Fittipaldi Takes Prototype Pole, Redondo Beach’s Auberlen Wins GTLM Pole for BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Christian Fittipaldi threw down the gauntlet for Saturday’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach in Friday’s qualifying with a fast lap of 1 minute, 14.962 seconds in his Action Express Mustang Sampling Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype.
“Starting in the front on a street course definitely makes your life easier,” said Fittipaldi, who shares the car – and the past two season titles in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – with Joao Barbosa.
Qualifying second was the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta Corvette DP, the defending champions at Long Beach, with a lap of 1:15.133. Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor don’t have a win this year, and are looking to break through with a Long Beach repeat.
Third was the No. 70 Mazda Prototype, the best start ever for the Mazda team thanks to a lap of 1:15.641 by Tom Long, who shares the Mazda with Joel Miller.
Fittipaldi said that Long Beach has not been kind to the Action Express team in general, and him in particular, dating back to his races here in the IndyCar series.
“I’m happy that we seemed to have turned the page,” he said. Last year, the Action Express car was not competitive at Long Beach or at the other California race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and Fittipaldi says the team concentrated on making the car better for the two West Coast events.
The Prototype qualifying session was shortened when the red flag flew with just over six minutes left in qualifying, caused by a crash by the No. 90 Visit Florida Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype driven by Marc Goosens, who spun and nosed the car into the wall by himself. The No. 55 Mazda Prototype driven by Tristan Nunez made light contact with the No. 90, but all the cars drove away.
The green flag flew again with a few minutes remaining, but no one could top Fittipaldi’s fast lap.
In GT Le Mans, Bill Auberlen staked his claim for his third win at Long Beach in four years with a lap of 1:17.272 in the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM, a scant three-thousandths ahead of 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Earl Bamber, who laid down a lap of 1.17.275 in the No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR. Third was Bamber’s teammate, Patrick Pilet, in the No. 911 Porsche, with a lap of 1.17.458.
Auberlen, from nearby Redondo Beach, was skeptical that he could qualify in the top spot on the tight road course. His new BMW M6 is three feet longer than the Z4 he raced here last year, and that car, he said, was perfect for the Long Beach course. But the team dialed in the M6 and Auberlen knocked out a Hail Mary lap that was faster than even he thought the car was capable of. “This is a really good car,” he said. “It has great potential.”
The two Corvette Racing C7.Rs were fourth and fifth, followed by Auberlen’s teammate Lucas Luhr in the No. 100 BMW in sixth. Seventh was the No. 66 Ford GT driven by Joey Hand – the No. 67 team car didn’t make the qualifying session, as it caught fire in the morning practice session and the team couldn’t repair it in time. It should be ready for Saturday’s race.
In one of the strangest qualifying sessions in recent memory, the pole sitter for the Prototype Challenge class is actually the fourth-fastest qualifier. The session was shortened after a crash involving the No. 88 Starworks Motorsports car, driven by Mark Kvamme, brought out the red flag. Until then the fastest PC was the No. 38 of James French, whose fastest lap in the Performance Tech car was 1.17.910. Second was the No. 54 CORE entry of Jon Bennett.
Third was Robert Alon in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen car. Unfortunately for French and Bennett, due to the red flag, the PC class didn’t get in the mandatory 10 minutes of qualifying time, so the grid for Saturday’s race will be set by points, putting Alon in the No. 52 on the PC pole, in the car he shares with Tom Kimber-Smith.
But wait: IMSA officials determined that Alon was involved in the incident with the No. 88 car, which brought out the red flag. And if you bring out the red flag, you go to the back of the grid.
Which put Misha Goikhberg, who drives the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports entry with Stephen Simpson, on the pole. Goikhberg qualified the car in fourth before the red flag ended the session, but it was the team’s points standing that gave it the class pole.
The Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix of Long Beach is set for 4:05 p.m. PT on Saturday. It will air live on FS2 with tape-delayed broadcasts on FS1 at 11 p.m. ET on Saturday and 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. Live audio coverage from IMSA Radio is available on IMSA.com.
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Qualifying for Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn Long Beach street circuit with starting position, car number (in parentheses), driver, car and speed in miles per hour.
1. (5) Christian Fittipaldi, Corvette DP, 94.512 mph
2. (10) Ricky Taylor, Corvette DP, 94.297
3. (70) Tom Long, Mazda, 93.663
4. (31) Eric Curran, Corvette DP, 93.540
5. (55) Tristan Nunez, Mazda, 93.477
6. (0) Andy Meyrick, DWC13 Elan, 93.214
7. (90) Marc Goossens, Corvette DP, 93.022
8. x-(25) Bill Auberlen, BMW M6 GTLM, 91.687
9. (912) Earl Bamber, Porsche 911 RSR, 91.683
10. (911) Patrick Pilet, Porsche 911 RSR, 91.466
11. (60) John Pew, Ligier JS P2 Honda, 91.401
12. (4) Oliver Gavin, Chevrolet Corvette C7, 91.331
13. (3) Jan Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C7, 91.210
14. y-(38) James French, Oreca FLM 09 Chevrolet, 90.936
15. (100) Lucas Luhr, BMW M6 GTLM, 90.709
16. (66) Joey Hand, Ford GT, 90.691
17. (62) Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari F488 GTE, 90.504
18. (68) Alessandro Balzan, Ferrari F488 GTE, 90.494
19. (54) Jonathan Bennett, Oreca FLM 09 Chevrolet, 90.111
20. (52) Robert Alon, Oreca FLM 09 Chevrolet, 89.667
21. (85) Misha Goikhberg, Oreca FLM 09 Chevrolet, 89.507
22. (8) Alex Popow, Oreca FLM 09 Chevrolet, 88.250
23. (20) Tomy Drissi, Oreca FLM 09 Chevrolet, 86.788
24. (88) Mark Kvamme, Oreca FLM 09 Chevrolet, 82.069 25. (67) Ford GT, No Time
x-GT Le Mans class pole
y-PC class pole