Cadillac scores 1-2 in action-packed sprint race

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Bourdais and van der Zande took a ‘no tires’ pit strategy to get ahead of the sister Action Express-run Cadillac V-Series.R of Pipo Derani and Jack Aitken to score a 1-2 finish for the marque around the 1.968-mile temporary circuit.

From pole position, despite crashing in the closing moments of qualifying, Derani led the field to green. He led the sister Cadillac Racing entry of Bourdais, who passed the other front row qualifier Nick Yelloly (#25 RLL BMW M Hybrid) on the run to the opening corner.

Behind them, Nick Tandy ran fourth in the Porsche Penske Motorsport 963 from the Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06s of Jordan Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque.

Derani sprinted clear, showing no ill effects after his spectacular exit from last month’s Sebring 12 Hours, while the surprisingly cautious Bourdais came under attack from Yelloly and Tandy as the prototypes hit GTD traffic.

#31 Action Express Racing Cadillac V-Series.R: Pipo Derani, Jack Aitken

#31 Action Express Racing Cadillac V-Series.R: Pipo Derani, Jack Aitken

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

The latter pair banged wheels and swapped places just before the race’s first full-course yellow, caused when Brendan Iribe shunted his GTD class Inception McLaren 720S at Turn 5 and got collected by Adam Adelson’s Wright Motorsports Porsche 911. That shunt gave Tandy the opportunity to get a run on Yelloly, before passing him later around the lap.

The race restarted after 23 minutes, with Derani leading Bourdais, Tandy, Yelloly and Jordan Taylor.

The GTP class was using Michelin’s soft-compound tire at Long Beach for the first time outside of Daytona night running, after last year’s race was won by Porsche not changing its harder rubber.

Tandy was the first GTP driver to stop, 34 minutes into the race, handing over the #6 963 to Mathieu Jaminet and they changed left-side tires. Jordan Taylor and Dane Cameron (#7 PPM 963) stopped a lap later, the latter taking fresh rears only as the #40 Acura took four fresh tires.

Derani pitted after 28 minutes but got caught behind a GTD Lamborghini, locking up as he entered pit lane. Aitken rejoined with fresh left-side tires only.

As the pitstop cycle played out, the #01 Caddy didn’t change tires at all during its stop, so van der Zande took over from Bourdais and rejoined well in the lead over Aitken – but at a tire disadvantage.

“If you can’t pass on track, we discussed not taking any tires,” revealed Bourdais of the strategy. “The delta was two seconds.”

Derani countered from his pit stand: “I got some traffic on the in-lap and they gambled because the guy behind will always do something different. We’re hoping that the tire deg will be enough that Renger will suffer.”

Yelloly ran long, along with Mike Rockenfeller in the Proton-run Porsche 963. But that overcut strategy was nixed when erstwhile joint points leader, and Sebring winner, Louis Deletraz shunted the #40 Acura heavily at Turn 1, having taken four tires and lost it on his cold rubber.

The race restarted again with just under 40 minutes remaining with van der Zande leading Aitken, Jaminet, Felipe Nasr (in for Cameron) and Connor De Phillippi (in for Yelloly).

At the back of the GTP field, Ricky Taylor (in for Albuquerque in the #10 Acura) punted Richard Westbrook’s JDC-Miller Porsche 963 into a spin at Turn 6. Taylor received a drive-through penalty.

De Phillippi, who had taken four fresh tires, slammed into the back of Nasr, claiming the Brazilian brake-checked him.

The leaders caught some frantically battling GTD cars with 22 minutes to go, and as the traffic stacked up at the hairpin, third-placed Jaminet was punted into a spin by Loris Spinelli’s GTD Lamborghini. In the melee, De Phillippi bulldozed his way through the stationary cars and wrecked the front end of his BMW, forcing him to pit.

Amazingly, a caution wasn’t required for that, but it happened a few minutes later when De Phillippi crashed again at Turn 6.

The race went green with less than nine minutes remaining, but not before Aitken almost hit the back of van der Zande at Turn 4 while warming his tires.

Van der Zande led Aitken, Nasr, the delayed Jaminet, Gianmaria Bruni (Proton Porsche 963, shared with Rockenfeller), Jesse Krohn (#24 BMW, partnered by Philipp Eng), Westbrook (who shared with Tijmen van der Helm), Ricky Taylor and De Phillippi.

As the laps ticked by, Aitken stalked van der Zande for the win, with the Porsches holding a watching brief behind. Van der Zande won by half a second.

#89 VasserSullivan Lexus RC F GT3: Ben Barnicoat, Parker Thompson, #12 VasserSullivan Lexus RC F GT3: Frankie Montecalvo, Jack Hawksworth

#89 VasserSullivan Lexus RC F GT3: Ben Barnicoat, Parker Thompson, #12 VasserSullivan Lexus RC F GT3: Frankie Montecalvo, Jack Hawksworth

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Lexus wins GTD class

In GTD, Parker Thompson and regular Pro class ace Ben Barnicoat led from start to finish in their #89 Lexus RC F.

It was a Lexus 1-2 at the start with Thompson leading the sister car of Frankie Montecalvo.

Albert Costa was best of the rest early on in the #34 Conquest Racing Ferrari 296, and he bumped his way past Montecalvo at the hairpin at the end of the opening lap to grab second, as Thompson jumped clear out front.

To add insult to injury, the #12 Lexus was penalized with a drive-through penalty for not staying in his lane across the startline, so Montecalvo tumbled to the tail of the field. Team-mate Jack Hawksworth would later retire with accident damage.

After the pitstop sequence played out, Barnicoat took over the #89 Lexus and led Robby Foley, who was in for Patrick Gallagher in Turner Motorsport’s BMW M4. Spencer Pumpelly ran third in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage he shared with Roman De Angelis.

Pumpelly would clash with Mike Skeen’s Korthoff/Preston Motorsports Mercedes at Turn 6, which allowed Loris Spinelli (Forte Racing Lamborghini) to grab fourth in class.

Pumpelly got punted into a spin at Turn 6 by Anders Fjordbach’s Porsche, ahead of the final yellow of the race.

That promoted Skeen to third, behind the victorious Barnicoat, who won by 1.4s from Foley.

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