A mere three milliseconds separated Earl Bamber and Porsche from pole position on the street circuit of Long Beach. Driving for Porsche North America, the outright Le Mans winner from New Zealand planted his 470 hp 911 RSR, which is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car, on second place in the fiercely contested qualifying. His teammate at round three of the IMSA SportsCar Championship run in the Californian harbour city is Frédéric Makowiecki (France). At the wheel of the sister 911 RSR, the reigning IMSA GT champion Patrick Pilet (France) posted the third quickest time in the intensely competitive GT field, in which five automobile manufacturers battle for victories and titles in North America’s most important sports car racing series. Pilet shares driving duties with overall Le Mans winner Nick Tandy (Great Britain), with whom he took off into the season-opening race at Daytona from pole position.
The GTD class, in which Porsche customer teams field the new Porsche 911 GT3 R, is not contested at the Long Beach event.
Marco Ujhasi, Overall Project Manager GT Works Motorsport: “We went for broke and tackled the qualifying with a very aggressive setup. That paid off. Grid positions at Long Beach are critical. Our drivers pulled out all stops. It’s a shame Earl missed out on pole by just three thousandths of a second, but he still scored a great starting position for the race.”
Earl Bamber (911 RSR #912): “I’ve no idea where I lost those fractions of seconds. Possibly in the hairpin, but quite honestly you can lose three-thousandths almost anywhere on this circuit. Today’s effort from the whole team was tremendous. Long Beach was not our strongest track in recent years. The fact that we’ve done so well in qualifying here now has given us a lot of confidence. We just have to repeat this performance in the race tomorrow then anything is possible.”
Patrick Pilet (911 RSR #911): “We found a perfect setup for the 911 RSR. And the tyres worked well too. I was able to turn a lot of fast laps. Now our chances for the race look good. We’ve practised pit stops and driver changes here often and that will be the key to success on Saturday.”
The race takes off on Saturday, 16 April, at 16:05 hrs local time (01:05 hrs CET Sunday) and can be viewed live outside the USA on http://www.imsa.com.
1. Auberlen/Werner (USA/D), BMW M6, 1:17.272 minutes
2. Bamber/Makowiecki (NZ/F), Porsche 911 RSR, + 0.003 seconds
3. Pilet/Tandy (F/GB), Porsche 911 RSR, + 0.186
4. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA) Chevrolet Corvette, + 0.301
5. Garcia/Magnussen (E/DK) Chevrolet Corvette, + 0.404
6. Edwards/Luhr (USA/D), BMW M6, + 0.833
7. Hand/Müller (USA/D), Ford GT, + 0.848
8. Fisichella/Vilander (I/SF), Ferrari 488 GT, + 1.010