RacingNation.com

Bubba, What A Race

BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix IMSA Podium at Long Beach. [Photo by Eddie LePine]

BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix IMSA Podium at Long Beach. [Photo by Eddie LePine]

By Eddie LePine

The crowds were huge, the weather was perfect, the atmosphere was electric and the competition was fierce. That is what greeted me when I attended Long Beach for the BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix, round 3 of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix winning Cadillac.  [Photo by Eddie LePine]

The BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix winning Cadillac. [Photo by Eddie LePine]

The two longest races of the year, 24 hours at Daytona and 12 Hours at Sebring, both in Florida, were followed up by a trip to the west coast for the shortest race of the year for the IMSA competitors – a 100-minute sprint race through the very tough confines of the Long Beach street circuit.

Due to the tightness of circuit, only the two top classes in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship took part at Long Beach – the Prototype class and the GTLM class.

Since IMSA was sharing the circuit with IndyCar for the weekend, qualifying took place on Friday and the sprint race took place on Saturday.

The competition for the overall pole position was hot and heavy right from the start, as grid position for this short race was going to be very important since it is so difficult to pass at Long Beach.

Once qualifying was done, it was Juan Pablo Montoya in the Penske Acura DPi on point, earning the first pole position for the all new Acura prototype.

Lining up second was Felipe Nasr in the Whelen Cadillac DPi, followed by Harry Tincknell in the Mazda DPi – a great performance for Mazda, now managed by the very capable Joest Racing organization, and sure to be a team to be reckoned with as the season goes on.

As usual, the DPi class was very competitive, with the top seven cars only about one second apart.

In GTLM, Joey Hand in the Ford GT lead both Porsches and Corvettes, with BMW bringing up the rear. Again, competition was very tight, with the top six cars separated by only .680 seconds.

In the race, Montoya shot to an early lead, with Nasr in the Caddy right on his tail for lap after lap. However, in the end it was the Mustang Sampling Cadillac of Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque taking the overall win over the Nissan DPi of Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel, with the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac taking the final podium spot. Amazingly, the top 9 DPi cars finished on the same lap and the margin of victory was less than five seconds.

The race marked the first repeat winner of the 2018 season in DPi, with the Mustang Sampling crew following up their victory in the longest race of the year at Daytona with victory in the shortest race on the schedule.

Albuquerque said: “Action Express was amazing today. They gave me a great car.”

GTLM Victors - Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin for Corvette. [Photo by Eddie LePine]

GTLM Victors – Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin for Corvette. [Photo by Eddie LePine]

In GTLM, the #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner took the win, with the #67 and #66 Ford GTs rounding out the podium.

For Oliver Gavin, the victory was a milestone – his 50th victory for Corvette. “It’s about starting back in 2002, it was a dream to be able to drive for Corvette Racing, now to have 50 victories is pretty special. It’s been a great team, and great teammates. I didn’t get here on my own. It’s special for me to get my 50th here at Long Beach.”

With Long Beach now in the record books, the IMSA circus now heads to the Midwest for the next round in the championship at Mid-Ohio on May 6.

Share Button

Eddie has been involved in motorsports for over 30 years as photographer, columnist, and driver. Eddie also is now a retired racer (well, retired unless a good ride pops up).