Action Express takes IMSA pole in Long Beach
Christian Fittipaldi drove the No. 5 Action Express Racing entry to his first Long Beach pole position Friday and will join Ricky Taylor in an all Corvette DP front row for Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Bubba Burger Grand Prix.
Fittipaldi set the fastest lap early in the session and then swapped the pole back-and-forth twice with Taylor and the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing entry before locking down the top spot for good with a lap time of 1:14.962.
Taylor secured the outside front row starting position with a lap time of 1:15.113 but never had a chance to make a final challenge for the pole when a late red flag stopped the action for several minutes late in the session.
Tom Long qualified third in the No. 70 Mazda Prototype with a lap time of 1:15.641, capping an encouraging day for the SpeedSource-run team that topped morning practice earlier in the day with its No. 55 entry.
Eric Curran was fourth fastest in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Corvette Daytona while Tristan Nunez completed the top five in the No. 55 Mazda Prototype.
A session-stopping red flag also factored into the PC qualifying session. The starting field was ultimately set by driver championship points when the IMSA-mandated minimum green flag time was not met.
The pole was awarded to the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports team and driver Misha Goikhberg, who currently ranks second in PC driver points.
Championship leader Robert Alon, driving the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09, would have been in line for the pole but was determined by IMSA to have caused the session-stopping red-flag incident.
The outside PC front row starting position went to Alex Popow in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsports Oreca FLM09.
Meanwhile, Bill Auberlen scored a pair or repeat class poles Friday in the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM, earning his second-straight top qualifying effort of 2016 and second GT Le Mans class pole in a row on the Long Beach street circuit in qualifying for tomorrow’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race.
Auberlen withstood a tough challenge from both Porsche North America entries and ultimately prevailed by a scant 0.003 seconds over the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber.
Auberlen, who won the pole at last month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, scored Friday’s Long Beach pole with a lap time of 1:17.272. Bamber was just behind at 1:17.275.
Patrick Pilet qualified third in the No. 911 Porsche with a lap time of 1:17.458.
Corvette Racing completed the top-five in class with Oliver Gavin fourth in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R and Jan Magnussen fifth in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R.
The top-five GTLM qualifiers were separated by less than half a second.
Auberlen will be seeking his second-consecutive Long Beach win tomorrow. Co-driving with current teammate Dirk Werner, Auberlen won last year’s race from the pole.
Absent from qualifying was the No. 67 Ford GT that caught fire this morning near the end of opening practice.
Driver Richard Westbrook was uninjured in the incident and the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team expects to have the car repaired in time for Saturday’s race.
Coverage for the Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship starts at 7 p.m. ET Saturday on FS2 with a replay following at 11 p.m. ET on FS1. The race is scheduled to start at 7:05 p.m. ET Saturday with a scheduled race length of 100 minutes.