IMSA Long Beach start times: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will open its Sprint Cup season with Cadillacs favored for the overall win — according to their chief competition.
Though Acura opened the season with Meyer Shank racing winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Wayne Taylor Racing’s Filipe Albuquerque believes his team and MSR will be at a deficit Saturday on the streets of Long Beach. The Portuguese driver admitted as much during a Zoom news conference last week, noting that the Acuras were nearly a second off the Cadillacs last September.
“The gap is so big, there is nothing we can do about it,” Albuquerque said. “I think this specific track, the deficit is too much. It sounds like i’m whining and crying, but last year the closest lap was eight 10ths off in qualifying, and that was me stretching all the walls and trying my best. There is a limit. How can I fight them?”
Cadillacs have won all four races at Long Beach during the DPi era (2020 was canceled because of the pandemic) and swept the podium last year with Action Express’ No. 31 of Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr in victory lane.
Derani is expecting a stiffer Acura challenge from the No. 60 of MSR (with Oliver Jarvis and Tom Blomqvist) and No. 10 of WTR (with Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor), but he also believes Cadillac has an edge on bumpier street circuits such as Long Beach.
“Last year, it seemed like we had some advantage over the Wayne Taylor car and the Shank car, but they seemed to have stepped up this year in terms of performance, so I’m expecting a close fight,” Derani said. “But the Cadillac is a fantastic car over the bumps. We saw that at Sebring. It’s a car that copes well with a bumpy track, and normally street tracks tend to be a little bit more bumpy than a normal track. I think this is one of the strong points of our Cadillac DPi, and hopefully, we can use that to our advantage over the race weekend at Long Beach.”
Albuquerque explained that some of the Acura deficiency is structural as the car’s ORECA chassis primarily is designed for the flat circuits of the World Endurance Championship (which has no street courses). That does give the Acura an aerodynamic advantage at some road courses such as Laguna Seca — but it’s a power hindrance on the rough pavement at Long Beach, whose slow corners and hairpin turn present even more challenges.
“The fight is to stay ahead, minimize loss and points and hope some of (the Cadillacs) have problems,” said Albuquerque, who has prototype wins at Long Beach in 2018-19. “Last year, in a full green track race, they nearly lapped us. It’s going to be very hard.”
Saturday’s 100-minute race (5 p.m. ET, USA) will feature three categories — DPi, GTD Pro and GTD. It will be the first of eight non-endurance races for GTD teams, which will earn points at Long Beach only for the Sprint Cup standings and not the overall championship.
After a GTD Pro victory at Sebring, Corvette Racing enters Long Beach with eight victories, including last year with Tommy Milner and Nick Tandy in the No. 4 of the now-defunct GTLM class. The competition will be stiffer this year with five manufacturers in the class.
“The GTD Pro class has been fun,” said Jordan Taylor, the defending GTLM champion in the No. 3 C8.R Corvette with Antonio Garcia. “GTLM was pretty small last year so it wasn’t huge fights. This year between Sebring and Daytona, it’s been fun to be back in a class full of cars. On starts and restarts, you’re in the middle of packs of guys racing and it’s really competitive. It’s nice to be back to old-school racing, and that’s what we usually get at Long Beach.”
Here are the start times, starting lineup, schedule and TV info for the IMSA Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (all times are ET):
IMSA Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach start times, schedule, TV info
When: Saturday, 5:05 p.m. ET
Race distance: One hour, 40 minutes on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course
Forecast: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 75 degrees with a 0% chance of rain at the green flag.
Entry list: Click here to see the 26-car field over three divisions for the IMSA Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.
TV: 5 p.m. ET, USA
Streaming: Peacock, the NBC Sports App,and NBCSports.com will have coverage of the event from flag to flag. Leigh Diffey is the announcer with analyst Calvin Fish and pit reporters Dave Burns and Marty Snider.
IMSA.com live qualifying stream: Friday, 8:15 p.m. ET.
IMSA Radio: All sessions live on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com; SiriusXM live race coverage will begin Saturday at 5 p.m. (XM 207, Internet/App 992).
DAILY SCHEDULE IMSA LONG BEACH
Here’s a rundown of the IMSA Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach(all times ET):
Friday, April 8
10:45-11:25 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup practice
12:15-1:15 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice
1:30-1:50 p.m.: Historic IMSA GTP Challenge (GTP) practice
2:05-2:35 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup practice
3:40-4 p.m.: Stadium Super Trucks practice
4:15-6 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice
6:15-7:15 p.m.: NTT IndyCar Series practice
7:30-8 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup qualifying
8:10-8:55 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying
9:30-9:50 p.m.: Super Drift Challenge practice
10-11:30 p.m.: Formula D Super Drift Challenge, Race 1
Saturday, April 9
11:45 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: NTT IndyCar Series practice
12:55-1:15 p.m.: Historic IMSA GTP Challenge qualifying
1:45-2:25 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 1
3:05-4:20 p.m.: NTT IndyCar Series qualifying
5-7 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race
7:30-8 p.m.: Stadium Super Trucks, Race 1
8:15-8:35 p.m.: Historic IMSA GTP Challenge, Race 1
9-9:20 p.m.: Super Drift Challenge practice
9:30-11 p.m.:Formula D Super Drift Challenge, Race 2