Street Brawl: Bubba Burger GP
The first two races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship took place at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona and then the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. With 22 cars on track, leaving behind the GTD field due to lack of paddock space, one might have though it would be parade lap affair. Long Beach hosted the third round, a bare knuckle 100 sprint race on the narrow streets of the port city.
The weekend started with a pole position for Juan Pablo Montoya in the Acura Team Penske machine marking the first pole position for the Acura program. With a team led by The Captain, Roger Penske, and a former F1 driver, Indy 500 winner behind the wheel it seemed that the new team would probably score a win.
But if the win was in the bag they wouldn’t need the race, and someone forgot to tell Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R. While it all started in favor of Team Penske with the #6 shared by JPM and Dane Cameron and other car piloted by Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor, things begin to unravel. Two early caution periods changed the race strategy for half of the teams. Those that pitted early during the cautions found themselves battling for the lead after a third caution that left 30 minutes to go toward the checkered flag. After the pitstops and differing fuel strategies, Albuquerque gained the lead after the halfway point, and never looked back. In the other Acura, Ricky Taylor was set for a podium finish. His brother, Ricky, in the #10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi, would spoil the party and pass for the spot with less than 15 mins remaining. At the finish the #10 fell back to 6th place as the tires lost grip.
Corvette took their class win over rival Ford with the #4 Corvette driven by Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner. The #66 (Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook) and #67 (Dirk Mueller and Joey Hand) would claim the final two podium steps.
With the victory, Chevrolet tied Porsche as the winningest manufacturer in IMSA races at Long Beach. Porsche had a solid shot at the win with Earl Bamber, in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR, as he led for the latter part of the race but was out on the last restart with 25 minutes to go with a suspension failure. The #911 Porsche also fell short after also leading at one point after a kerfullfle with the #25 BMW.
Street races in sports cars rarely entertain with narrow walls that make passing unlikely. The Bubba Burger GP proved different with the multiple cautions that changed race strategies on the fly leading to an unpredictable ending for both classes. With seven races in the season left to go the championship in each class is still up for grabs.
To watch the full race you can check it out on Youtube.