Preview: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar race at Long Shore a wide-open affair

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Source:   —  April 13, 2016, at 7:00 PM

This weekend, everything changes. With a 100-minute race, on a tight 1.968-mile temporary Str course, the Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Shore makes every pass an necessary one, every pit stop critical, every error potentially the disagreement between winning and losing.“It’s a totally different mindset for Long Beach,” says Tristan Nunez, driver of the No.

Preview: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar race at Long Shore a wide-open affair

Rolex twenty-four, Sebring winners Tequila Patron ESM racing in Europe this weekend

The first two races in the two thousand sixteen IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season offered lots of elbow room, with large tracks -- Daytona International Speedway is three.56 miles, Sebring International Raceway 3.74 miles -- and plenty of time in the Rolex twenty-four at Daytona and the Mobil one Twelve Hours of Sebring to create a few mistakes and still finish up with a good finish.

This weekend, everything changes.

With a 100-minute race, on a tight 1.968-mile temporary Str course, the Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Shore makes every pass an necessary one, every pit stop critical, every error potentially the disagreement between winning and losing.

“It’s a totally different mindset for Long Beach,” says Tristan Nunez, driver of the No. fifty-five Mazda Prototype. “It’s very different from the first two races of the year.”

For one thing, it gets beautiful crowded out there. Even with the GT Daytona class taking a weekend off, there are twenty-five entries -- eight Prototypes, seven Prototype Challenge cars and ten in the GT Le Mans category.

“A track love Long Shore is really tough to pass on, so track position is really important,” says Colin Braun, driver of the No. fifty-four CORE autosport Prototype Challenge entry. Qualifying is arguably more necessary at Long Shore than at any other track on the WeatherTech Championship schedule.

Regardless of who wins in the fastest class, Prototype, it'll be the team’s first of the year, as the No. two Tequila Patron ESM Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 that won the first two races isn’t competing at Long Beach -- the team is racing in Europe in preparation for its participation in the twenty-four Hours of Le Mans.

Looking to repeat its two thousand fifteen Long Shore triumph is the Wayne Taylor Racing No. ten Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype driven by brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor. The team finished a solid second at Daytona, but a plethora of problems dropped them to a 12th-place result at Sebring.

They can expect a challenge from the No. ninety Visit FL Corvette DP, driven by Marc Goossens and IndyCar star Ryan Hunter-Reay, who'll be doing the double this weekend, competing in both the IMSA race and the IndyCar race, where he drives for Andretti Autosport. Hunter-Reay is replacing regular driver Ryan Dalziel, who's joining the Tequila Patron ESM squad this weekend for the World Endurance Championship six-hour race in England.

In GT Le Mans, as with the Prototype class, we’ve seen only one winner this season. But unlike the Prototype class, that winner is front and middle at Long Beach, looking to create it a hat trick: The No. four Corvette Racing C7. R of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner will have plenty of completion, though, including from the No. 3 team C7. R.

The defending GTLM champions are returning to defend their title -- Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner are back in a Team RLL BMW, but it’s a different car: Latest year’s No. twenty-five BMW Z4 GTE has been replaced by the new BMW M6 GTLM. The M6 generally was regarded as the fastest GTLM entry at Daytona and Sebring.

Finishing second latest year in GTLM was the No. sixty-two Ferrari four hundred fifty-eight Italia of Risi Competizione with Pierre Kaffer and Giancarlo Fisichella driving. Fisichella is back, teamed with Toni Vilander, but the Ferrari four hundred fifty-eight has been replaced by a four hundred eighty-eight GTE.

Also looking for a powerful Long Shore weekend are the two new Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs, as they've only this race and one more in IMSA contest before they go to the twenty-four Hours of Le Mans for the fiftieth anniversary of the Ford GT podium sweep in one thousand nine hundred sixty-sixth. And Porsche is looking for its first triumph of the year with either the defending WeatherTech Championship GTLM winner No. nine hundred eleven team or the No. nine hundred twelve Porsche N America Porsche nine hundred eleven RSR.

As for the Prototype Challenge class, those cars didn’t race at Long Shore in either of the past two years, so it'll be a WeatherTech Championship history-making triumph for the class winner. Prototype Challenge latest raced at Long Shore in the final year of the American Le Mans Series in two thousand-thirteenth, and Braun and co-driver Jon Bennett took that victory.

The Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix of Long Shore is set for 4:05 p. m. PT on Saturday. It'll air live on FS2 with tape-delayed broadcasts on FS1 at eleventh p. m. ET on Saturday and 12:30 p. m. ET on Sunday. Live audio coverage from IMSA Radio is available on IMSA. com throughout practice and qualifying on Friday, in addition to Saturday’s race.

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