Mustang Sampling and Corvette Racing Victorious at Long Beach
Corvette manages first race win of 2018 season with Mustang Sampling leaping ahead to championship lead.
Saturday's 100-minute IMSA contest in Long Beach concluded its two-class battle with the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadilac DPi-V.R and No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R claiming Prototype and GTLM victories respectively. The result of a mid-race shakeup brought those which started in the middle of their categories to the front with leads changing near the halfway point in General Motors' favor. In turn, Mustang Sampling has reclaimed its spot atop the title chase and Corvette Racing is on the board for the first time in 2018.
Hectic Prototype Shootout Lands Mustang Sampling on Top
Team Penske started on the Prototype pole for the season sprint-opener. Juan Pablo Montoya piloted the No. 6 Acura ARX-05 DPi towards the front of the field after a first-lap caution and beyond the 60-minute mark. Pressure from the field of Cadillacs and Mazda Team Joest was eventually enough to knock him and his teammates off of the lead, initially surrendering to the No. 31 Whelen Engineering entry. However, a series of overtakes and subsequent contact pushed the expected frontrunners to the midfield while throwing Tequila Patron ESM and Wayne Taylor Racing into the mix.
The two latter competitors had an exclusive bout as Mustang Sampling pushed for a near-five-second gap at the end. A white flag turn-eight competition between Ryan Dalziel and Jordan Taylor saw the No. 2 Nissan Onroak DPi pull ahead, eventually awarding it the second step on the podium. WTR then settled with third-place despite winning at Long Beach for three years in a row leading up to this weekend's event.
Strategy and pace were equally important to Saturday's race as both decided the final standings. Keeping out of trouble is a consistent challenge for teams at the tight city circuit, and as with any multi-class competition, heavy traffic is ominous. The No. 77 Mazda RT24-P preyed on a full-service stop by the No. 6 Acura of Montoya and Dane Cameron under the green flag and eventually overcame the talented team to finish fourth. The pair of Penske entrants came fifth and sixth after the No. 7 car faced supposed issues towards the end and gave away podium contention.
Finishing out the top-ten were Whelen Engineering, JDC-Miller Motorsports' No. 99 entry, the No. 55 Mazda, and CORE Autosport in that order. Sebastian Saavedra then placed 11th in the AFS/PRI Mathiasen Motorsports car. There were three retirements in the Prototype field with Kyle Masson parking his No. 38 Oreca on the first lap, followed by Robert Alon's Oreca 07 Gibson on lap 20 and Pipo Derani's ESM Nissan Onroak DPi twelve laps later.
Corvette Racing Notches First W of the Year
Up to this point, Corvette Racing has had to watch as its GTLM rivals took class victories at Daytona and Sebring, leaving the Chevrolet factory team with high hopes for Long Beach. The crew won last year's event here in SoCal, and via consistency has been able to recreate that result. Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin decisively won the category in the No. 4 C7.R, awarding Ollie his 50th win as part of the team—his fifth at Long Beach.
Near the checkered flag, Gavin fought off the dueling Chip Ganassi Racing entries and cleared the No. 67 by 2.157 seconds. Both Ford GTs were side by side in the final minutes, allowing the American team to put two cars on the podium albeit without managing the victory. This is the second consecutive P2 at Long Beach for Ganassi, and additionally, the pole-sitter No. 66 of Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller completed the rostrum.
Issues for Porsche's two-car effort meant that it fell behind all four entries of Corvette Racing and CGR. The No. 911 Porsche RSR collided with Eric Curran's Cadillac prototype and lost key bits of bodywork which not only forced the team to pit but also caused a full-course yellow. Its sister car, the No. 912, kept Porsche's ambitions going but a reported suspension issue led to a lead change to the eventual race-winning Corvette. The two would finish seventh and eighth correspondingly.
BMW suffered a similar fate despite an applaudable fight from the back of the field. Alexander Sims clawed from a P7 start and suddenly took the lead in the third quarter of the race; however, contact with the wall forced his No. 25 M8 GTE to retire. His teammate John Edwards did manage to finish on the lead lap, though a gap of 14.023 seconds meant fifth-place would be the outfit's best result.
The next round of IMSA WeatherTech competition will be hosted at Mid-Ohio on May 6th. Sunday will resume action of the Toyota Long Beach Grand Prix weekend with IndyCar's third race of the season starting at 1:40 p.m. PT.