Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac won a typically action packed IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Series round at Long Beach thanks to superior strategy and car speed.
Felipe Albuquerque and Joao Barbosa took advantage of being first in the queue for pitstops in the second caution and slick pitwork to grab the lead and had the speed record a comfortable win.
Polesitter Juan Pablo Montoya in the #6 Team Penske Acura lead from pole but not for long as a clash between Kyle Masson in the#38 Performance Tech Motorsport ORECA and Gustavo Yacaman in the #52 PR1 Matherson Ligier saw the race’s first caution being declared at the end of the first lap in order to retrieve the stranded ORECA.
On race restart Montoya used the horsepower of the Acura to beat off a challenger from Felipe Nasr in the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac, yet he was unable to gap Nasr and after 10 laps of trying the Brazilian managed to find a way past his Colombian rival.
The overtake was well timed as the race’s second full course caution was declared a few seconds later to deal with the stopped #85 JDC Miller Motorsport ORECA.
As almost the entire field pulled into the pits, the two leaders stayed out but as events were to demonstrate, this was not the right strategic decision.
When the safety car came in, Nasr shot off into a dominant lead dropping Montoya by up to 2 seconds a lap as the Columbian fell into the clutches of the chasing pack.
However, this was the high water mark of Whelen Engineering’s race.
They lost time in the pitstop and emerged in fourth place and separate incidents with the #52 and #911 Porsche blunted their performance, as Eric Curran slid backwards down the leaderboard.
With all of the stops cycled out, it was Felipe Albuquerque in the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac out front and quickly building up a comfortable margin of 10 seconds
This did not last for long as debris from the #911 of Nick Tandy on the main straight caused the race’s third caution, wiped out Albuquerque’s lead and brought Ricky Taylor in the #7 Acura and the #2 ESM Nissan of Ryan Dalziel right onto the Portuguese’ tail.
Yet at the restart the #5 Cadillac got the jump on Taylor who was also jumped by Dalziel and the Acura soon had to fight off his brother Jordan in the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac.
Despite Dalziel’s quick restart he was unable to make much impression on Albuquerque who eventually went on to win by 5 seconds.
The focus shifted to the battle for third place, as the younger Taylor brother Jordan took advantage of his older brother’s grip problems to take third with Ricky eventually finishing sixth just ahead of Curran.
Tommy Milner clinched GTLM victory for Corvette Racing as ill-fortune ended Porsche’s victory hopes.
Laurens Vanthoor in the #912 Porsche led the GTLM field in the early stages but Connor de Phillippi‘s early pitstop saw the #25 BMW, with Alexander Sims now installed, leapfrog the rest of the GTLM when they all stopped during the second caution period.
Yet his lead didn’t last for long as Earl Bamber in the #912 took advantage of the BMW’s lack of speed and grip to quickly catch and pass Sims for the lead, despite very nearly being squeezed into the wall at the first corner by the BMW
Sims run came to an end a few laps later as his gripless BMW was forced offline and hit the wall, retiring with broken steering.
Bamber’s comfortable lead disappeared with the caution caused by his delayed team-mate, but when the lights went green, the right front suspension failed forcing the New Zealander to retire, with Milner taking the lead in the #4 Corvette.
It was a bitter end to a race where Porsche promised so much, but ended up delivering so little.
Milner took a comfortable win, with the two Fords rounding out the podium with Ryan Briscoe in the #67 leading home Dirk Muller in the #66.