Matt Hunter and James Brown review last Sunday’s TORA American Sportscar Championship Sprint Season Opener, the 2 hours of Long Beach.
Over 120 cars took the start in one of TORA’s biggest events to date in terms of individual drivers, and multiple lobbies.
Qualifying on such a short track meant that the times were extremely close throughout. F4H Diablo in the #29 F4H Red Sonja Riley DP out-qualified XRS Kaiser Wolf in the XRS Corvette DP by just 0.006 seconds. F4H Xyloto – Diablo’s team mate – edged out HCR Hamish by just 0.009 seconds, in the first of the HCR Scuderia pair of Orecas repainted in full ESM colours, with HCR Motorhead’s best lap only 0.015 seconds down on Hamish. HCR Noodle in the HCR Kunimitsu privateer Mazda Lola entry completed the third row.
GT qualifying proved to be equally close. eSports+CARS enjoyed a front row lockout in the BMWs which also took pole at Daytona last time out.
CAR Harmonic held the slight advantage over teammate, CAR Amarth and were the only two drivers in class to reach the low 1.19’s. Both pro drivers achieving times in the 1:19.2 bracket. The second row consisted of NVirus999 in the Wippermann Racing Ferrari, and reigning British GT eSports champion LRT Breeze. This was Breeze’s first taste of ASCC machinery with the team opting to use the Ford GTLM.
PROD CAPT SLOW in a Porsche started fifth and F4H ForceOne in another BMW would start sixth.
With the sun beating down on Shoreline Drive, the green flag was waved and the race began. After a clean start and relatively sensible Turn 1 it was the #29 that took an early advantage, edging away from the battling XRS and fellow F4H DPs. This pair then acted as the cork in the proverbial bottle. The three HCR cars held station in the early stages until a small mistake for HCR Hamish at the fountain allowed HCR Motorhead to make a pass through the off camber double rights of Turns 4-5.
The leading trio slowly started to pull away, the DPs seemingly faster overall around the tight circuit and in traffic. HCR opted to pit Motorhead early in order to try the undercut on F4H Xyloto as it became clear he and the leaders would soon hit traffic. This would also clear the first of his 6 mandatory pitstops.
Once the first round of stops had cycled through, Motorhead did indeed leapfrog Xyloto to take third, although Diablo and Kaiser Wolf continued to pull away however the leading pair predictably hit traffic which quickly negated Diablo’s early gains.
F4H would have a bittersweet race with Xyloto ultimately an early retirement. This promoted HCR’s Hamish and Noodle to 4th and 5th respectively.
The battle for the overall win continued between F4H Diablo and XRS Kaiser Wolf at such a pace that they were able to lap the entire field up to 3rd when the Orecas – a bit worse on fuel efficiency – had to pit earlier than the others.
Kaiser Wolf and the XRS team managed to take advantage of strategy and the inevitable traffic to grab the lead and although Diablo put up a huge fight to reclaim it, the Spaniard managed to eke out a gap he would not lose.
Third place was fought for among the HCR drivers with a fascinating game of pit-lane poker played out between Motorhead and Production GT champion, Hamish. The latter choosing to blink first and run long into the final stint. Motorhead stayed out longer, maintaining track position and making the most of clean air running. Following the stops Hamish closed the gap and put a lot of pressure on Motorhead.
Out front, the DPs were eventually able to pull away comfortably. XRS Kaiser Wolf would take the chequered flag with F4H Diablo a slightly frustrating second. For a moment it did seem as if Motorhead on the newer tyres should have held Hamish at bay however excellent tyre preservation from the Scot, seemingly on a mission, saw him fight back to end the race right under the rear wing of Motorhead, the Manxman no doubt relieved to see the flag.
The retirement of the second F4H Riley puts Happy Cat Racing on the front foot in the teams championship. No doubt the American squad will be seeking retribution next time out at Circuit of the Americas on 26th March.
The focus was largely on the front of the field with many of those in the Daytona spotlight continuing their form at Long Beach. The strength of series debutants XRS continued to surprise the established prototype field. The Spanish team will be looking forward to the challenge of their first Sebring 12h in a few weeks time.
The two eSports+CARS drivers pulled away at the start, with CAR Harmonic retaining his lead over CAR Amarth, however things were very close behind the pair of Z4 GTLMs. F4H ForceOne opted for a bold pit strategy, choosing to pit after just the third lap, which helped him profit in the early stages with some clean air to run in.
Further behind, NVirus999 in the Wippermann Ferrari was locked in a battle with LRT Breeze’s Ford. Behind them another spicy battle raged between Dr BeckX, PROD CAPT SLOW and XRS RoberAstur. As the opening stints progressed, F4H ForceOne edged closer into this four way tussle until a few subsequent pit cycles put the American and CAPT SLOW together. Dr BeckX remained just ahead but on cold tyres and eventually having to yield to the battling pair. Later in the race the out of sequence tyre strategy allowed RoberAstur’s XRS Porsche to leapfrog the struggling American.
An uncharacteristic incident saw PROD DTechR outbrake himself into turn 1 as HCR Motorhead in the faster class was looking to get by. Luckily, there was no collateral damage and the experienced Puerto Rican was able to continue.
The metronomic performance of the esports+CARS squad saw the pair maintain the gap to third only swapping positions at leach driver’s respective pit cycles but the gap to each other remained close for the whole duration of the race. Even a late scare from F4H Diablo’s DP hitting Amarth in the last corner in pursuit of XRS Kaiser Wolf didn’t adversely affect performance too much.
Davin M8 was one of the hard chargers of the weekend, finding pace going into qualifying and managing to retain it in the race. He profited from the continued battling in the midfield, making up one position overall. Breeze perhaps losing out the most, three places his net loss at the flag.
eSports+CARS eventually dominated the GT class with a one-two finish. Third place went to the Wippermann squad who continued to impress following their excellent result at Daytona. Just off the podium was PROD CAPT SLOW in the first of the Puerto Rican Porsches, but team mate PROD DTechR had a miserable day at the office mired in the lower order. F4H ForceOne came fifth, Davin M8 sixth and LRT Breeze seventh, A strong debut for the new Ford in ASCC Sprint Series but maybe we’ll see the stunning LRT livery higher up the pecking order in other races where the GT can stretch its legs and make the most of its superior aerodynamics.
Long Beach was an interesting start to the ASCC Sprint Series particularly in that there was very little incident!
Such was the build up to the race that all drivers were perhaps operating well within themselves simply to get through the two hour encounter on the tight circuit. With Sebring and COTA coming in just under a month’s time we can likely expect significantly more chances to be taken and dare we say it, controversy?