The Porsche GT Team tackles round three of the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship season at Long Beach (USA) as the leader of the manufacturer and team classifications. After a hard-fought victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring in Florida, the two ca. 510 hp Porsche 911 RSR start under very different conditions at the Pacific coast. Contested over just 100 minutes, the so-called Sports Car Grand Prix in Long Beach is the shortest race of the season.
Five kilometres of fencing and around 1,400 concrete blocks are needed for the construction of the 3.167-kilometre street circuit in the port area of Long Beach, California. The race is regarded as the American equivalent to the Monaco Grand Prix. In fact, the street course, which features only eleven turns, was the venue for the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix from 1976 to 1983. A popular photo motif along the racetrack is the decommissioned British passenger ship, the RMS Queen Mary. Today, the ocean liner serves as a floating hotel. A round of the popular IndyCar Series is also contested as part of the Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend.
The Porsche drivers
The winners of the Sebring race, Patrick Pilet (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain) share the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR. The pair won the twelve-hour race in Florida with their works driver colleague Frédéric Makowiecki (France). The sister car is driven by Earl Bamber (New Zealand) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium). At last year’s Sebring race, these two led the race for over half of the distance in the No. 912 car. The Porsche 911 GT3 R vehicles fielded by Park Place Motorsports and Pfaff Motorsports will not compete at the Long Beach, however the GTD class will be back on the programme again on 5 May in Mid-Ohio.
The Porsche 911 RSR
For its third racing season in North America, the Porsche 911 RSR has undergone further optimisation primarily in the setup. Depending on the size of the restrictor, the engine, 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 aerodynamic efficiency and significant downforce. The vehicle celebrated its debut at the start of the 2017 season and has notched up victories, most notably at the long-distance classic at Le Mans (France) and at the major sports car events in Sebring and at Road Atlanta.
The race takes off on Saturday, 13 April, at 14.05 hrs local time (23:05 hrs CEST) and can be viewed live outside the USA and Canada on http://www.imsa.com.
Comments before the race
Pascal Zurlinden (Director GT Factory Motorsport): “After our big win at Sebring the mood within the team couldn’t be better. Hence, we’re now feeling highly motivated as we switch from endurance to sprint mode. Right from the start, everything has to come together perfectly. Last year we held the lead over a long stretch, but ultimately missed out on the well-deserved rewards. We want to change that this year.”
Steffen Höllwarth (Programme Manager IMSA SportsCar Championship): “After the two longest races of the season, now comes the shortest. Long Beach is another highlight, not only for the drivers but also for the fans. The backdrop is stunning, and so is the racetrack. On this street circuit, durable brakes, an agile steering response and good traction are required. If you can get this right you have good chances to post pole position – and that is hugely important. There are very few opportunities to overtake, which limits the tactical possibilities. So far this year we’re unbeaten in qualifying. That makes me very confident for the Long Beach weekend.”
Patrick Pilet (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “Long Beach is one of my all-time favourite places. It’s really like an American Monaco. The track barriers are really close and they leave no room for error. To be fast here you have to take calculated risks. In the qualifying and with pit stops during the race everything has to run like clockwork because you can’t catch up in such a sprint race. We were fast there last year and we’re travelling to Long Beach with the momentum of our Sebring win behind us. I’m feeling optimistic.”
Nick Tandy (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “After our victory in Florida we’re feeling very confident and hence we’re looking forward to the upcoming race. We head to Long Beach as the overall leaders and we’re keen to defend this position. It’s the only city race on the calendar. I really like such challenges. Driving between the concrete barriers is always like driving on the razor’s edge. The field is often tight, and in a duel you have to stay cool at all times. That’s how racing should be.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “I’m a big fan of street circuits so I’m looking forward to Long Beach. Last year we were super quick here, but we had really bad luck. We were leading and had to retire. We’re looking for redemption this year. We have already switched to sprint mode in our minds and are excited for the shorter IMSA series races. We’re aiming for a podium finish.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “When I think of Long Beach there are two things that stand out: a cool racetrack and a stunning event. Every driver enjoys the special thrill of a tight street circuit. We’ve always been fast at Long Beach, but we’ve never had the necessary luck on our side. So we have a score that we’re determined to settle. We want to win at long last.”