with a fine second place, a 1:13.109 putting him inside the previous track record and giving Nasr and co-driver Eric Curran a front row start this evening in the #31 Whelen-liveried Action Express Racing Cadillac.
Mazda Team Joest proved their Sebring speed was back too, as their fastest time was just half a tenth away from starting on the front row. Harry Tincknell had never driven on the track until this weekend, but he pushed the RT24-P to another lap that beat Taylor’s 2017 best, clocking a 1:13.156. The #55 Mazda Tincknell shares with Californian Mazda favourite Jonathan Bomarito will take the start along Shoreline Drive this evening right behind polesitter Montoya.
The fastest WEC-Spec LMP2 qualifier was the AFS/PR1 Ligier of Colombians Gustavo Yacamán and Sebastián Saavedra, just nudging their way into the top 10 with a 1:14.622. It’s an excellent result for a team that’s lacked a little pace in the championship so far; the low-downforce nature of Long Beach minimised the Ligier LMP2’s performance deficit to the Oreca chassis that’s all but dominated this generation of LMP2 competition. Despite Jon Bennett qualifying the CORE Autosport Oreca behind the lead pack of GTLM cars, an early yellow and the five minute minimum drive time could give the team a ‘free’ pitstop and put fast man Colin Braun in to run the rest of the race.
Tequila Patrón ESM will start their Onroak Nissan DPis from eighth and tenth after a session that disappointed the Sebring race winners, and leaves Johannes van Overbeek starting amid the WEC-Spec LMP2 field. IMSA’s technical department will be looking again at the numbers – over a qualifying lap at least, the significant BoP changes to the DPi field supposed to level the Prototypes’ performances seem to lack teeth, and the short race duration will limit the opportunity for marginal gains per pitstop.
GT Le Mans had been close throughout practice, but initially it was the Porsches that seemed to have an edge. The BMW Team RLL crews had work to do, with both cars languishing at the bottom of the timing screens. Corvette, Ford and Porsche had their cars within half a second in qualifying, but nobody had managed to get below a 1:17 laptime.
Laurens Vanthoor went out hard and early, setting a 1:17.013 within 4 laps of the green flag. Both Connor de Phillippi in the #24 BMW and Jesse Krohn in the #25 set laps early too, but ended up in the 1:18 area before parking up having completed just 6 and 8 laps respectively.
Late flyers were in fashion – it looked like Vanthoor had done enough before Joey Hand decided that he’d make it two track records broken in the same session, firing the #66 Ford GT over the line in 1:16.869 to claim pole. Vanthoor’s teammate Patrick Pilet had set a 1:17.263, but both Corvettes were looking racy and had enough time to go round again.
The Frenchman managed to make it a Porsche 2-3 as Magnussen’s all-out last ditch effort came up just 0.03 seconds short, and Oliver Gavin in the sister #4 Corvette had his last lap come up two tenths down on the #3 car.
Richard Westbrook’s performance in the #67 GT was where the Fords were expected to perform around Long Beach; Ford’s wide, stiff car built for high speed layouts unfancied in this alien environment. However, he still has over half a second in hand over both BMW Team RLL entries.
You can see the full results here, watch the whole race live on IMSA.tv (geoblocked in the USA) and listen in on IMSA Radio – all for free – or watch the race live on FOX in the US. Coverage of the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach kicks off at 1pm PT, 4pm ET and 9pm BST later today.