No tires strategy “only way” to win Long Beach

After starting third, Bourdais spent most of the early portion of the IMSA’s 100-minute classic in the runner-up spot pursuing pole-sitter Pipo Derani in the Action Express Racing-prepped No. 31 Cadillac.

The pivotal moment of the race came when Derani pitted on lap 26, handing off to co-driver Jack Aitken as the team put on two new left-side tires.

Bourdais pitted the next lap and relinquished driving duties to Renger van der Zande, with the decision made to continue running on the set of tires that started the race, which saved time and propelled them into the lead.

A number of incidents simmered any chances Aitken had of building enough pace up to retake the top spot. In the end, van der Zande was able to hold on and best Aitken to win by 0.564s in a race that went 68 laps around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street circuit.

“Strategy won this race,” van der Zande said.

“The tires were kind of gone at the end. It was quite slippery. But I’m very proud of my team.”

The concept to take no tires mirrored last year’s winning call by Porsche Penske Motorsport, which were able to take advantage of a harder rubber.

When asked by during the post-race press conference where the confidence came from to take no tires despite a speculated higher tire wear going into the event, Bourdais shed light on the subject.

«It came from yesterday’s data,” Bourdais said.

“Obviously, we really dreaded a lot of tire deg because it’s the softest of all the tires that there is in the Michelin panel. And it’s kind of weird, but the degradation was actually very little, and the wear was almost nothing.

“When we saw that, we went through the fact that the sun kind of came through the clouds around noonish, track temp is quite low compared to what we were expecting.”


And there was the added concern of how difficult the handling would be on new tires that would take time to build up to temperature on the out-lap.

“Being second anyways, we have to try something to jump those guys, so over-cutting them was obviously the call and doing no tires was the best way to maximize the speed on the out-lap,” Bourdais said.

“They only took two tires, but it was the second difference. So, it was definitely the right way to go and Renger made it stick. Obviously, look a lot smarter afterwards, but yeah, we were not entirely sure it was going to work. But that was the only way we were going to try and win this race.”

The outing marked 20th IMSA victory of van der Zande’s career and the 12th for Boudais. The driver pairing also won Long Beach in 2022.

The unofficial championship standings have the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport duo of Dane Cameron and Felipe Nasr leading with 1,032 points, with Bourdais and van der Zande trailing by 58 points.

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