LONG BEACH, Calif – Action Express Racing knew that if Saturday’s Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach finished the way that it was going, then they’d have to figure out a new way to victory lane.
See, the Team Penske team cars had the most pace and were likely heading to a win in the third race of the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. So, the strategists decided to call the No. 5 Mustang Sampling car down pit road a good five minutes before the other DPi leaders.
That call was the winning one.
When the pit sequence ended, their car was in the lead. All Filipe Albuquerque had to do was save enough fuel and to keep the Penske’s behind him over the final 35+ minutes.
Despite having his mirrors full of the No. 7 Acura that was being driven at the time by Ricky Taylor, Albuquerque was able to hold him off en route to their first victory together since their way in this very race last year. For Barbosa, it was his 24th career IMSA victory (10 WeatherTech Championship, 11 GRAND-AM, two American Le Mans Series and one USRRC), while it was Albuquerque’s fifth IMSA win (four WeatherTech Championship, one GRAND-AM).
“When the Penskes came back there at the end, the (No.) 7 car changed the rear tires and we didn’t,” Albuquerque said. “So, the last few laps there my rear end was all over the place and I couldn’t do anything about it. There were a few times I thought I was clipping the wall with the rear because of the oversteer. He was just waiting for me to make a mistake; it was a bit of mind games.
“He was a little bit quicker, but not enough to pass me in clear air. It’s not the type of race that I would like to do, because I want to be in full control. But a win is a win, and where we came from the beginning of the race and where we finished. I think that’s the beauty about the IMSA races, anything can change at any moment, a crash, fuel, anything can change.”
“Unbelievable results for us again, after the win last year,” Barbosa said. “I definitely didn’t have the best start of the race, it’s very difficult to overtake and I just got caught in the wrong spot at the wrong time in of the restart.
“The Mazda and the Acura got together outside of Turn 1. They hit the wall. I thought about going around the outside to overtake those guys. They kept going and I got stuck on the outside and had no place to go. I tried to gather my thoughts, and to keep calm and not compromise any results and give him a good car.”
Taylor, a three-time Long Beach winner, finished 0.740-second behind Albuquerque for their second podium in the three races run thus far this season. His team driver Helio Castroneves put this car on the pole on Friday but lost the lead early after accidentally pressing the pit lane speed limit button early on. They’d lose two spots but make them back up with a runner-up result.
The other Penske car that was driven by Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron finished third in their No. 6 Acura. Saturday marked just the second time that the two Penske cars ended up on the podium. The last was in Belle Isle last June.
Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez finished fourth in their No. 77 Mazda while Simon Trummer and Stephen Simpson rounded out the top five in their No. 84 Cadillac.
Next up for the WeatherTech Championship is the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio on Sunday, May 5. The two-hour and 40-minute race will include all four WeatherTech Championship classes and also will mark the start of the inaugural WeatherTech Sprint Cup season for GT Daytona (GTD) cars.
With three of 10 races now in the books, Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani have a scant, two-point lead over Castroneves and Taylor, 92-90. Nasr took the lead from Castroneves early on in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R and held it through the pit stop when he turned the car over to Derani, but the car lost a tire shortly thereafter, necessitating an extra stop. They battled back to finish sixth.
Porsche’s Strong Start Continues
Three races into the 2019 season, Porsche now has three poles and two wins. On Saturday, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor crossed the finish line first in a crazy 100 minute spring race in the GTLM class. The No. 912 Porsche took the lead with 45 minutes left when Bamber passed Dirk Mueller’s No. 66 Ford GT when Mueller accidentally hit the pit road button. Helio Castroneves did that in the DPi class early on in the race too.
Despite Mueller’s best efforts, he couldn’t get by Bamber as their Porsche now takes the points lead over their teammates. In fact, the No. 911 Porsche won the pole for Saturday’s race but didn’t have anything for their teammates in the race itself.
Then, because of a disastrous final lap for the Ganassi duo, the Corvette’s rounded out the podium.
Mueller’s car stumbled out of Turn 8 on the final lap and Jan Magnussen got into the back of him and sent him into the concrete wall. As a result, Magnussen would bring his No. 3 Corvette home third. The team car driven by Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin finished third in their No. 4 Corvette.
Mueller’s damaged car would finish fourth.
The team car also had a problem on the last lap too.