Round 3 of this year’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was run in Long Beach, where the narrow street course made the 100 minutes of racing to somewhat of a lottery.
Juan Pablo Montoya had taken Pole Position in the Acura Team Penske #6, ahead of Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 and Mazda Team Joest #55, while Joey Hand in the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 had grabbed Pole Position in GTLM ahead of Porsche #912 and #911.
The GTD category did not run this weekend, due to the combination of not having enough paddock space, and also because the track isn’t friendly to non-pro drivers, making it less than a smart choice to let them run between the concrete blocks.
It only took until Turn 2 for troubles to arise by the fountain. Misha Goikhberg in the JDC-Miller Motorsport #99 and Kyle Masson in the Performance Tech Motorsports #38 made a contact, which broke the suspension on the #38. Making it impossible to steer the car, the first Safety Car of the day was needed.
There was also a slight bit of panic in the GTLM field, where Porsche #911 went into the back of the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66. Both cars could continue the race, and no immediate repairs were needed on either car. The GTLM field had swapped quite a few positions, with Porsche #911 driven by Laurens Vanthoor leading ahead of Joey Hand in Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 and Jan Magnussen onboard the Corvette Racing #3, while Porsche #912 with Patrick Pilet had dropped to fourth.
Felipe Nasr instantly started attacking Montoya for the lead, but he didn’t make it past. Helio Castroneves in the Acura Team Penske #7 had made it into third in the Prototype category, by outdoing Harry Tincknell in the Mazda Team Joest #55.
Connor De Phillippi in the BMW Team RLL #25 was the first to make a pitstop, and swapped over to Alexander Sims.
JDC-Miller Motorsports #85 had outbraked themselves going into Turn 1, and had to get the car turned around, which Robert Alon didn’t manage.
Felipe Nasr outbraked Juan Pablo Montoya going into Turn 9, just before the Safety Car was sent onto the track to get Alon’s car moved.
All cars took the chance to pit, with only BMW Team RLL #25 staying on the track, because they had just had their pitstop.
That shook up a few positions in the field, but #31 still lead the Prototype category, with #6 in second and #55 in third. GTLM was lead by #25 ahead of #3 and #912.
Corvette Racing #3 made a very bad restart, almost stalling going out of the final turn on the restart. They lost several positions, and in the confusion their sister car #4 made it into third in GTLM.
In the Prototype ranks the #7 Acura with Ricky Taylor behind the wheel had made it past Jonathan Bomarito in the Mazda Team Joest #55.
Earl Bamber in the #912 and Alexander Sims in the #25 had a tough battle going down the start/finish straight, continuing into Turn 1, 2 and 3, but eventually swapped positions. They swapped quite a bit of paint, but it was a close and fair racing.
Acura Team Penske #7 came under a lot of pressure from Filipe Albuerquerque in the Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5.
The two Mazda Team Joest cars were the first to take their second pitstop.
While all that was happening, there was a wild battle in GTLM emerging. Corvette #4 started attacking BMW #25. Ford #66 also wanted to get into the mix, making it three wide down the back straight. That was all fine until the following corner, where #25 lost it on its own and slammed into the concrete wall. That damaged the front suspension of the BMW M8 GTE beyond repair. Luckily Alexander Sims got the car back to the pits so we avoided another SC period.
After Mazda Team Joest taking their pitstop, all the other Prototype teams decided to take theirs too. Nobody wanted to risk being caught out by a FCY. The Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 was the big winner, since they made it into the lead, ahead of Tequila Patron ESM #2 and Acura Team Penske #7.
AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52 scraped the wall when they were overtaken by the Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31. There wasn’t contact between the cars, but the contact with the wall made #52 having to pit, and get a new nose on the car.
With 28 minutes left of the race, the Full Course Caution came out, since a part of the Porsche #911 front had broken off, and was lying in the middle of the straight. The damaged happened earlier in the race due to contact with the Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31.
Fortunately the clean up was fast, so the race could continue.
Porsche #912 got an issue with its front suspension right after the restart of the race. Earl Bamber was weaving during braking with a huge plume of smoke erupting from the wheel.
So the Corvette Racing #4 took the lead of the race, and shortly thereafter the two Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 and #67 started battling each other – a battle that was won by the #67. They however had a big gap up to the #4. While that happened, Corvette Racing #3 was trying to catch up with the two Fords, while Antonio Garcia himself was under pressure from BMW #24.
Acura Team Penske #7 made a lunch on the Tequila Patron ESM #2, but ended up losing a position to the Konica Minolta Cadilalc #10. Ricky Taylor in #7 didn’t want to drive behind his younger brother Jordan in the #10, so he dived past him, going into Turn 1. One lap later, Jordan won the battle on the brakes, and moved into third.
Ricky appeared to have over driven the tires, since he all of sudden came under pressure by the Mazda Team Joest #77. Acura Team Penske #6 was sneaking up from behind, putting the Mazda under pressure.
The two Ford Chip Ganassi Racing teammates were not done fighting with each other, so their battle went on all the way to the chequered flag.
There weren’t further changes in the race, which was won by the Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 with Filipe Albuerquerque and Joao Barbosa, ahead of the Tequila Patron Extreme Speed Motorsports #2, and Konica Minolta Cadillac #10 .
In GTLM we had Corvette Racing #4 with Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner taking the win, ahead of the Ford Chip Ganassi #67 and #66.
Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 leads the Prototype Championship, ahead of Whelen Engineering #31, and CORE Autosport #54.
The GTLM category is led by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67, Corvette Racing #4 and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66.
The next race will be run in three weeks’ time, when the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship visits the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where all three categories will be back on the track together again.