Following the season-opening rounds at the long distance classics of Daytona and Sebring in Florida, the IMSA SportsCar Championship now heads to California. Coming up on April 14 is the 100-minute event at Long Beach, the shortest race of the year. On the 3.167-kilometre street circuit, the Porsche GT Team fields two Porsche 911 RSR racers against three other automobile manufacturers in the strongly represented GTLM class. In addition to these fascinating sports cars, fans can look forward to a real highlight of the season at Long Beach, where another very popular US series, IndyCar, also contests a championship round on the same weekend. After winning the Sebring 12-hour race, Porsche has moved into second place in the manufacturers’, drivers’ and team classifications of the IMSA SportsCar Championship. Porsche also ranks second in the prestigious North American Endurance Cup. The long-distance races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans count towards the toughest category in terms of performance and reliability in GT racing worldwide.
During construction of the street circuit around the port area of Long Beach, more than five kilometres of fencing was erected and 1,400 concrete blocks were laid. The race with the picture-postcard backdrop of sun, sea and palms is regarded as the American equivalent to the Monaco Grand Prix. In fact, the street course hosted the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix West from 1976 to 1983. And like in the Principality on the Cote d’Azur, there is no lack of stars and starlets. No wonder – the Hollywood dream factory is just around the corner.
The Porsche drivers
In the cockpit of the #911 Porsche 911 RSR, Patrick Pilet (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain) contest the GTLM class. These two won the Long Beach race in 2016 and recently clinched the first win of this season in Sebring with the 911 RSR. Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Earl Bamber (New Zealand) share driving duties in the second 911 RSR (#912) fielded by the Porsche GT Team. The GTD class, in which Porsche customer teams campaign the 911 GT3 R, is not contested at Long Beach.
The 911 RSR
In addition to the optimised setup of the 911 RSR, the reliability has been further improved for its second racing season. Depending on the size of the restrictor, the motor, which is positioned in front of the rear axle, puts out around 375 kW (510 hp). The large rear diffuser combined with a top-mounted rear wing provides strong downforce and aerodynamic efficiency.
The race takes off on Saturday, 14 April, at 13.05 hrs local time (22.05 hrs CEST) and can be viewed live outside the USA on http://www.imsa.com.
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, President Motorsport and GT Cars: “After our phenomenal win at the Sebring 12-hour classic, we’re now going to tackle the shortest race of the season at Long Beach. The contrast couldn’t be greater. California is the most important Porsche market in the United States. That makes this race a very special challenge for us. Many of our customers and fans travel from far and wide to watch the 911 RSR on a fascinating city circuit. For us, this intense interest is an obligation to do everything we can to fight for victory and give the spectators an impression of this Porsche’s potential. Aside from that, Long Beach, which is regarded as the Monte Carlo of America for good reason, is an absolute highlight of the season.”
Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsports: “The entire squad comes under intense pressure at Long Beach. The short race is a real thriller. Drivers can’t afford to make the slightest mistake on this narrow city circuit, otherwise they end up hitting the wall. And every second we lose in the pits hurts twice as much. Refuelling, new tyres, driver changes – nothing must go wrong at the sole pit stop, otherwise you’ve lost the race. Finding the perfect setup for our 911 RSR in the short practice session is another huge challenge.”
Patrick Pilet (911 RSR #911): “The Long Beach city circuit is one of my favourite racetracks in the States. We won two years ago there, and we now want to do it again. After our Sebring victory, the whole team is hugely motivated. Fans know very well why they come to Long Beach: To constantly push the limits on this demanding course with total commitment is a huge challenge for the drivers and guarantees some action-packed racing.”
Nick Tandy (911 RSR #911): “Long Beach is a very special place to go racing. It’s a fantastic city circuit and great fun. The comparison to Monaco really fits. The racetrack is tricky and the more rubber that’s left on the track, the faster we get from one practice to the next. Finding the perfect setup for our 911 RSR during the short practice session puts the entire team under pressure right from the start.”
Laurens Vanthoor (911 RSR #912): “I really like street circuits. They pose a special challenge because you have to stay totally focussed the whole time and you can’t afford to make one mistake. The fact that we’re driving here on the same weekend as the IndyCar Series makes the race one of the season highlights for us and the fans.”
Earl Bamber (911 RSR #912): “Long Beach is unique. The city circuit is one of the most beautiful in the world, but it’s also one of the most difficult. There are virtually no run-off areas. Every mistake has immediate consequences. If you take a corner too fast you’ll hit the wall. I love street circuits. They’re something very special and a wonderful change for us drivers. And aside from that, California with its sun and beaches is simply fun.”
This is the IMSA SportsCar Championship
The IMSA SportsCar Championship, a sports car race series contested in the USA and Canada, was run in 2014 for the first time. The series was formed from the merger of the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Series. Sports prototypes and sports cars start in three different classes: GTLM (GT Le Mans), GTD (GT Daytona) and P (Prototype). The Porsche 911 RSR runs in the GTLM class, with the Porsche 911 GT3 R contesting the GTD class. Only the GTLM and P classes will be contested at Long Beach.
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