LONG BEACH, Ca. April 18, 2016 – The shortest race of the season packed a week’s worth of action into the 100 minute race on the 1.968 mile Long Beach street circuit as Michelin technical partner teams from Porsche, Corvette, Ferrari, Ford and BMW all had moments of glory, frustration and top five finishes.
“Long Beach is the only ‘street’ race of the year for our GTLM teams and it was a street fight all the way,” said Ken Payne, technical director motorsports, Michelin North America. Track conditions and temperatures swung rather significantly from the first practice session early Friday morning on a dusty track with just 64 degrees track temperatures to a hot, slick track with over 120 degree track temperatures for the second practice and qualifying late Friday. With no track time on Saturday prior to the 4:05 p.m. race start, teams made educated guesses on what the conditions and grip level would be after the other series, practice, qualifying and races had taken place.
“With just 100 minutes of racing and only one pit stop scheduled, the team and drivers are very aggressive,” said Payne. “This was the first street race for our current generation race tires and we are very pleased with way that our Michelin tires performed throughout the weekend. Our technical partner teams used both of our compound options and each team had moments where it looked like the race was going its way and then the race took another twist.”
BMW’s Bill Auberlen (with co-driver Dirk Werner) won the pole by a microscopic 0.003 seconds over Porsche’s Earl Bamber and led early before falling to an eventual fifth place finish. The No. 25 BMW’s day was disrupted by a drive through penalty for contact with a PC class car.
The Chip Ganassi Ford GT scored a fourth place finish and set the fastest GTLM lap of the race (1:17.934), but fought a door latch issue that cost an extra pit stop.
The Risi Competizione Ferrari team and drivers Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella had the closest thing to a clean race and scored a podium finish.
Looking for a third consecutive victory to open the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner (Oliver Gavin) was valiantly trying to fend off the two charging Porsches when he and No. 912 Porsche’s Frederick Makowiecki made contact and spun at the turn 11 hairpin with just three laps remaining.
That allowed No. 911 Porsche’s Nick Tandy (Patrick Pilet) to slip through for the GTLM class victory, Milner recovered to claim second, while the No. 912 Porsche received a penalty for contact.
The GTLM class victory was the first for Tandy and his co- driver Patrick Pilet since the 2015 season ending win at Road Atlanta.
The next stop on the 2016 WeatherTech Championship is May 1 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Ca.