Five Takeaways: BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach
Monday, April 15, 2019

Last Saturday’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach was a riveting, 100-minute battle on the iconic street circuit.

Despite being one of the two shortest races on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule, there was no shortage of action or intrigue. Both the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) and GT Le Mans (GTLM) classes delivered thrilling battles for the win, and in the end, both the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi squad of Filipe Albuquerque and Joao Barbosa, and the No. 912 Porsche GT Team duo of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor clearly earned their first-place trophies.

Here’s what else we learned in our annual visit to Southern California:

Cadillacs Stay Hot

A Cadillac DPi-V.R has not won a Motul Pole Award since Jordan Taylor took the pole for last season’s penultimate round at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. But they’ve also got a four-race winning streak going, dating back to when Taylor, Renger van der Zande and Ryan Hunter-Reay won the 2018 season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

They’ve been ultra-reliable since coming onto the scene at the start of the 2017 WeatherTech Championship season and have maintained plenty of race-winning pace even as Acura, Mazda and Nissan DPis prove to be faster on occasion. They’ve also got strength in numbers, with six Cadillac DPis on Saturday’s starting grid.

The No. 5 squad became the third different Cadillac team to win this year, after the No. 10 with Taylor, van der Zande, Kamui Kobayashi and Fernando Alonso took January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona and the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac of Pipo Derani, Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran won March’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.

Acuras Closing Fast, Though

For the first time since last year’s race at Detroit, there were two Acura ARX-05 DPis on the podium. Ricky Taylor crossed the finish line hot on the heels of Albuquerque to take second in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske machine he shared with Friday’s Motul Pole Award winner, Helio Castroneves, while Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron came home third in their No. 6 Acura Team Penske mount.

For Montoya and Cameron, it was their fifth podium since teaming up at the start of the 2018 WeatherTech Championship season. Ricky Taylor and Castroneves, meanwhile, picked up their third consecutive top-four result and their second podium of the season – moving them to within two points of the WeatherTech Championship DPi lead.

And up next? It’s the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, where the team went 1-2 in 2018. Look for both cars to be tough to beat in this two-hour, 40-minute battle on Sunday, May 5.

Tough Day for DPi Points Leaders

The BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix was tough on the two teams that came into the weekend sharing the DPi points lead.

For the No. 10 team, it started even before cars got on track, as Jordan Taylor needed an emergency appendectomy while on vacation in Hawaii last Monday, and it was quite a feat that he could race at all.

That said, it was an uphill battle for the team all weekend, as the No. 10 was mired in the bottom half of the DPi field in both practice sessions and qualifying. A penalty for passing under caution by Taylor after getting into the top-four positions and subsequent crash by van der Zande left the No. 10 car 10th out of 11 cars on Saturday.

It may have been an even more frustrating race for the No. 31 team, as Nasr led 17 laps before turning the car over to Derani, who had the right-front tire come off shortly after rejoining the fray. The Brazilian did well to battle his way back to a sixth-place result at the checkered flag, which was enough to salvage the DPi points lead.

“First off, I have to say that we ended up being lucky on a very unlucky day today,” Derani said. “We need to regroup as a team to understand what happened. I felt like the race was ours today. We had a fantastic car all weekend, but it was damage limitation today once we had the problem." 

The No. 31 team now leads the No. 7 Acura team by two points, 92-90, but just four points separate the top four positions in the DPi standings. The race-winning No. 5 Cadillac team is third with 89 points, with the No. 10 team sitting fourth with 88 points.

“In the big picture, we’re one of four teams separated by just (four) points at the top of the championship, so that’s the saving grace of today’s result,” No. 10 Cadillac team owner Wayne Taylor said. “There is a lot of racing to go. I know Renger is very disappointed in what happened, but it’s a part of racing. We didn’t have the fastest car all weekend, but we do have the best drivers and team and we will move on to the next one and keep fighting for the championship. There’s never any good that comes out of dwelling on what might have been.”

Porsche Powers to Top of GTLM Charts

With a win by each of its cars in the past two WeatherTech Championship rounds, the Porsche GT Team is positioning itself as the team to beat in the GTLM class.

Saturday’s win by the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR and co-drivers Bamber and Vanthoor moved them to the top of the GTLM standings. They took over the spot that was previously occupied by their teammates in the No. 911 Porsche – season-long co-drivers Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet – who won the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.

The No. 912 team leads the No. 911 team and the two-time and defending GTLM champion No. 3 Corvette team by four points, 91-87. And don’t look now, but the next race is the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio. Care to guess who won there last year?

Yep, it was Bamber and Vanthoor in the No. 912.

Corvette’s Quest for 100 IMSA Wins Rolls On

It’s now been more than a year since Corvette Racing’s last GTLM victory. Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin picked up the team’s 99th win at Long Beach last April in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R, but velocity yellow has been absent from Victory Lane since then.

Of course, the No. 3 team and co-drivers Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia did win their second straight GTLM championship last year thanks to unparalleled consistency. And the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach GTLM podium included both Corvettes with the No. 3 taking second and the No. 4 third.

That suggests it’s only a matter of time before Corvette Racing gets that milestone IMSA win, which could come as soon as next month. A quick check of the record book reveals that Corvette Racing is the winningest IMSA team at Mid-Ohio with a total of eight victories.