Porsche Penske Motorsport claimed the first win for the Porsche 963 in international competition as Mathieu Jaminet and Nick Tandy kept their cool round the streets of Long Beach in an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race that was finally settled with penultimate lap drama as Ricky Taylor missed out on converting pole to victory as he crashed the Wayne Taylor Acura fighting for the lead.
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GTD Pro proved to be a comfortable race for Vasser Sullivan, with Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth taking what proved to be an untroubled win. Bryan Sellers fended off pressure from Roman De Angelis to take back-to-back wins for Paul Miller Racing having triumphed in the BMW M4 GT3 in GTD.
The action began before the field even reached the first turn. An audacious attempt by Sebastien Bourdais to recoup some places lost at the start saw him try to send the #01 Cadillac Racing machine down the inside going into the left-hander by going late on the brakes.
However, the extra speed proved to be his undoing. The car appeared to hit a bit of a bump, and wiggled left, and then snapped right as Bourdais attempted to recover. He hit the wall on drivers left and slithered into the escape road at the end of the start/finish straight. Caught up in that was Tom Blonqvist in the #60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura – he sustained no damage, but lost a lot of time.
On the flip-side, benefiting hugely was Nick Tandy. Starting just outside the top five in the #6 Porsche Penske Motorsport entry, the Brit found himself sitting second – behind a rapid starting Filipe Albuquerque in the Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-06.
Things started to settle, with Albuquerque holding a slender-but-comfortable advantage at the front – aided no end by Tandy having to hold off the attentions of Nick Yelloly in the #25 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8.
Positions remained stationary until the pit window came into view for the GTPs. With just under 58 minutes to go, Albuquerque was summoned in first to hand the Konica Minolta-sponsored machine over to Ricky Taylor.
At first, that proved to be perhaps slightly too early, with Tandy finally hitting the pits two laps later to give the Porsche 963 to Mathieu Jaminet.
From the stops, Jaminet disappeared up the road. Not troubled by an enthralling battle for second behind, the Frenchman was allowed to pick and choose his lines through the GT traffic without needing his eyes focused on a threat from behind. He hung on to take victory, but that doesn’t tell anywhere near like the full story.
That’s because his win was probably assured by the battle for the runner-up spot, which was being heavily contested by the sister #7 of Felipe Nasr and Matt Campbell, Ricky Taylor in the Acura, and Connor De Phillippi – taking over the BMW from Yelloly.
First, it was Campbell v De Phillippi with the pair dicing their way through the streets before Yelloly tried a move going into Turn 6. He carried far too much speed into the corner and had to use the run-off to avoid a crash.
Relegated to fourth, that promoted Taylor to third and the heir to the battle for second. He wasn’t shy in making his presence felt, with the briefest of accidental glances knocking off a chunk of Campbell’s rear-wing end plate.
He couldn’t make a move, and it appeared as though his chance had evaporated when he appeared to have hit the wall on the outside of Turn 8, and slowed for a lap as he tried to assess whether he picked up any serious damage.
Getting the all-clear, he set about charging down Campbell once again, and didn’t need asking twice as he pulled off the move of the season to snatch second up the inside of the Australian at Turn 8 with just under 10 minutes to go. Making it worse for Campbell, the surprise move cost him momentum and allowed De Phillippi to sneak through into third.
Remember Jaminet? With 15 minutes to go, it seemed as though he was going to have a comfortable race to the flag, but once Taylor powered through to second all bets were off.
Jaminet’s six-second advantage faded to nought as the Acura caught the Porsche with two-minutes to go. Heading onto the penultimate lap and Taylor lunged up the inside of the Porsche heading into turn one and seemingly into the lead. It quickly became apparent, though, that the Acura wasn’t slowing down anywhere near like quickly enough and understeered into the tyre barrier on the exit of the first corner.
With a second Full Course Yellow called for, Jaminet cruised to victory – the first non-Cadillac win in this year’s championship – with the BMW of Yelloly & De Phillippi taking second and the second Penske Porsche rounding out an unexpected double podium for the 963s.
Fourth went to the second BMW of Philipp Eng and Augusto Farfus, with the #31 of Pipo Derani and Alex Sims round out the top five after they had to pit just after the early FCY to recover Bourdais’ Cadillac seemingly with an issue.
GTD Pro & GTD
For sake of ease, we’ve combined the GTD Pro and GTD classes and what a race it proved to be at the sharp-end of both the GT3-based classes.
In the Pro class, the win proved to be relatively simple for the Vasser Sullivan pairing of Hawksworth and Barnicoat. The former started the Lexus RC F GT3 from pole and avoided the chaos from the prototypes ahead to finish the first lap in the lead.
Not challenged from behind, the black and yellow machine didn’t even lose a position through the pit window as Hawksworth stayed out until the very limits of the fuel mileage of the Lexus and handed over to Barnicoat with a handy margin over the rest.
While the win proved to be pretty easy, there was quite a tasty battle for second. In the opening stint, Patrick Pilet was pretty comfortably second in the #9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche, having got the measure of Antonio Garcia in the Corvette Racing C8.R.
Come the pitstops though, and Klaus Bachler – taking over from Pilet – found himself quickly under pressure from Jordan Taylor – newly installed in the yellow Corvette. With 40 minutes to go, Taylor finally found a weak spot in Bachler’s staunch defence and muscled his way up into second.
He wasn’t allowed to get away, though, as Bachler pushed Taylor all the way to the flag – the gap never stretching to much over a second but the Porsche racer was denied any prospect of a last lap send thanks to the late caution.
Alex Riberas and Ross Gunn finished fourth for Heart of Racing Team – sixth on the combined GTD Pro/GTD order – whilst WeatherTech Racing’s Jules Gounon and Dani Juncadella finished well down the order in their Mercedes-AMG GT3. Never quite on the pace, Juncadella was badly held up by Inception Racing’s Brendan Iribe, who was tapped into a spin at the final corner by Turner Motorsport’s Chandler Hill and ended up blocking the track. Despite it being a brief blockage, that put their chances of a GTD Pro podium to bed.
In GTD, Paul Miller Racing added to its win at the Sebring 12 Hours with a marvellous victory for Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow in the BMW M4 GT3.
They didn’t have it easy. A rapid start from Marco Sorensen – in the polesitting #27 Aston Martin Vantage – put him clear of the GTD competition and mixing it with the GTD Pro front-runners.
Come the pits, Sorensen handed over to Roman De Angelis pretty early – with just 36 or so minutes of the race completed – while Snow stayed out for a couple of extra laps to be certain of having enough fuel to reach the end comfortably.
Snow handed over to Sellers, who came out on track pretty much side-by-side with De Angelis and the pair did battle. It wasn’t quite to the level seen elsewhere, as the BMW made quick work of the Heart of Racing Team Aston and moved into the lead.
Building up a gap comfortably allowed Sellers to take his second win of 2023 by more than four seconds.
De Angelis and Sorensen finished second, with another podium in the bag for Vasser Sullivan as the GTD Lexus of Frankie Montecalvo and Aaron Telitz rounded out the podium.
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