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Fittipaldi Wins Long Beach Pole

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, April 16 2016
The No. 5 Action Express Corvette Daytona Prototype will start Long Beach from the pole. (File photo by Richard Prince for Chevy Racing)

The No. 5 Action Express Corvette Daytona Prototype will start Long Beach from the pole. (File photo by Richard Prince for Chevy Racing)

RacinToday.com

Christian Fittipaldi of Action Express won the pole for Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Grand Prix at Long Beach on Friday.

Fittipaldi posted a time of 1:14.962 (94.512 mph) in his Corvette DP, which he co-drives with Joao Barbosa. Fittipaldi.

His time was just better than that of defending Long Beach winner Ricky Taylor of Wayne Taylor Racing.

“There’s definitely a lot of history at Long Beach for myself and my family,” said Fittipaldi, who joined Barbosa in capturing the Prototype championship in both 2014 and 2015. “I’ve been coming here since ’95. (Uncle) Emerson has had success here. His last Formula One podium was here in 1980 in our own car (owned by Christian’s father Wilson Fittipaldi), and he’s had success here in Indy Cars. The California track in Fontana has been very good for me, but Long Beach has been hard for me and Action Express Racing. To stick a pole here at Long Beach is very important for me and my team.”

It was Fittipaldi’s third career pole but first of the season and it gives him and his team a nice boost on a circuit that usually features relatively few passes.

“Starting on a pole on a street race definitely makes your life less hard,” Fittipaldi said. “I think we have a shot here – but it definitely won’t be easy.”

Taylor had a fast lap 1:15.133 (94.297 mph) in the WTR Corvette DP co-driven by his brother Jordan.

“The car was a pole car but, unfortunately, I brushed the (turn-eight) wall early on, which really messed up the toe and ruined our qualifying,”   Taylor said. “I feel bad because it should have been an easy pole and I just went for too much too soon. If you’re going to hit the wall, you should hit it at the end, not at the beginning, so you can give yourself a chance. I guess that’s a little bit of a lesson, but the car was a pole car, for sure, which gives us confidence in the race. I’m going to try to get by him (Fittipaldi). I know our pit stop will be faster, but I want to pass him on the track.”

Third fastest was Tom Long, turning in the best qualifying effort for the Mazda Prototype with a lap of 1:15.641 (93.663 mph) in the No. 70 Castrol/ModSpace Mazda co-driven by Joel Miller.

In the Prototype Challenge class, Misha Goikhberg was awarded the pole for the WeatherTech Championship debut of the Prototype Challenge (PC) class at Long Beach following an abbreviated session.

Qualifying was red flagged with 7:10 remaining when Mark Kvamme came to a stop near the pit exit in the No. 88 Starworks Motorsport Popcorn Sutton ORECA FLM09 after contact with Robert Alon in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry. Kvamme sustained suspension damage and could not continue, and the incident could not be cleared before time expired in the qualifying session.

As a result, the PC grid was set by driver points. While Alon and co-driver Tom Kimber-Smith lead the PC standings, the car was moved to the back due to Alon being involved in the incident that brought out the red flag.

Bill Auberlen had the fastest qualifying run in GT Le Mans as he covered the circuit in 1:17.272 in his Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW M6.

Auberlen’s pole was his second straight on the season and also at Long Beach.

“I just heaved one out, as hard as I could,” Auberlen said. “You have to sort of contain yourself here because if you stand on it too hard, you can kick the car sideways and sort of screw up your lap. Which I did four times.”

A late run by Earl Bamber in the No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR put him second in the session.

The car that has won both races thus far in the 2016 season, the No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R driven by Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, will start fourth. Gavin turned a lap of 1:17.573 to start ahead of the No. 3 Corvette C7.R, which Jan Magnussen qualified at 1:17.676. Antonio Garcia joins Magnussen behind the wheel of the No. 3, which finished atop the podium in this race in 2014.

“It was a pretty decent session,” Gavin said. “It’s warmer than it was this morning, obviously. So the tires came in quicker. We were quick at the beginning of the session, but it just seemed that the BMW and the Porsche came on strong there and we got bumped to fourth. I didn’t string it all together perfectly, but it wasn’t a bad lap.

“I could have maybe found another tenth here or maybe there, but I don’t think we were ever going have the pace to quite catch the BMW. But fourth is a pretty good spot, and I think we have a chance. We have a pretty good race car. On longer runs, I think we should be in a reasonably good spot. We can attack and build a good race from that spot. So I’m pretty happy. Obviously you would like to be a fit farther forward and in P1, but we always seem to have a very good race car.”

 

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, April 16 2016
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