Photos by Frank Filipponio/Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.
In a series that features dozens of drivers and team members who live in Europe, one of the curious facts about race weekend was the air traffic delays caused by the recent Icelandic volcano eruption. It caused quite a bit of stress for those who had their flights grounded, preventing them from getting home after their last race or, in some cases, back to Long Beach. One driver who benefited from the European air travel problems was Andy Lally, who got to make his Long Beach debut when Mark Thomas couldn't get a flight out of Frankfurt. Lally ended up taking Thomas's seat in the No. 63 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car (below). Still, most drivers found a way to cope, and being stuck in Southern California isn't generally considered a problem worth complaining too much about. Once on track, though, the teams had more to contend with than just some ash in the air.
Having all four classes (33 cars in total) on track simultaneously meant lots of traffic for just about everybody. It wasn't too big of a problem for Adrian Fernandez and Harold Primat in qualifying, however, as the duo drove their LMP-class Lola B09 60 Aston Martin (above right) to a fast lap of 1:13.213/96.770 mph, nabbing the pole for race day. Patrón Highcroft Racing's Simon Pagenaud (below left) came within inches of taking it away though, clocking in just .072 of a second behind them.
Fast LMPC qualifier was the team of Scott Tucker and Christoph Boucher in their Oreca FLM 09 (above right), with Jaime Melo and Gianmaria Bruni claiming the top GT time in their Ferrari 430 GT (below left). While Timothy Pappas and Jeroen Bleekemoelen scored the top spot for GTC in their Porsche 911 GT 3 Cup car (below right), a fuel inconsistency during tech inspection dropped them back, giving Andy Lally pole in class after only one day of laps on this track.
Race day was another sunny travel ad for SoCal, with 70-degree temps and cloudless skies. The race itself didn't start all that well for a couple of drivers though. Ryan Hunter-Reay and LMPC teammate Scott Tucker were out before turning a single lap. Fellow LMPC competitors Tom Papadopoulos and Johnny Mowlem made it three laps further before a shunt took them out as well. Simon Pagenaud and David Brabham picked up a time penalty for "avoidable contact" with Harold Primat's Lola-Aston Martin. As at the first race of the season at Sebring, though, from the drop of the green, the top class-leading cars ran in tight formation for a good part of the opening half.
A couple of mechanical issues befell other cars in the huge field, but the race marched on, with lead changes in a few classes keeping it interesting. The top three or four in class stayed pretty consistent, if rearranged from time-to-time. Out front, though, the battle for the overall lead was really getting interesting. The former LMP1 and LMP2 cars of the top two teams were playing tortoise and hare. Pagenaud was at one point or another leading Fernandez by as much as eight seconds. The Mexican legend and race pole-sitter slowly chipped away though, using the big V12 in his Aston to close the gap on the long straights.
Fernandez finally managed to retake the lead, but the nimbleness of the Patrón Highcroft entry through traffic and in the corners kept it in the game. With six minutes to go, the race looked to belong to Fernandez. With 50 seconds left, the pair crossed the start/finish line for the final time. By the time they reached Turn 1, Adrian had powered ahead by a sizable amount. Through 2,3 and 4, though, Simon was right on his tail again. As the two entered Turn 5, Fernandez made an uncharacteristic slip and when he ran wide, Pagenaud slid through and into the lead. It briefly appeared that Fernandez would take it back in 6,7, or even 8, but by the time they hit slower traffic at the hairpin, Simon was still ahead. Could that big V12 outdrag the ARX-01c on the final blast to the checkers? Not this time. Pagenaud held on, taking the win by just 0.353 seconds.
It was the team's first overall victory at Long Beach and first win since Mosport last season. Muscle Milk Team CytoSport's Greg Pickett and Klaus Graf got the last spot on the LMP podium with their Porsche RS Spyder. They also won the Michelin Green X Challenge for prototypes as the fastest and most energy-efficient LMP entry.
In GT it was Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Long for Flying Lizard Motorsports taking the win, a repeat of last year's Long Beach result. Their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (above left) finished four seconds ahead of Corvette Racing's Jan Magnussen and Johnny O'Connell, who were driving one of the most awesomely powerful-sounding cars in the whole field, the Corvette C6.R. It wasn't a cakewalk for the Lizards though, as four different teams and three different manufacturers led at least one lap. In fact, with ten minutes to go it looked like the win might go to BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team's Tommy Milner and Bill Auberlen. The tires on their BMW M3 GT (above right) wouldn't last quite long enough, though, and they had to settle for third.
The fancifully decorated G-Oil Green Earth Team Gunnar Oreca FLM09 (above) of Gunnar Jeannette and Elton Julian took the honors in LMPC, their first victory both as drivers and for the team. It was payback for the duo as they finished a full lap ahead of second place Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker in Level 5 Motorsports' entry, the team that had beaten them at Sebring. Third went to the Genoa Racing entry driven by J.R. Hildebrand and Tom Sutherland.
After several lead changes amongst several different teams, Butch Leitzinger and Juan Gonzalez repeated their Sebring win in GTC for Alex Job Racing. Their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car (above left) finished 1.753 seconds ahead of GMG Racing's entry of James Sofronas and Bret Curtis (above right). Romeo Kapudija, in another AJR Porsche, lost the lead to Leitzinger late in the race when he hit some debris that sent him sliding off track. He and Bill Sweedler held on for third.
Another exciting race for the American Le Mans Series and for Long Beach. An impressive display by the Patrón Highcroft team, hanging in there and seizing the opportunity given to them when the Aston slipped up. If they hadn't hustled so hard through the aquarium complex like they did on that last lap though, it wouldn't have even been possible, so kudos to them. Next up for the Series is Monterey on Saturday, May 22. Full results from Long Beach below.
Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach
Long Beach street circuit, Long Beach, Calif.
1. (2) David Brabham, Maidenhead; Simon Pagenaud, Montmorrillon; HPD ARX-01c (1, LMP), 67.
2. (1) Harold Primat, Switzerland; Adrian Fernandez, Paradise Valley, AZ; Lola B09 60/Aston Martin (2, LMP), 67.
3. (4) Greg Pickett, Crystal Bay, NV; Klaus Graf, Dornham; Porsche RS Spyder (3, LMP), 67.
4. (3) Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, NY; Guy Smith, Bracken, Yorkshire; Lola B09 86/Mazda (4, LMP), 67.
5. (8) Elton Julian, Los Angeles, CA; Gunnar Jeannette, Salt Lake City, UT; Oreca FLM09 (1, LMPC), 66.
6. (7) Scott Tucker, Leawood, KS; Christophe Bouchut, France; Oreca FLM09 (2, LMPC), 65.
7. (10) JR Hildebrand; Tom Sutherland, Los Gatos, CA; Oreca FLM09 (3, LMPC), 65.
8. (15) Joerg Bergmeister, Langenfield; Patrick Long, Bellaire, FL; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (4, GT), 65.
9. (9) Tomy Drissi, Los Angeles, CA; Ken Davis, Escondido, CA; Lola B06 10/AER (5, LMP), 65.
10. (14) Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch, GA; Jan Magnussen, Roskilde; Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 (6, GT), 65.
11. (17) Bill Auberlen, Redondo Beach, CA; Tommy Milner, Leesburg, VA; BMW E92 M3 (7, GT), 65.
12. (12) Gianmaria Bruni, Rome; Jaime Melo, Milan; Ferrari 430 GT (8, GT), 65.
13. (18) Dirk Mueller, Monte Carlo; Joey Hand, Sacramento, CA; BMW E92 M3 (9, GT), 65.
14. (13) Wolf Henzler, Nuertingen; Bryan Sellers, Braselton, GA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (10, GT), 65.
15. (21) Johannes van Overbeek, San Francisco, CA; Scott Sharp, Jupiter, FL; Ferrari 430 GT (11, GT), 65.
16. (19) Ed Brown, Las Vegas, NV; Guy Cosmo, West Palm Beach, FL; Ferrari 430 GT (12, GT), 64.
17. (24) Brian Wong, Newport Beach, CA; Mitch Pagerey, Deerfield Beach, FL; Oreca FLM09 (13, LMPC), 63.
18. (16) Olivier Beretta, Monte Carlo; Oliver Gavin, Yardley Hastings; Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 (14, GT), 63.
19. (29) Juan Gonzalez; Butch Leitzinger, Rebersburg, PA; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (1, GTC), 63.
20. (28) Bret Curtis, Valencia, CA; James Sofronas, Newport Beach, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (2, GTC), 63.
21. (30) Bill Sweedler, Westport, CT; Romeo Kapudija, Lincolnwood, IL; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (3, GTC), 63.
22. (11) Gerardo Bonilla, Celebration, FL; Kyle Marcelli; Oreca FLM09 (15, LMPC), 62.
23. (23) David Murry, Atlanta, GA; David Robertson, Ray, MI; Doran Design Ford GT (16, GT), 62.
24. (31) Jerry Vento, West Palm Beach, FL; Shane Lewis, Jupiter, FL; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (4, GTC), 62.
25. (6) Paul Drayson, London; Jonny Cocker, Guisborough; Lola B09 60/Judd (5, LMP), 62.
26. (32) John McMullen, Spring Lake, NJ; Bryce Miller, Summit, NJ; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (6, GTC), 61.
27. (33) Robert Rodriguez, Zephyr Cove, NY; Galen Bieker, Burbank, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (7, GTC), 61.
28. (35) Luis Diaz, Mexico City; Ricardo Gonzalez, Mexico; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (8, GTC), 60.
29. (36) Tim Pappas, Boston, MA; Joeren Bleekemolen, Netherlands; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (9, GTC), 60.
30. (5) Jon Field, Dublin, OH; Clint Field, Dublin, OH; Nikolas Konstant, Los Angeles, CA; Lola B06/10 AER (10, LMP), 48.
31. (27) Henri Richard, Los Altos Hills, CA; Andy Lally, New York, NY; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (11, GTC), 48.
32. (25) Paul Gentilozzi, Grand Ledge, MI; Ryan Dalziel, Orlando, FL; Jaguar XKRS (12, GT), 45.
33. (22) Seth Neiman, Burlingame, CA; Darren Law, Phoenix, AZ; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (13, GT), 28, Mechanical.
34. (34) Loren Beggs, Montclair, CA; Doug Baron, Pacific Palisades, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (14, GTC), 6, Mechanical.
35. (26) Tom Papadopoulos, Long Island, NY; Johnny Mowlem, London; Oreca FLM09 (17, LMPC), 3, Accident.
36. (20) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Boca Raton; Scott Tucker, Leawood, KS; Oreca FLM09 (18, LMPC), 0.