The weekend has been filled with lots of exciting racing and off-track excitement as well. Champ Cars have been the headliner here since Formula 1 left, but there are always other support series as well. Atlantics returned, as did the Toyota Pro/Celebrity race. Kind of weird to see Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in the Middle) move from the latter to the former with a full time ride this year. The Lifestyle Expo returned as well, with vendor booths and displays, as well as games and rides for kids of all ages. New this year were Formula D, Speed World GT and the aforementioned ALMS.
This is where we'll talk about the race itself, so if you've Tivoed it, stop reading. The main event seemed to be more of a chess match than an actual race, although there was some tight action out there too. Despite this being the shortest race on the ALMS schedule, with a 1:40 time limit, strategy played a big role. Teams had to make a driver change at no later than 1:20, and because some of them cut it so close, official results were held for a little while to verify no penalties were incurred.
At the start, Franchitti managed to hold off the Audis and another P2 Porsche into turn 1, and he held on for most of the race. While that might sound great, the team misplayed the strategy game and passed on pitting during what ended up being the only full-course yellow. One of the Audis stayed out and followed Franchitti until he came up on Allan McNish in the #1 R10. Not wanting to go a lap down, Allan held Dario up long enough to allow Emanuele Pirro to sneak by in the #2 car. This also let the other P2 cars enter the game as well. When those who hadn't pitted early finally made their mandatory stops, the leaderboard flipped. Pirro was in the lead and looking like the eventual winner until one of the Flying Lizard GT3 RSRs punted him at the hairpin.
It was just one of those crazy racing incidents, as the GT cars had been quicker through the hairpin all weekend. Surprisingly, no other collisions had occurred before then, but it was bad timing for the lead Audi. The pack of Porsche RS Spyders slipped through and never looked back. Even the Fernandez Acura got into the mix until a late problem ended its run. When all was said and done, Audi had lost to Porsche for the first time since introducing its R10 TDI racers. Porsche RS Spyders swept the podium, with Penske's Romain Dumas taking the win in the #7 car, followed by the #6 car, driven by Sascha Maassen and Ryan Briscoe, with Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace finishing third in the #16 Dyson Racing Porsche RS Spyder. The top Audi ended up in 7th overall and first in P1.
GT1's only drama would be whether or not "the Olivers" (Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta) would complete the hat trick and make it three in a row for the #4 Corvette C6.R by beating their teammates in the #3 to the checkered flag. They did, and there was much rejoicing...or good-natured ribbing at least. GT2 wasn't as exciting as Sebring, but the team of Risi Competizione team of Mika Salo and Jaime Melo held on for its third class victory as well. Patrick Long split the Risi Ferraris with his Flying Lizard GT3 RSR to grab the second step on the GT2 podium.
Grand Prix of Long Beach - ALMS official results
1. (3) Timo Bernhard, Germany; Romain Dumas, France; Porsche RS Spyder (1, P2), 74.
2. (2) Ryan Briscoe, Australia; Sascha Maassen, Germany; Porsche RS Spyder (2, P2), 74.
3. (8) Andy Wallace, England; Butch Leitzinger, State College, PA; Porsche RS Spyder (3, P2), 74.
4. (5) Stefan Johansson, Sweden; David Brabham, Australia; Duncan Dayton, North Salem, NY; Acura/ARX-01a (4, P2), 74.
5. (9) Guy Smith, England; Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, NY; Porsche RS Spyder (5, P2), 74.
6. (1) Dario Franchitti, Scotland; Bryan Herta, Valencia, CA; Acura/ARX-01a (6, P2), 74.
7. (4) Rinaldo Capello, Italy; Allan McNish, Scotland; Audi AG/R10/TDI (7, P1), 74.
8. (7) Luis Diaz, Mexico; Adrian Fernandez, Mexico; Lola/B06-43/Acura (8, P2), 73.
9. (6) Emanuele Pirro, Italy; Marco Werner, Germany; Audi AG/R10/TDI (9, P1), 73.
10. (11) Oliver Gavin, England; Olivier Beretta, Monaco; Corvette C6.R (10, GT1), 71.
11. (13) Jan Magnussen, Denmark; Johnny O`Connell, Flowery Branch, GA; Corvette C6.R (11, GT1), 71.
12. (14) Jaime Melo, Brazil; Mika Salo, Finland; Ferrari 430GT Berlinetta (12, GT2), 69.
13. (15) Darren Law, Phoenix, AZ; Patrick Long, Oak Park, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (13, GT2), 69.
14. (19) Nic Jonsson, Sweden; Anthony Lazzaro, Acworth, GA; Ferrari 430GT Berlinetta (14, GT2), 68.
15. (18) Wolf Henzler, Germany; Robin Liddell, Scotland; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (15, GT2), 68.
16. (23) Bill Auberlen, Hermosa Beach, CA; Joey Hand, Sacramento, CA; Panoz Esperante GTLM (16, GT2), 68.
17. (17) Tim Bergmeister, Germany; Dirk Mueller, Germany; Ferrari 430GT (17, GT2), 68.
18. (12) Jon Field, Dublin, OH; Clint Field, Dublin, OH; Richard Berry, Evergreen, CO; Creation/CA06H/Judd (18, P1), 68.
19. (21) Jim Tafel, Alpharetta, GA; Dominik Farnbacher, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (19, GT2), 68.
20. (25) Tim Pappas, Boston, MA; Terry Borcheller, Gainesville, GA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (20, GT2), 67.
21. (10) Michael Lewis, San Diego, CA; Chris McMurry, Phoenix, AZ; Lola/EX257 AER (21, P1), 64.
22. (22) Ben Devlin, England; Jamie Bach, West Palm Beach, FL; Lola/B07-40/Mazda (22, P2), 64.
23. (16) Johannes van Overbeek, San Francisco, CA; Jorg Bergmeister, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (23, GT2), 62.
24. (24) Scott Maxwell, Canada; Ross Smith, Plano, TX; Bryan Sellers, Centerville, OH; Panoz Esperante GTLM (24, GT2), 33.
25. (20) Tom Milner, Leesburg, VA; Ralf Kelleners, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (25, GT2), 11.
26. (26) Greg Pickett, Santa Monica, CA; Klaus Graf, Germany; Lola B06/10 AER (26, P1), 0, W/D.