In this edition of our WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (WTSC) round table we take a look at the streets of Long Beach. We talked to Lawson Aschenbach and Tom Long to get their perspective on what to expect from the 2017 Long Beach Grand Prix. Take a look…
Q: What challenges does a track like Long Beach present?
Aschebach: Long Beach is unique because it's the most diverse street course in North America. It has high speed corners, low speed corners, bumps, long entries and more. There is no room for error so every driver has to be perfect every lap.
Long: Long Beach is a very challenging circuit for many different reasons - mainly, the tight street circuit layout makes the walls for visibility and room for error non-existent. Also, just like Sebring, and even more so, the pavement surface changes are extremely bumpy, making it additionally tricky for car setup and optimal handling.
Q: What is tire strategy like for a short race like Long Beach?
Aschebach: Since the race is one hour and 40 minutes long, it will most likely be a one stop race. That means only one “new” set of tires as we start on the qualifying set. This will highlight the need to get to optimal tire pressures and temps as quickly as possible because passing will be at a premium in the first few laps after a pit stop.
Long: For Long Beach, tire strategy can be played a few different ways - since it is one of our shortest races of the season, tire degradation is less of a factor than it is during our longer endurance events. With that said, some teams may opt to try to make it on one pit stop, not changing tires, to keep hot tires on the car for the second half of the race. There's a gain initially not having to deal with cold slicker tires, but it will be interesting to see if those opting to do so can maintain pace at the end.
Q: What is your most memorable moment from Long Beach?
Aschebach: After countless heart breaks at Long Beach I was able to win my first race there in 2013. It felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. This is one of the crown jewels in North American Motorsports. It’s a race that means a lot to drivers, teams and manufacturers!
Long: My most memorable moment has to be from the race last year, in 2016. We had qualified well in our No. 70 Castrol Mazda, and the race was exciting from the drop of the green flag. A mix-up between the front row leaders into Turn 1 allowed me to slip through to second place, and the battle that ensued over the opening stint with Daytona Prototypes vs our P2 car was very intense, and a lot of fun!
Q: What can fans expect to see at this year’s Long Beach Grand Prix?
Aschebach: The fans can expect an exciting race! It has the potential to go green the entire way so every tenth will matter. Street courses can cause a lot of action due to walls, wrecks and tempers! I’m sure they will enjoy!
Long: Fans are in for a real treat this year at Long Beach with our IMSA WeatherTech Series! A healthy field of DPi entries are coming to play, along with the addition of GTD this year - which has been nothing short of incredible considering the number of teams and manufacturers involved. The streets will be packed when the WeatherTech Series hits the track, as three full classes of cars will meet for some intense action and plenty of passing. It will be busy for everyone!