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Thompson Leads Lexus Beach Party in Long Beach GTD Qualifying

Manufacturer Qualifies 1-2 While Celebrating U.S. Legacy


By John Oreovicz


Unofficial Qualifying Results


LONG BEACH, Calif. – Safe to say Vasser Sullivan and Lexus put a fair amount of emphasis on the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Parker Thompson and Frankie Montecalvo delivered in qualifying on Friday.


With Vasser Sullivan’s two-car lineup reconfigured to fit the single-class format of the 100-minute round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Thompson prevailed over his regular teammate Montecalvo to claim the Motul Pole Award for the Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class.


Thompson whipped the No. 89 Lexus RC F GT3 around the classic 1.968-mile street course in 1 minute, 17.357 seconds (91.585 mph). Montecalvo was second fastest (1:17.619/91.276 mph) in the No. 12 Lexus he normally shares with Thompson.


At most WeatherTech Championship races, Vasser Sullivan Lexus fields the No. 12 in GTD along with a No. 14 entry in the GTD PRO class driven by Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth. The cars that compete in the two classes are actually identical.


GTD PRO is not part of the field at Long Beach, so Vasser Sullivan and Lexus decided to enter the second car as the No. 89. Hawksworth is teamed with Montecalvo in the No. 12, while Barnicoat is sharing what is regularly the No. 14 car with Thompson. The number 89 was selected to honor Lexus’ first year in the United States market.


Barnicoat and Hawksworth claimed the GTD PRO class victory for Lexus and Vasser Sullivan in 2023 on their way to the season championship.


On Friday at Long Beach, Thompson displayed sizzling form in qualifying, laying down three laps that were fast enough for the pole. It was his second pole of the season following the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and this one set a new track record for the class.


“There was a lot of pressure today,” Thompson said. “We did a qualifying simulation in Practice 2, and I thought we were going to have to work really hard for that pole. To be 1-2, I’m really proud and that just shows how good our Lexus is around the Grand Prix of Long Beach.


“But that’s only half the job, unfortunately,” he added. “They only give you a medal for pole, they don’t give you a trophy. Tomorrow is the big day.”


Thompson credited engineer Geoff Fickling for easing his transition into what normally operates as the No. 14 GTD PRO team for the Long Beach weekend.


“He didn’t throw the kitchen sink at it, but he gave me a lot of changes for qualifying,” Thompson said. “You never really know how that’s going to go, but you can’t not trust Geoff Fickling. The guy is just pretty on it, and today is a testament to that. The car was fantastic.”


Saturday’s race sets up the fascinating prospect of Lexus drivers who are normally teamed together racing against each other. For Montecalvo and Thompson, it carries title implications since the points they score at Long Beach count toward the season long driver’s championship. And one is going to outscore the other.


“I think everybody wants the No. 12 to have a good race; that is the priority,” Thompson observed. “Obviously, they’re in the full-time championship, and that’s my full-time home. So, I’m sure that we’ll play friendly to make sure both cars get through Turn 1 (at the start) and hopefully finish 1-2 in the race.”


Albert Costa Balboa qualified third in the No. 34 Conquest Racing Ferrari 296 GT3, while Roman De Angelis completed the second row in the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo.


The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be broadcast live on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA Radio from 4:30-6:30 p.m. ET Saturday April.