Round two of the 2013 American Le Mans Series moves, as is tradition, to the sunny shores of California for the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach.
The 1.968 mile, 11-turn temporary street course proved to be a happy hunting ground for Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner in 2012 as it was the scene of the first of the four victories which culminated in them winning the 2012 GT Drivers Championship. The Californian result also marked the third victory for the British driver at Long Beach in six appearances – a happy hunting ground indeed.
From Sebring’s 12-hour enduro, the 34-strong field now has to adapt to limited track time and a two-hour race which takes place on Saturday at 4:30 pm (PT). We asked Olly what his thoughts were on the Long Beach race:
Q: Last year’s result kick-started your winning season – what are your memories of that Long Beach event?
A: Long Beach was the start of the run to the Championship for Tommy and me. As you so often have to be on street races, we were a little lucky in that the two cars in front of us on the grid had issues on the fourth corner of the race and their race was compromised from there on. We still had to battle our way from then on to the front but our car was good straight off and that was a big plus point.
Q: With a great track record at Long Beach you obviously enjoy it there. Why?
A: It’s a challenging track but our car seems to always come off the truck quick there – by that I mean it’s good to drive on the Long Beach track from the word go. We have very limited track time here – just 2 hours practice before going straight into qualifying – so that’s a huge bonus for us. Our 2013 updates seemed to work very well at Sebring and will undoubtedly help us this year, although Long Beach success is a constantly moving target.
Q: Who do you think your toughest opposition will be at Long Beach?
A: I think the BMWs will be a bit of the unknown there – at certain parts of the Sebring track they were very fast – and the Vipers also have very good straight line speed and punch off the corners well. They (the Vipers) don’t seem as nimble as the Ferrari, for example, at times and that might play against them.
Q: What’s the secret to a quick lap at Long Beach?
A: The most important corner on the track is the last one and getting off that corner well is vital for lap time and opportunities to overtake other cars. If you can get into someone’s tow on the straight it’s the best chance you get to pass others going into Turn 1. Street tracks are always a bit of a lottery, but if you are able to switch on your tyres fast, ride the bumps easily and go through and off the corners well, you’ve got a good chance to be fast. As always with this type of course, there’s a mix of slow and medium speed corners and you have to work on direction change and traction as well as braking – as good as it is to go fast, you have to have the confidence to stop fast as well!