Washed Out Qualifying in Long Beach (updated)

Unseasonal Long Beach weather

After a wet practice session early Friday morning, everyone was hopeful for a dry qualifying session at the other end of the day.  The streets of Long Beach were, however, awash and qualifying for Saturday’s two-hour American Le Mans Series at Long Beach race was cancelled due to rain and standing water on the temporary circuit.

With the starting grid consequently determined by championship points, Olly and Tommy Milner will line in third place on the GT grid behind the Hand/Muller BMW (on pole) and Jan and Antonio in the No. 3 Corvette.

The early morning practice session was shortened by red flags and intermittent downpours, limiting the Corvettes to less than two-dozen laps in two hours. Eight hours later, qualifying began under sunny skies, but the rain returned shortly after the start of the 15-minute session for the GT entries. Race officials red-flagged the session and subsequently abandoned qualifying. In accordance with IMSA regulations, the grid was then set on championship points.

Richard Prince artistry at a wet Long Beach

Olly set a time of 1:32.641 in two flying laps, the fourth quickest time in the rain-shortened session and said, “It was looking good on the first couple of laps.  Our tyres were taking a little time to come in with the cold track, but we had a good car and I was catching the cars ahead of me quickly. Then it really started raining as I came down the front straight. At that point I could see the mist on the circuit, cars were struggling to stop and were going down the escape roads. I knew the session would be red-flagged and thought we’d have to start wherever we were, P4 at the time. Subsequently the officials abandoned the session and we’ll start on points instead.

“It’s a shame we didn’t get a full run in the dry here, but I feel that the car is going to be good,” he continued. “I feel optimistic about the race tomorrow. I know the Corvette Racing crew is doing an excellent job setting up the car, and I’ll take our Vette over any other car in the field straight off the truck!

“Every time we were getting close to going on track it would start to rain a little and then really pour down.  Speaking to people who’ve been coming to Long Beach for years and years, no one can ever remember it raining.  If our qualifying session had been 45 minutes earlier in the afternoon it would have been dry.  I feel a bit sorry for Antonio as he hasn’t done a single dry lap at Long Beach but I think Tommy also stands a good chance of making a demon start in the race.”

Jan was fifth quickest in two timed laps with a 1:32.872, but the No. 3 Corvette C6.R will start second based on its runner-up finish in the season-opening Sebring 12-hour race. The forecast for the race is dry.

Standing water!

“Today’s qualifying just adds to the uncertainty for tomorrow’s race,” Magnussen said. “Qualifying is not a good guide because the track was damp, it was sprinkling from the start. So we’ve really had one timed lap, on slicks, when it was wet. We’ll go into the race like we haven’t been here at all.”

ESPN2 will broadcast the American Le Mans Series at Long Beach live at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 14.  European fans can follow the race on www.americanlemans.com

With grateful thanks to Rick Voegelin at Corvette Racing.

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