With 11 corners packed into a narrow, concrete-lined course less than two miles in length, passing is difficult under the best of circumstances. Factor traffic into the equation, and it’s clear that the best way to stay up front at Long Beach is to start up front.
That’s why Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani were a joyous duo following IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. Nasr qualified the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R fielded by Action Express Racing on pole position for Saturday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Nasr’s lap timed at 1 minute, 11.620 seconds edged the No. 01 V Performance Academy Cadillac DPi, out of the Chip Ganassi Racing stable and driven by Kevin Magnussen, by just over a tenth of a second. Loic Duval (#5 Mustang Sampling/JDC-Miller MotorSports) completed a 1-2-3 qualifying sweep for Cadillac with a lap at 1:11.827.
Cadillac was victorious in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class in the WeatherTech Championship’s last two visits to Long Beach in 2018 and ’19, and Nasr and Derani each paced a practice session earlier in the day on Friday.
But winning the pole on a challenging street course wasn’t the only reason Derani and Nasr were happy Friday evening. Chasing the pairing of Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque (#10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura DPi) in the battle for the DPi championship, the Long Beach pole cut their deficit from 98 to 89 points. Albuquerque qualified the WTR Acura fifth with a lap of 1:12.461.
It was Nasr’s fifth career pole in IMSA competition.
“It feels amazing whenever you get a pole position, and doing it here is even better,” Nasr remarked. “I love street racing, and we’ve worked hard every session on getting the car set up right. We knew coming here that we had to maximize the points. That starts in qualifying, so I’m very happy for the whole team achieving that and making that lap when it mattered. Finding the extra tenths (of a second) in qualifying can be very risky, but that’s the challenge I love.
“It was super important to get pole position to keep the fight alive,” he added. “I would say that’s part of the job done, but the main focus is on tomorrow’s race.”
Nasr was unable to put his finger on why Cadillac has enjoyed such success at Long Beach and other street courses.
“Good question,” he said. “We just seem to roll off the truck, and our Cadillac is ready to go. We’ve seen that before at Detroit, and we see it again here. I’m glad we have those races on the calendar because it plays a little bit into our hands. It’s important to catch those opportunities when they come, because there are other tracks that play into the hands of the other cars too.
“We still have a long way to the championship and that final race (the November 12 Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta). We’ve given ourselves a good chance for the weekend and I want to get that race win tomorrow.”
Two teams entered qualifying at a disadvantage after encountering difficulties in the first of two practices. The #55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi suffered a braking issue before Oliver Jarvis could complete a flying lap, while Olivier Pla crashed the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura DPi, bringing the session to an early conclusion.
Despite qualifying sixth, Mazda driver Harry Tincknell remained positive that he and co-driver Jarvis can contend for victory Saturday.
“It’s all going to come down to strategy,” Tincknell said. “The guys on the pit wall are the ones who can win the race with the right calls. Timing the pit stops correctly will be critical.”
Jordan Taylor put the #3 Corvette C8.R on the GTLM pole position for the fifth straight race with Friday’s qualifying effort at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Floridian set the fast lap in the 15-minute session, at 1 minute, 16.801 seconds (92.248 mph), to collect the 21st pole of his IMSA career.
“Track position is obviously crucial here,” Taylor said. “It’s nice for us to be on pole and have another 1-2 for Corvette Racing, being the first time we brought this C8.R to Long Beach. It suited the track really well; we rolled off the truck strong.
“Street courses are great and we love coming to them,” he added, “but as a driver it’s very stressful when you have to get the maximum out of the car in a session like qualifying. It’s always nice to get through unscathed.”
Taylor and co-driver Antonio Garcia – the reigning GTLM season champions – will chase their fifth win of 2021 in Saturday’s 100-minute race on the tight and unforgiving 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street course. Taylor exudes confidence for the race, knowing that the simulator work and engineering scrutiny the Corvette team logged in advance of race weekend has already paid dividends.
“To be honest, it’s probably the best car I’ve ever had at Long Beach,” he said. “I’ve been here a few times before and it was the nicest car I’ve driven. It was probably one of the easier cars I’ve driven and still quick, so I think it speaks a lot to the car setup.
“Long Beach is always a one-pit-stop race. It’s all about execution in that one stop and maintaining track position, so qualifying is always a premium. … I think we’re in a good spot for tomorrow.”
Tommy Milner qualified the sister #4 Corvette second with a lap of 1:17.098 (91.893 mph). Cooper MacNeil was third in the #79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 at 1:19.686 (88.908 mph).
Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers have kept the #1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 in the GT Daytona (GTD) title chase without winning a race yet in 2021. Snow put them in position to snag that first victory and close their points deficit when he captured the Motul Pole Award in Friday’s qualifying.
Snow clocked a lap of 1:19.475 (89.145 mph) with two minutes remaining in the GTD grid qualifying session to notch his second pole of the season and fifth of his WeatherTech Championship career. Snow edged Robby Foley (#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3) by 0.134 seconds for the honor.
“It’s always an advantage to start at the front, but I would even say more so being a street course where it’s hard to pass,” Snow said. “But I think the biggest thing is it’s risky to pass on street courses. It’s definitely wonderful to start up front.”
In the ensuing GTD points qualifying segment, Laurens Vanthoor turned a class track record lap of 1:18.957 (89.729 mph) to lead the 17-car field and reel in the maximum 35 points for the #9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R. It allowed Vanthoor and co-driver Zacharie Robichon – who are riding a two-race win streak – to climb within 20 points of Foley and #96 BMW co-driver Bill Auberlen for the GTD championship lead.
Roman De Angelis and Ross Gunn of the #23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 are third in the standings, 54 points out of the lead. Sellers ran second to Vanthoor in the GTD points qualifying session to draw the #1 Lamborghini within 82 points of first place.
“The points for the top four (teams) in our GTD class is all super tight, so it gives us a good advantage going into the race,” Snow said. “This is the best foot forward that we can go with for tomorrow, so we’ll see.”Nasr Takes Pole At Long Beach first appeared on dailysportscar.com.