Staring first and second on the streets of Long Beach didn’t allow the two Porsches to run away with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s 100-minute race, but a late-race battle went Earl Bamber’s way and secured victory for the Porsche GT Team.
Among the shortest races on the schedule, the sprint race just south of downtown Long Beach had action from the start.
After an early yellow flag for Jon Bennett’s DPi car into the Turn 6 tire barrier, both Porsches continued to lead, chased by Corvette Racing’s pair of yellow race cars and the No. 66 Ford GT.
The Ford pitted early — just before the race’s second caution at the 34-minute mark — and vaulted to the lead with Dirk Mueller behind the wheel. The move dropped the Porsches into the clutches of a surging Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R.
Magnussen was able to pass the No. 911 Porsche piloted by Patrick Pilet but couldn’t get around Mueller, who himself was passed in startling fashion by Bamber. After a stunning side-by-side drive down the curving front stretch and an aborted pass attempt, Bamber made it work on the next lap and took the lead from Mueller.
Bamber went on to cruise to the checkered flag with a margin of victory of 4.473 seconds — but it wasn’t over Mueller.
On the last lap, Mueller’s Ford balked coming out of Turn 8, causing Magnussen to make hard front-to-rear contact. The Ford spun and the Corvette went on to finish in the second position.
Magnussen’s teammate Tommy Milner brought the No. 4 Corvette to the finish line in the third position, 5.619 seconds in arrears of Bamber having been gifted a spot on the podium due to the Ford’s demise.
The remainder of the class finished one lap down from the winner with Mueller ending the race in fourth ahead of Pilet in fifth. Richard Westbrook delivered a sixth-place finish in the No. 67 Ford while Connor De Phillippi and Jesse Krohn brought up the rear in BMW Team RLL’s pair of BMW M8 GTEs.
Next up for the the WeatherTech Championship is the Acura Sports Car Challenge, set for May 3–5 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.