To The Beach: IMSA Takes Its First Crack at A Street Course in Long Beach

The IMSA season takes a turn towards Cali for two races between April & May.
Sahlens Six Hours at the Glen, June 2023
Sahlens Six Hours at the Glen, June 2023 / Brian Cleary/GettyImages

The IMSA calendar takes a turn towards the west coast this weekend for a busy racing schedule on tap with WEC & IndyCar also on track this weekend for their respective races.

This weekend's race, one of the two shortest timed races on the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule, will feature the GTP & GTD classes with some new faces involved in this weekend's kickoff of the west coast swing.

Coming off of back-to-back class wins for Winward, and the revitalized Wayne Taylor Racing team coming off their first win in over a year, there is a lot of intrigue heading into a race that will be all about positioning.

Battle For Lead

Given the nature of the pacing of this race and the limited time, positioning at Long Beach is crucial for both classes.

This track is a much tighter street course, featuring only a few passing opportunities for drivers to make moves for spots up the grid.

Much of this race will be about pit strategy and being frugal when it comes to the timing of the ultimate driver change.

There most likely will only be one driver change, with the potential for one or two pit stops depending on the team's strategy, but, deciding on when to take that stop will be key.

The GTPs will be the class to keep an eye on for the race this weekend, given how the energy battery can play a crucial part to a team's pit strategy.

This seems like a race that Cadillac or Acura may have the upper hand after what was a disastrous weekend last year for both manufacturers.

While Porsche did take the race win in Long Beach in 2023, there was help from the Acura incident for the #10 WTR w/Andretti entry and the team hasn't showed its strongest work during the daytime hours.

New Faces & New Teams

There is technically only one true new team added to the entry list for Long Beach this weekend which is Flying Lizard Motorsports.

The Lamborghnini Super Trofeo regulars will be running in what will be their only scheduled race in the top series on Saturday. Elias Sabo and Andy Lee are both set to man the car this weekend and will look to get the team it's first podium in the main series since 2014.

As for other notable faces in the mix, Mike Rockenfeller returns to a GTP ride after taking a breif hiatus, competting with the #5 Proton Competition Porsche 963 for an one-off race with the program.

Rockenfeller had recently competed in the 963 last season with the other customer Porsche team, JDC-Miller Motorsports and is filling in while he is off from his Multimatic Mustang duties in GTD Pro.

Beyond the new additions, GTD will have two Vasser Sullivan entries, practically introducing the GTD Pro car to the entry class.

The lineups will be adjusted for this two-car effort this weekend, with Frankie Montecalvo & Jack Hawksworth in the #12 Lexus, while Ben Barnicoat and Parker Thompson will be in the #89 entry, the second class entry for the team from the existing #12.

Final Thoughts

This weekend should feature aggressive racing and strategic battles that could create a receipe for excitement in Long Beach.

With this track being the first of two street courses on the schedule, this should allow for great preparation prior to the IWSC return to Detroit at the end of May.

While it is a sprint race, it is the most unique given its allocated time and makes the battle for class leads much more of thinking out process.

Also with 27 cars on track, traffic will certainly create challenges for the GTPs which could stir up the pot when we get to middle or tail-end of the race.

Nevertheless, it is always great to see the series back at Long Beach and kicking off its California run out west.