The #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPI-V.R. driven by Joao Barbosa, and brought to the checkered flag by his fellow Portuguese Filipe Albuquerque took home the overall on win on the 1.9 mile circuit. The eventual winners were able to grab ahold of the top spot in the midst of green-flag pit stops that came with forty-five minutes remaining as prototype teams all stopped for fuel.
The #6 Penske Acura, and #31 Whelen Engineering Action Express Cadillac DPi battled for the lead in the opening phase of the race, but were leap-frogged by the #5 crew in the pits, Albuquerque emerging from pit lane ahead after a quicker stop. From there, it was a trouble-free run, Ryan Dalziel in the #2 ESM Nissan who climbed to second, was unable to challenge Daytona-winning Cadillac in the closing stages.
“Brilliant! Daytona was great and at Sebring we had a bit of a struggle,” Albuquerque said. “Joao did a great job to start the race. This is my first time at Long Beach. At the beginning of my stint I could pass people. The strategy for us by the team was perfect. We got in the lead and I was able to manage the race from the lead. We were unstoppable.
“We had a good Cadillac all weekend. This was my first time on a street course in a prototype and it was fun. When the yellow came out I was in the lead and feeling good. I had to concentrate on the restart, not getting too comfortable with these walls lining the track. The Nissan and Acura were battling behind me, so I just managed my race and brought the Mustang Sampling Cadillac home for the win.”
Finishing second in the prototype class was the aforementioned #2 ESM Nissan DPI of Scott Sharp and Dalziel, the latter getting to bring home a second-place trophy for his birthday. The car nabbed second when Dalziel snuck past Ricky Taylor in the #7 Acura ARX-05 on the final restart of the race after getting a good jump out of the hairpin.
Completing the podium was the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPI-V.R. The pairing of Jordan Taylor and Renger Van Der Zande could not make it four wins in a row however for reigning Prototype champion Wayne Taylor Racing.
The highest finishing LMP2 runner meanwhile, was the eighth placed #99 JDC-Miller Racing ORECA 07. The ‘Red Dragon’ having a much better day than its sister car, the #85 ORECA 07, which retired after just over thirty minutes with mechanical issues. Once again, the LMP2 cars were unable to challenge their DPi competitors, the divide in performance still very much apparent.
The #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPI-V.R. which led for much of the first half of the race with Felipe Nasr setting blistering lap times, also finished far down the order. The got caught out when it came to the splash-and-dash pitstops, falling all the way back to ninth in class, where it would finish.
There were three retirements in the Prototype class, the first being the #38 Performance Tech Oreca-07 driven by Kyle Masson who made contact with the #52 AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 at the fountain section on lap one. The #38 ORECA suffered a broken suspension in the crash.
Meanwhile both the aforementioned #85 ORECA, and the #22 ESM Nissan DPI driven by Pipo Derani came to a stop for unknown reasons.
In the GTLM class it was the #4 Corvette C7.R piloted by Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin who got the best of the favored Porsches and Fords.
“It was frantic… it was wild out there. Everyone kept running into each other!” said Oliver Gavin, this win being his 50th with Corvette. “I’m just thrilled to get the victory.”
The #4 took advantage of a late-race suspension failure on the leading #912 Porsche 911 RSR during the final Full-Course Yellow. That car was being driven by Earl Bamber at the time of the failure that handed the lead over to the eventual race-winning Corvette.
Completing the podium in GTLM where the two Ford GTs, the #67 of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook getting the best of the pole-sitting #66 driven by Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand. With that second place finish the #67 Ford extend their lead in the championship to seven points over the #4 Corvette C7.R.
There were two retirements in the GTLM class, the #912 Porsche 911 RSR with the aforementioned suspension failure, and the #25 BMW M8 GTE with damage to the left-hand side of the car. Alexander Sims was behind-the-wheel when the car understeered into the wall on the exit of Turn 9.
That #25 RLL BMW led for a period of time in the middle of the race after some strategy work moved that car to the point of the GTLM field before falling back once race-pace became a factor.
The next round of the IMSA Weathertech series is at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on May 4-6 where we will be joined once again by the GT Daytona class.
Photos courtesy of Cadillac and Michelin