Tudor United SportsCar Championship competition at Long Beach was limited to prototype and GT Le Mans classes. Ricky Taylor (#10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP) captured pole with a time of 1 min 14.790 sec. Scott Pruett (#01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford-Riley) secured second with a best lap of 1:15.048. Christian Fittipaldi (#5 Action Express Racing) lined up third (1:15.274).
“It’s really cool to fight with someone like Scott,” Taylor said. “It’s been a long time since I won a pole. I ran a good lap and didn’t want to take any chances. But all of a sudden, he went quicker than me, it was a shock to my system. I was able to match him and get my fastest lap at the end. The car got better and better and better throughout the session as the fuel burned off. This bodes well for the race.”
The two BMW Team RLL Z4 GTEs occupied the front row of GTLM, Bill Auberlen (#25) on pole next to John Edwards (#24). Giancarlo Fisichella started third in the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrrari 458 Italia. Auberlen was the 14th different pole winner in 14 Tudor series GTLM-class races.
“People say the words Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans…this is my crown jewel,” said Auberlen, who is second on the all-time North American endurance sports car racing wins list with 53 victories, including an American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón GT class victory at Long Beach in 2013. “This is in front of my family and friends and it makes it all the more special. I’ve been in this race a lot; I’ve been second a ton of times, I’ve been third tons of times. It’s a very difficult one to win.”
Pruett made a run on Taylor at the start of the race, but Taylor held him off. While they were battling, however, Michael Valiante (#90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP) took third from Fittipaldi. Fischella got the jump on both BMWs to take first place in GTLM at the start.
With 1 hr 15 min left in the timed 1 hr 40 min race, Taylor led Pruett by 0.933 sec and Valiante by 1.873. The Top 3 in GTLM remained very tight, Fisichella, Auberlen, and Edwards running with 0.797 sec of each other.
Edwards pitted with 58 min left, Fisichella and Auberlen coming in one lap later. Pierre Kaffer took over from Fischella, the #62 remaining in the lead ahead of Lucas Luhr (#25) and Dirk Werner (#24). A brief of course excursion by the #25 allowed the #3 Corvette Racing C7.R to take third, Antonio Garcia behind the wheel.
Taylor pitted from the lead with just under 51 min left. Jordan Taylor took over behind the wheel. Pruett remained on track to try and put down a good in-lap or two and take the lead. Pruett pitted two laps after the Taylors, Joey Hand taking over. Hand stalled the car, but refired it quickly enough to take the lead.
Taylor passed Hand with 44 min left to retake the lead. Richard Westbrook ran third in the #90.
Taylor held off Hand to win by 3.3 sec. “I felt confidence the entire weekend,” said Ricky Taylor. “It was nice to have a nice package underneath us, and to be fighting between Corvette and Ford was nice to see. We also got first place points, so it’s the best we could get.”
The #90 team finished third for the third time in this seasons’ three races. Action Express Racing’s pair of Corvette DPs rounded out the Top 5, with the #31 Whelen Corvette DP of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran finishing fourth and the season points-leading #5 of Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi fifth.
After joining the race from the pits in seventh place, Werner charged to take the lead in the closing minutes and give BMW its first Tudor United SportsCar Championship GTLM victory. “Without a yellow flag, we know it’s going to be a long day,” Auberlen admitted from the pits. The same dynamic, however, allowed Werner to run Kaffer down with 11 minutes left. Werner finished 2.911 sec ahead of the Ferrari. Garcia finished third.
“After two or three laps, my tires came in,” said Werner. “I knew the car was really fast. Catching the other cars was good fun. I found I could run down the Ferrari to a certain distance. Then he had a problem. I felt our car was better, so I waited for the right corner to set him up. The last couple of laps I enjoyed a lot. I knew how much it meant for the team, and I hadn’t won in 5 years” (1000 km of Zhuhai in 2010).