What to watch at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
- The big change this year is the removal of the GT Le Mans category, replaced by the GT Daytona Pro category.
- The LMP2 and LMP3 categories have the weekend off – there simply isn’t room for another 25 cars on the small track.
- There are only six DPi prototypes on the list of 27 cars entered – four Cadillacs and two Acuras.
From 24 hours, to 12 hours, to 100 minutes.
From a long, flowing 3.56 miles to a long, semi-flowing, flat and very bumpy road course of 3.74 miles, to a tight street course of just 1.968 miles.
From an entry list of 61 cars in five classes, to 53 cars in five classes, to 27 cars in three classes.
These are the first three races of the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series: the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours at Sebring and Saturday’s Acura Grand Prix at Long Beach. It sounds a bit schizophrenic but it works: teams and drivers face three very different situations in the opening trio of races.
“It’s nice to be back to racing the old way,” said #3 Corvette C8.R co-driver Jordan Taylor in a Zoom interview, “and that’s what we usually get in Long Beach.
Indeed, we do. Qualifying is key in Long Beach because overtaking can be tricky and sometimes full contact, and track position is everything. “As far as city courses go, this is definitely one of the nicest,” said Taylor, who won his class at Sebring with co-driver Antonio Garcia. “He has good passing areas and is very racy. When you go to other street courses, you can get stuck in the queue many times.
Corvette Racing has won Long Beach eight times, so the track has been good for the brand. Unlike previous years, however, there is only one Corvette instead of two. Chevrolet sent the #4 car to Europe to compete in the World Endurance Championship Series.
The big change this year is the removal of the GT Le Mans category, replaced by the GT Daytona Pro category. GT Daytona and GT Daytona Pro cars are identical, so pros like Taylor and the other five cars in the class won’t have the speed advantage over GT Daytona cars like GT Le Mans cars have always had. , so it could be a challenge for the Pros to navigate their way through the 15-car GT Daytona field, especially when one of the 11 Gold- or Platinum-rated drivers is behind the wheel.
Point of clarification: GT Daytona cars can have a top-notch Gold or Platinum driver, but the co-driver must be a Bronze or Silver level amateur driver. The Pro class is made up of all Gold and Platinum drivers except one Silver, Cooper MacNeil in the #79 WeatherTech-backed Mercedes AMG GT3. While the Pros are racing against each other and not the GT Daytona cars, they are bound to mix, which should lead to a lot more overtaking in GT than we are used to.
The LMP2 and LMP3 categories have the weekend off – there simply isn’t room for another 25 cars on the small track. “I think it will be a bit better without the LMP3 cars and some amateurs in LMP2. They were probably the biggest problem in the first two races,” Taylor said. “Restarting behind these guys at Daytona and Sebring has always been interesting. If you could get past an amateur in LMP3 and keep him between you and someone else, you could create a pretty big gap.
“Without that, I think the race in our class will be a little tighter now since you don’t have that kind of option to split the class,” he said. “You’ll feel like you’re on full throttle for about every 100 minutes.”
There are only six DPi prototypes on the entry list – four Cadillacs and two Acuras. The DPi field is likely to be thin for the rest of the year as prototype teams prepare for the launch of the all-new GTP prototype at Daytona next year. Fortunately, there are plenty of LMP2 and LMP3 cars to reinforce the prototype’s presence.
As for the DPi class: “Going into the third lap which starts at Daytona, a completely different circuit, then the polar opposite going to Sebring, then completely different again going to Long Beach, I feel that every time I went to a new track with this car,” veteran Richard Westbrook said in a Zoom interview.
Westbrook co-drives the #5 Cadillac Sampling Mustang that currently leads in the points. “I know the track, but it’s the first time I’ve been there with this car – it’s almost like I’ve never been there before because the car is so different from a GT and the last time I raced in Prototype.”
The Acura Grand Prix at Long Beach can be seen live Saturday at 5 p.m. on the USA Network and Peacock streaming service. Radio Le Mans will broadcast the race, and it can be listened to live on IMSA.com.
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