The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar season once again featured a race that ended in spectacular fashion. Mathieu Jaminet and Nick Tandy, the drivers of the No. 6 Penske Porsche in the GTP class, won the Grand Prix of Long Beach overall after holding off a hard charging Ricky Taylor in the closing laps.
Saturday’s race saw a number of different strategies throughout the GTP, GTD, and GTD Pro classes as IMSA utilized a sprint race format limiting the race to an hour and forty minutes. Quick pit stops were key to a positive result.
Ricky Taylor, driving the No. 10 AndrettiWTR Acura, fought tooth and nail in the final 20 minutes attempting to pass the other Penske Porche, the No. 7 of Matt Campbell, for second place. The No. 10 car had a slow pit stop earlier in the race, but thanks to fresher tires, was able to post a blistering pace. Campbell defended the position valiantly, trying to secure a 1-2 finish for the Penske Porsche team. However, the newer tires on the No. 10 meant Taylor ultimately was able to make the pass.
What was nearly a five-second lead evaporated almost immediately as Taylor chased down and caught Jaminet soon after. Once the clock ticked down to under two minutes, the two leaders were bumper-to-bumper with minimal slower traffic ahead.
“In the end, I think we never stopped believing,” said Jaminet to NBC Sports after the race. “The team did an amazing job to put us in this position and to overcut the 10.”
As the Penske No. 6 struggled for grip, Ricky Taylor utilized the slipstream down Shoreline Drive to finally pull alongside Jaminet and make a move for the lead into turn one.
Taylor missed the corner and slammed into the tire barriers, ending his chances at a victory.
“I saw the 10 sending it into one and I thought ‘that looks late’”, explained Jaminet as he described the move to NBC Sports while in victory lane.
The late lunge from Ricky Taylor was not the only aggressive move that occurred in the first turn. One the opening lap, Sebastien Bourdais driving the No. 01 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing locked up his tires in the braking zone and crashed nearly head-on into one of the barriers. Despite slight contact from the No. 60 of Tom Blomqvist, all of the other cars managed to miss Bourdais’ stranded car.
In GTD Pro, Jack Hawksworth, Ben Barnicoat, and the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus held off the No. 3 Corvette driven by Alex Garcia and Jordan Taylor after a thrilling battle that saw the two fight hard on-track and on the pit lane.
“The Vasser Sullivan Lexus Racing guys executed that pit strategy perfectly,” said Barnicoat to NBC Sports following the race. “We were the fastest in pit lane and that’s what this racing is all about since overtaking is so hard here.”
Both Jaminet and Barnicoat, despite racing in different classes, notched their first respective wins at Long Beach.
The GTD class saw Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow driving the No. 1 BMW for Paul Miller Racing win their class for the second race in a row. Sellers admitted after the race that he was concerned that the team would not have had the pace to contend for the class win.
“Today was all in the pits,” said Sellers to NBC Sports. “We talked prior to the race that it had to be done there and our guys delivered.”
Sellers also stated the race came together for the team thanks in part to the lapped BMW that kept space between them and the second place car of Roman de Angelis and the Heart of Racing Team.
“I felt like if we could hold [de Angelis] off on our out lap, then we could hold him off for the rest of the race,” noted Sellers to NBC Sports.
The No. 6 Penske Porsche currently holds just a one point advantage over the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac in the GTP points standings as the series heads to Laguna Seca on May 14th.