(featured image credit: David Yowe)
By Ben Wedge
Long Beach was the first sprint race of the year and also the first race to not involve all 4 classes – with only GTLM and Prototype classes in action there was a lot less data to look over. The 100 minute sprint format allows all of the drivers to go bat crazy to finish in front of everyone else. A few notes before we get started, the laptimes I used are an average of the fastest 5 laps from each car. First image that you will need to reference – the track map with all the sectors listed. Along with the usual look at each class sector times, I’ll dive into the overall laptimes and how they changed over the course of a race.
GTLM, as usual, was very close. The entire class was separated by 1.39 seconds. In overall lap time the Corvettes and BMWs had the advantage over the rest of the field. The BMW’s lacked straight line speed (slowest through Sector 2) and the 62 Ferrari was the quickest down the straightaway. Through the corners, the BMW’s had the advantage. Sector 9 is a great representation to show who was getting off the corners the best. In GTLM, the 62 Ferrari was quickest followed by the Vipers. Sector three is located at the end of the front straightaway, and looks like a good representation of braking. The 56 BMW was quickest but a decent margin.
BoP was the big thing here. I personally expected the P2 cars to be much stronger due to the tight nature of the Long Beach track, but as it turns out, I was wrong. Due to the “start-stop” nature of the track the DPswere able to use their horsepower advantage to dominate the race. Looking at sector 2, the 5 fastest cars were all Daytona Prototype spec machines with the Ford engined Riley chassis’ quickest. Looking at performance in sector 3, the 10 car of Wayne Taylor Racing was quickest by a huge margin. The P2 cars did have some speed in certain parts of the track, though. The Oak Racing car was quickest through sector 4 (the fountain). The Oak Racing car was also quick in sector 6. P2 cars dominated sector 8 and the turn 9-10-11 complex. The two cars of Extreme Speed Motorsports and the Oak Racing car were the three quickest cars. Looking at cars coming off of the hairpin, the DP’s once again were able to use their torque advantage and launch themselves down the straight. Overall, laptimes were still very close. The fast 5 lap average for the entire class (minus the Mazda) was within 1.2 seconds, much closer than expected.
When looking at overall laptimes over the length of the race a few things are clear: The first thing that stands out is the difference in laptimes is the in the #2 HPD car. Prior to the pit stop the car was approximately 2-3 seconds per lap slower than it was in the second half. This was clear to see during the broadcast when the GTLM field over took the #2 car. After the pit stops the car was on pace with everyone else. Also of note is the lack of fall off of the #1 car. The #1 car did not take tires during its pit stop. It’s laptimes at the end of the race were nearly right on pace with those during the beginning of the race. Laptimes also seemed to drop off very little over the course of a stint for all cars. When looking at the trend-lines it’s easier to see there is a slight decrease in laptimes as the race goes on.
Looking at the same data in the GTLM class we notice that again, there was very little drop off because of tires. Similarly to the prototype class there was only a slight decrease in laptime as the race went on.
The results in the prototype class are not very representative of the BoP. All of the P2 cars ran into issues and the top DP cars had trouble free runs. With the #2 ESM car having issues on the first stint and the #1 car running out of gas on the final lap, and the #42 car having issues on the pit stop, my gut feels that the P2/DP balance is much closer than the results show. Look for Mazda Raceway to show much better for the P2 cars as the high speed corners should suit the light weight P2 cars more than the DP cars.
To summarize GTLM, I will sound like a broken record: CLOSE! This class has continuously shown how close racing can be. The Corvette was able to gap the field early as the rest of the GTLM field got caught behind the #2 ESM car who was on the struggle bus early in the race. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will be stupid close, as usual.