Long Beach: Race Report

Photo Credit: John ThawleyHeading into Saturday’s Tequlia Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach, Audi looked to be facing an uphill battle. With a heavier car, smaller fuel tank, and starting from sixth and seventh overall, the two diesel-powered R10 TDIs were never expected to play a factor in the 100-minute race on the famed Long Beach circuit. But anything was further from the truth. Marco Werner and Lucas Luhr took the the surprising overall victory, leading an Audi 1-2 finish home in the streets of southern California.

Werner outbraked Penske Racing’s Romain Dumas with 20 minutes remaining, then rocketing away to a 1.964-second win over teammate Emanuele Pirro, who also got around Dumas late in the 100-minute race. Werner said traffic played a crucial key to victory, as the German was able to efficiently navigate around slower GT cars.

“It was the key for the victory, especially before the yellow came out,” Werner said. “I think Romain expected me not to make the pass and with the GT car I tried, it wasn’t too much risk, but you have to try. He came close to me in the braking zone, we knew he’d be better on braking, but I closed the door and had a good first corner but better second and then the torque took over so I could pull away.”

photo by American Le Mans Series
It was Audi’s second consecutive overall victory and first 1-2 overall finish since St. Petersburg last year. Werner and Luhr now hold a commanding lead in the LMP1 drivers’ standings with their two-peat.

“I have to say, Marco did a really fantastic job,” Luhr said. “For me it was a perfect race. I could go really well through traffic and it was the key to keep pace with the Spyders, and I went from 6th to 2nd place. We had to fuel a little bit longer and lost some places and we got really lucky with the last yellow.”

The third and final full course caution of the day came out just moments after Werner got by Dumas for the lead. This set up a 12-minute dash to the checkers, with Pirro using the torque of his Audi to rocket by Dumas to claim second for he and co-driver Frank Biela.

“I was never very good in history but I think it is exceptional that we scored two consecutive wins for Audi on two street circuits,” Pirro said. “Especially here, it was great as I like the circuit and I have enjoyed the race very much. We haven’t been very strong at the beginning but later on we got much stronger and drove a good race. I’m really pleased especially as we did a 1-2. Such a result in this series is really nice.”

photo by: John Thawley
After getting passed by Pirro in the closing stages, Dumas began to slip even further behind and came under attack by the Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b of David Brabham. The quick Australian dived to the inside of Dumas’ Porsche RS Spyder to take the LMP2 class lead on the penultimate lap. Brabham drove to victory, 1.036 seconds ahead of the Penske Racing entry.

“To win this race like we did is something special,” Brabham said. “The inside move on Dumas was my favorite turn. It felt really sweet. The team was on the radio telling me how much time and how many laps they thought was left. I knew I didn’t have long and if I had a chance I needed to go for it.”

It was Patron Highcroft Racing’s first-ever victory and Acura’s second after over a one-year draught since its first. Brabham now becomes the only driver in series history to win in all four classes. Co-driver Scott Sharp drove the Duncan Dayton-owned machine in the opening stint and kept it in contention.

“This feels incredible,” Sharp said. “These are the types of accomplishments the team is looking for this year. Anytime you can get one-up on Roger Penske’s team, you’ve done something. We were well back Thursday and I can’t say enough about the job the team did to get the car back.”

Dumas and co-driver Timo Bernhard finished fourth overall, bringing their eight-race class win streak to an end. The sister Penske Porsche of Sascha Maassen and Patrick Long finished fifth. Long led the opening 40 laps after making an impressive start from fourth place.

photo by: John Thawley
Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen took their No. 3 Corvette Racing C6.R to the GT1 victory, their second of the season. They finished 1.374 seconds ahead of the sister machine of Oliver Beretta and Oliver Gavin. However, things were not so rosy during the team’s pit stop. Magnussen clipped an IMSA official while on pit lane, sending the marshal flying in the air and landing on the hood of Gavin’s No. 4 Corvette.

“It was a crazy pit stop,” second-placed Gavin explained. “I came in right behind Jan, couldn’t see the line for the pit lane speed limit, and nearly ran up the back of him. Then when we came into the pit box, all of a sudden there was an official on the hood of my car! I had to stop short, but fortunately the guys were ready with the fuel hoses and tires.”

Luckily, the official escaped injury and Magnussen was able to make a joke out of it after the race.

“I think the marshal thought I was going to go through the 4 car’s pit,” Magnussen said. “But the fueler looked a bit hesitant and I ended up clipping him. He was ok, I told him not to jump out in front of my car again and he said he wouldn’t plan on it.”

Dirk Muller and Dominik Farnbacher gave Tafel Racing its second consecutive win in GT2, expanding the duo’s lead in the driver’s championship and putting the Tony Dowe-led organization on top in the teams’ standings.

photo by: John Thawley
The team gambled on taking fuel-only during the pit stop, getting out ahead of the two Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsches, which led the opening laps. The quick stop put Muller out in front, to fend off a strong late-race challenge by both Wolf Henzler and Patrick Pilet in the Porsches. Muller edged Henzler at the line by 0.102 seconds, the second closest finish in Series history.

“The car was fantastic,” Muller said. “It was a gamble you know not taking tires. The safety car helped make it a close end. Then the five years of really hard driving in touring car racing really helped me. The racing line was quite wide. It was possible to do off line racing and give room for overtaking.”

Farnbacher bagged his second career win with his opening stint in the No. 71 Ferrari F430 GT.

“This is such an incredible feeling,” Farnbacher said. “I don’t think I have realized it yet. It gives me self confidence. As a young driver you want to win and this is my second victory in this year and it is going to push me. I am on a wave right now. It is motivating me even more!”

photo by: John Thawley
Henzler and co-driver Jorg Bergmeister in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche finished second while Pilet and Johannes van Overbeek in the sister No. 46 machine rounded out the podium.

Risi Competizione once again suffered misfortune in the race. After a sold run inside the top-three, the No. 62 Ferrari of Mika Salo and Jamie Melo ran into starter motor issues. The defending GT2 champions soldiered home to a ninth place finish in class.

The American Le Mans Series heads next to Miller Motorsports Park for the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by The Grand and Little America Hotels on May 16-18. The fourth round of the series will take place on the high-speed outer course layout of the circuit.


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