Race Weekend Central

Christian Fittipaldi Puts Action Express on IMSA Long Beach Pole

Late Friday afternoon, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams took to the 1.968-mile Long Beach Street Course to qualify for Saturday evening’s BUBBA Burger Sportscar Grand Prix at Long Beach.  As usual, the session for the prototypes came down to a Daytona Prototype vs. P2 battle.  For the first time in 2016, the DPs won.

Christian Fittipaldi was the class of the field, setting a lap at 74.962 seconds (94.512 mph) to take the overall pole for Action Express Racing.  Fittipaldi’s closest competition was Wayne Taylor Racing‘s Ricky Taylor in the Konica Minolta-sponsored No. 10 Chevrolet Corvette DP.  Taylor tried with all his might but could do no better than a lap of 75.133 seconds (94.297 mph).  As Twitter revealed there was a clear reason Taylor fell short.

Regardless of the minor wall contact the Taylor brothers will likely still be a threat on Saturday.  Marc Goossens turned in the third-fastest time in the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Racing entry.  However, he spun in the hairpin and was hit by Tristan Nunez in the No. 55 Mazda.  That incident brought out the red flag.  By rule, both drivers lost their best laps.  That elevated Tom Long to third on the grid in the No. 70 and Eric Curran in the second Action Express Racing entry to fourth.  Nunez, despite his penalty, rounded out the top 5.  Goossens will start seventh after his penalty.

In Prototype Challenge, James French was fastest in the No. 38 ORECA FLM09-Chevrolet for Performance Tech Motorsports with a lap of 77.910 seconds (90.936 mph).  That was good enough for 14th overall.  However, the lap does not count.  Why?  The session was red-flagged prior to the ten-minute mark due to a crash in turn 1.

Starworks MotorsportsMark Kvamme spun and backed into the wall after contact from PR1/Mathiasen MotorsportsRobert Alon.  Kvamme’s left-rear suspension was damaged in the crash, forcing the red flag to be thrown so that the No. 88 could be retrieved.

The session was not resumed before the checkered flag was thrown.  As per IMSA rules that means that the session is not official and the PC class was forced to line up by points.  That would have meant that Alon, who currently leads the PC points with teammates Jose Gutierrez (not racing this weekend) and Tom Kimber-Smith, would have earned the pole.  Not so fast.  As IMSA determined that Alon caused the wreck, he was sent to the rear.

As a result, Misha Goikhberg will lead the PC field to the start in the No. 85 entry from JDC/Miller MotorSports.  Alex Popow will start alongside in Starworks Motorsports’ No. 8, while BAR1 Motorsports‘ No. 20 with Tomy Drissi will start third.

The GT-Le Mans class was by far the closest of the three.  Qualifying came down to a duel between BMW Team RLL‘s Bill Auberlen and the two Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSRs.

At first, it was Auberlen and Patrick Pilet in the No. 911 exchanging fastest laps.  Late in the session, Earl Bamber in the No. 912 took over the top spot.  Then Auberlen set a lap of 77.272 seconds (91.687 mph) to give the Porsche drivers something to shoot at.  Bamber came the closest, turning in a lap just three-thousandths of a second off of Auberlen’s time, but it was not enough to prevent the 47-year-old veteran from taking the class pole.

Bamber was lucky to be able to turn such a fast lap.  Early in the session, Bamber locked up his brakes and nearly hit the wall in turn 4.  After a pit stop, made in order to cool the tires and adjust tire pressures, Bamber returned and put his up his fast lap.

Pilet was third quickest, less than two-tenths of a second behind Auberlen.  The two Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7-R’s of Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen were fourth and fifth.  The nine cars that took time were separated by just more than a second.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing‘s No. 67 Ford GT for Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook did not take time as a result of a fire that occurred during practice Friday.  The team sat out qualifying in order to continue repairs on the car but still plan on starting the race from the rear.

The BUBBA Burger Sportscar Grand Prix at Long Beach will air live Saturday at 7 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 2.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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