The Corvette C8.R and Porsche 911 RSR-19 Will Race on the Street Course for the First Time on Saturday
By Godwin Kelly
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Porsche returns to the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach this week as the defending GT Le Mans (GTLM) winner but will be challenged by the two-headed monster known as Corvette Racing.
Porsche captured class honors in the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race on the famous street circuit. The 2020 Long Beach race was canceled and this year’s event postponed from its original April date by the pandemic. Much has changed since cars last competed there.
Corvette Racing is running a completely redesigned car – the Corvette C8.R – featuring a mid-engine design. Porsche no longer has a factory team, placing its trust in the WeatherTech Racing team operated by Proton Competition to field the No. 79 Porsche 911 RSR-19 that will also be making its Long Beach debut.
“We are now running the RSR-19 which debuted in 2020, so it’s a completely different car,” said Cooper MacNeil, who will drive with Mathieu Jaminet.
Corvette will counter with the No. 3 entry wheeled by Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia, and the No. 4 with Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy. Milner has three previous Long Beach wins, two coming with Corvette in GTLM (2017, ’18). Garcia won with Corvette in 2014 and Tandy with Porsche in 2016. Taylor has three prototype victories, while MacNeil took GT Daytona (GTD) honors in 2017 driving a Mercedes.
Jaminet is the lone Long Beach newcomer.
“I am really looking forward to Long Beach,” Jaminet said. “It will be my first time racing there. I have been watching the IndyCar and IMSA races for a couple of years and have always wanted to compete there.”
Milner and Tandy won in their first street-course outing this season in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Detroit, when the Corvettes were allowed to use ABS (anti-lock braking system) since they were the only GTLM entries in the non-points race. They won’t have that option this time around.
“I don’t think it will be much of a difference,” Taylor said. “We are used to running as-is with the normal GTLM regulations. Detroit was kind of a one-off to gather some data. For us, it will be the same car we’ve been racing these last two seasons.”
Taylor and Garcia have four points-paying victories this season. Tandy and Milner won the most recent race, the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sept. 12. The Corvette drivers know they have an advantage on the single-entry Porsche and leverage it.
“We can follow them with one car and do a different strategy with the other car,” Taylor said. “We will have them covered from both sides, so it definitely opens options for us.”
That doesn’t faze MacNeil, who points to the No. 79 Porsche’s two wins this season, including the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in March.
“Anytime you race a single-car effort against a two-car effort, you are at a disadvantage, but our WeatherTech/Proton team combined with Porsche minimizes that delta,” MacNeil said. “We have proven twice this year we can beat a two-car factory effort and will be pushing hard next weekend to do the same.”
Drivers from both camps think the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is special for a variety of reasons, including its history, proximity to the Pacific Ocean and star power of being located in Southern California.
“It’s a different type of event,” Tandy said. “There is that strong history of race cars at Long Beach. Why is Le Mans so revered and why does it have that mystique?
“Part of that is what has happened in the past there. And Long Beach is just like that. It’s on a beach, on a street track and the fans are closer to us than probably anywhere else we go.”
Practice and qualifying take place Friday at Long Beach. The 100-minute race airs live at 5 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN and IMSA Radio.