A lack of yellows, tighter championship battles and the return of the Long Beach vibe underline the weekend
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship made a successful comeback to the streets of Long Beach on a perfect afternoon in Southern California. The Long Beach Acura Grand Prix took place in front of a full house for the 46th edition of the classic event.
Cadillac continued its dominance of the tight circuit in the Daytona Prototype International (DPi) class, with Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr (No.31 Whelen Engineering / Action Express Racing) claiming the overall victory on Saturday, but there were some strewn surprises. throughout the GT Le Mans Categories (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD).
As the 2021 season draws to a close, the battles for the DPi and GTD Championships have tightened considerably in Long Beach. The two GT categories still have two races on the program, starting with the Michelin GT Challenge at the VIRginia International Raceway on October 9. Competitors in the WeatherTech Championship in all five classes will then end the campaign with the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. set for November 13.
Here are three takeaways from a sunny weekend in Long Beach:
Forrest Gump Theory: A WeatherTech Championship street race is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. As Long Beach weekend approached, many predicted a messy race, but the race has actually gotten cleaner and cleaner in recent years.
The 2017 competition featured five full course warnings, resulting in 24 of 55 laps behind the safety car. The 2018 and 19 races were each slowed down twice by warnings, with the 100-minute lap count rising to 65 and 73, respectively.
This year’s Long Beach race only included a single safety car period lasting just four laps, when Kevin Magnussen slammed the tire barrier in the No. 01 Cadillac DPi-VR V Racing Academy and spread debris on the runway. Besides some typical street course bumps and knocks and a late lap by Olivier Pla in the Meyer Shank Racing # 60 with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 DPi, the drivers showed remarkable precision while driving through a concrete canyon.
The closest threat of a second full course warning came when Robby Foley rammed the # 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 into a wall of tires (more on that later). But like Pla, he was able to continue without disrupting the course of the race.
Bryan Sellers, who shared Paul Miller Racing’s # 1 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 with Madison Snow, commented on the level of courtesy demonstrated throughout the field.
“Fortunately, today the traffic was pretty clean,” Sellers said. “A lot of the prototype guys, it’s a tough place for them to run with us because we slow them down pretty badly in a lot of places. Most of them have been pretty generous with us today, that is. is why you have seen so many green flag races. ”
Championships tighten: Saturday’s results had a huge impact on two of the WeatherTech Championship class battles.
Nasr and Derani’s final victory, combined with a fourth place finish for Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque (No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura), reduced the No. 10’s advantage from 98 to 19 points with just one race remaining in the season DPi, which essentially means that whoever finishes first in the Motul Petit Le Mans 10 hours of endurance race will be crowned champion.
“We still have the points ahead of Petit Le Mans, which is always nice, but the pressure is on,” said Taylor. “Basically whoever wins will be the champion. Winning the title in a shootout in the last race would be pretty cool. “
There was an important point change for the new GTD leaders on Saturday. Foley’s incident while racing in the No.39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 relegated him and his co-driver Bill Auberlen to 16th place in the class.
Having arrived at Long Beach at the top of the GTD championship, Auberlen and Foley now occupy fourth place in the standings, 150 points behind. Foley and Auberlen scored just 178 points at Long Beach, while Sellers and Snow dropped 382 points to move up to second in the standings. Laurens Vanthoor and Zacharie Robichon, who finished second at Long Beach in the # 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R, are now in the lead, 32 points ahead of Sellers and Snow.
The good news for the BMW duo is that the GT classes have two more races on the 2021 calendar to try to recover.
Fans are making a difference: The last Long Beach race was in April 2019, and there were concerns that this year’s event would be negatively affected, not only by his demise last year, but also by the Strict national and local regulations currently enforced in light of the COVID-19 resurgence.
Race officials were therefore pleased to confirm that attendance levels this year were close to those achieved in 2019 and higher than expected. The enthusiastic Southern California crowd added their own flavor to the event, as usual.
“I love this place and have to say thank you to the fans,” said race winner Nasr. “What a great atmosphere they bring to the race. It’s just great to win on the streets of Long Beach.