IMSA Long Beach start times: The most famous streets for motorsports in Southern California will serve as an important speed zone for the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s premier prototype division.
During the DPi era from 2017-22, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach primarily has been a showcase for Cadillac, which has won the event in six consecutive seasons.
The dominance was indicative of Cadillac’s strength on street courses, where Acura teams admittedly were a second per lap off the winner’s pace.
Last year, the highest-finishing Acura at Long Beach was the No. 60 of Meyer Shank Racing, more than 10 seconds behind in fourth. Cadillacs swept the podium with Sebastien Bourdais making up a 21-second deficit (after contact with a tire barrier in the hairpin) to take the victory in the No. 01 he shares with Renger van der Zande at Chip Ganassi Racing.
But with Saturday marking the third race of the new Grand Touring Prototype category era, there is optimism for greater parity on the bumpy circuits where Cadillacs typically have reigned.
“Whatever track we go to now, it’s always a question mark of the competitiveness of each manufacturer,” said Wayne Taylor Racing’s Filipe Albuquerque, who finished sixth last year in the No. 10 Acura with Ricky Taylor. “I’m really optimistic about (Long Beach). It will always be more competitive than the previous DPi Acura. We struggled a lot in past years, and it’s very hard for us knowing we weren’t going to be competitive. Seb made sure of that destroying us completely. We never stood a chance against that. It’ll be way more competitive across all the manufacturers.”
BMW and Porsche (each with a pair of LMDh cars) have joined the fray with Acura and Cadillac in GTP this year, and the competition seemed tighter last month in the Twelve Hours of Sebring after the new manufacturers struggled in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“LMDh is a different platform where the weight is the same, the power is the same, the basics of the car are the same,” van der Zande said. “We all have the same tires, the same weight, the same power. I do think that things are much closer. We’re all searching here and there for details and fine-tuning the setup from the engine side, the chassis side and the aerodynamics.
“What you saw at Sebring and Daytona is it’s pretty close. Going to Long Beach, I think it’s a new starting level. I have a strong feeling that it is more equal than ever before.”
Albuquerque said WTR has targeted areas to improve “especially for Long Beach.
“I think we were really competitive in Sebring,” he said. “From Sebring to Long Beach, it’s a very similar type of track that you don’t have fast corners. It’s how the car reacts to the bumps. In the past, it was painful to go through those two races with the DPi car. Because we were not good over the bumps. Long Beach was even worse. Now it seems our car rides well there, so I’m not so concerned about it. I think we’ll be fine.”
But Cadillac, which won at Sebring with the No. 31 of Action Express, also has improved since the Rolex 24.
“Obviously, 2023 is a big reset,” Bourdais said. “We were very strong all day long in Sebring, but it seemed like both the Porsche and the Acura at the end of the race were better on short runs.
“And it translates pretty well from Sebring to Long Beach. The Cadillac was always labeled as the car to beat at Sebring and street courses. It’s a car that wasn’t super ride-height sensitive. And now we’re seeing cars of a different generation that seem to be conceptually closer together and I don’t think we’ll see the road course monster against the street course monster, where they kind of end up being on completely different spectrums, which made it very difficult for the series to balance as far as performance.
“I think it will be more open everywhere, and I just hope we’re on the right side of the fence at every event.”
Here are the details for the IMSA Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (all times are ET):
2023 IMSA Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
WHEN: Saturday, April 15, 5:05 p.m.
DISTANCE: A 100-minute race on the 11-turn, 1.968-mile street course in Long Beach, California.
FORECAST: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 69 degrees with a 0% chance of rain at the green flag.
ENTRY LIST: Click here to see the field for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
TV: The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach will be broadcast on USA Network and also streamed across the NBC Sports App, NBCSports.com and Peacock, which will have coverage of the event from flag to flag. Coverage is from 5-7 p.m.
Leigh Diffey is the announcer with analyst Calvin Fish. Marty Snider and Dave Burns are the pit reporters.
RADIO: All sessions live on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com; SiriusXM live race coverage begins Saturday, April 15 at 5 p.m. (Sirius channel 216, XM 207, Web/App 992)
ACURA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH DAILY SCHEDULE, START TIMES
Here’s a rundown of everything happening this week at Sebring International Raceway (all times are ET):
Thursday, April 13
9 a.m.: IMSA paddock open
5-7 p.m.: Track walk
Friday, April 14
9 a.m.: IMSA paddock open
10:45-11:15 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup practice
Noon-1 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice
2:15-2:55 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup practice
3:45-5:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice
7:30-8 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup qualifying
8:15-9 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying
Saturday, April 15
8:45 a.m.: IMSA paddock open
5:05-6:45 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
8:15-8:55 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 1
Sunday, April 16
7:20-8 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 2