Cadillac V-Performance Racing team Whelen Engineering with drivers Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran will start the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix of Long Beach on the front row in second position.
Under near perfect weather conditions of 70-degrees and sunshine, the three Cadillac DPI-V.R race cars took to the 1.97-mile, 11-turn closed street course for the 15-minute qualifying session this afternoon. Felipe Nasr had the wheel of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R and posted a time of 1:13.109 good for a front row starting position for tomorrow’s 100-minute race.
Joao Barbosa had the controls of the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R and will start fifth on the strength of a 1:13.733 lap time. Renger van der Zande drove the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R to a time of 1:13.880 that will have him go away from the grid sixth for the 1 p.m. PT start tomorrow afternoon.
Nasr and Curran come into the third race of the season as the IMSA Prototype Class points leaders.
“We made a couple of changes ahead of qualifying and we for sure made the balance a little bit better,” Nasr said. “The thing about this track is it is all about making a sequence of laps in a row and to build up tire temperature and I don’t think I quite got it today. I was able to put two or three laps together and then I would get one wrong and have to back-off again, which broke our rhythm. The car is handling pretty well and I think we have a strong package in our hands. It’s a pretty tricky street circuit here and the front row is a good place to start tomorrow. I think we have a good car to fight for the win. It will be a sprint race all the way. It was a nice job by everyone on the team to lock in a front row start and I am looking forward to the race tomorrow.”
Barbosa and Felipe Albuquerque are the Rolex 24 winners in the Mustang Sampling Cadillac and are looking for a strong finish in the first sprint race of the season.
“It was a pretty normal run,” Barbosa said. “I struggled a little bit with the handling of the car, we had some understeer. We made some changes before the session, but it didn’t help as well as we had thought that it would. We have to get that feel back that we had in the morning. Starting fifth is not the best position that you can start here, but it’s still on the inside. We have been going all out all the time, so it’s not going to change much (for it being a sprint race), but obviously you won’t have much time to catch up if you make a mistake. It will be important to have a clean race and hopefully we can produce a good result.”
Van der Zande and Jordan Taylor will be trying to make it four years in a row for the Konica Minolta Cadillac team winning at Long Beach.
“I think it was quite an effort to get the car set-up as good as it is and we definitely have a good race car,” van der Zande said. “I didn’t get too many laps in practice, which made it tricky at the start of qualifying. But I treated it as a learning session and I think everything got better every lap. I think the peak of the tires came at the end so it turned out OK. I gave it my all but, like all street tracks, the risk gets higher and higher the closer you get to the walls. There’s always that fine line, and I had that one lap where I was on the limit everywhere, but it got taken away because of a track violation. I think the race is going to be interesting. Because the GTD cars aren’t here, I think it’s going to be a safer race, in the way there should be less trouble on track, probably all-green racing. So, we need to make some good strategy decisions and do it on the pit stop, both of which are absolute strong points with this team. We’re going to give it our all.”
Source. Kyle Chura/Cadillac Racing