Following 36 hours of endurance racing to open the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship season, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing shifts gears for the third event of the year — a 100-minute sprint race on the streets of Long Beach, California.
“There’s no question that Long Beach is one of those IMSA races that every manufacturer and team wants to win,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “Long Beach is the iconic street course race in America, with a great history and a tough, unforgiving course. We also like it because, unlike so many of the endurance races we run, this is a sprint event that puts added emphasis on being aggressive both with strategy and with driving. We have gotten better there every year with our Ford GTs, so we hope this is the year we’re at the top of the podium.”
Joey Hand and Dirk Müller started at the front of the GTLM class in last year’s Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach. The pair went on to a third-place finish, combining for a double podium with Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe, who finished second.
“There’s a lot of prestige in winning at Long Beach because of the great history of the event, but there’s no doubt that it’s very different than most of the races we run because it’s a sprint race,” Briscoe said. “You wouldn’t think there is much strategy that goes into such a short race, but there really is because with only one scheduled stop, you need to time it perfectly for both fuel and tire wear.
“There’s a lot of additional pressure for a driver, not just because the walls are unforgiving, but because there’s no room for errors as a team. Fortunately, we have the best in the business with the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing guys, so we are looking forward to getting a win this weekend.”
Briscoe and Westbrook are currently seventh in the drivers’ championship standings after their fourth-place finish at Daytona and their sixth at Sebring. Hand and Müller, who finished seventh at Daytona and second at Sebring, sit fourth in the standings.
Sébastien Bourdais will fill in this weekend for Hand, who is out with flu-like symptoms.
“Long Beach is such a fantastic race, but it’s unlike most of the races we run during the year because it’s less than two hours long and there’s no room for mistakes,” Müller said. “Both drivers have to be on top of their game during the race, and strategy is so important. We’re fortunate to have not just a fantastic car in the Ford GT, but also some great people who help us call the race. I can’t wait to get out there.”
RACE INFO: Saturday, April 13 at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT