Street Smarts: IMSA’s Masters of the Temporary Circuit

By Tony DiZinno

IMSA Wire Service

Conquering a street course on an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship weekend requires laser-sharp focus and time-sensitive cognizance.

The heightened sense of intimidating concrete barriers lurks harder at the pair of traditional street course races in Long Beach and Detroit, as does a faster ticking clock since both races are a season-short 100 minutes.

Inevitably, some drivers have risen more to the top than others at these two locations over the last decade since the WeatherTech Championship unified as one series, after both were off-and-on separate schedules from 2006 through 2013.

Here are some to keep an eye on at the upcoming Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 19-20.

Taylor Brothers

Ricky and Jordan Taylor are inseparable here in terms of street course accolades. Both are now back in the top prototype class (now Grand Touring Prototype, GTP) on a street course for the first time since 2019. Somewhat surprisingly, neither has won at either track since 2017.

The brothers won overall co-driving for father Wayne Taylor from 2015 through 2017 at Long Beach and three out of four years in Detroit from 2014 to 2017. Jordan added two further Detroit wins in 2012 and ‘13, one apiece in GT and prototype to give him a total of five in the Motor City.

Jordan, fresh off a win alongside Louis Deletraz and Colton Herta in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac, has a pair of Long Beach poles in GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO). A third pole in as many classes would be quite a feat if he qualifies the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06.

On the challenge of qualifying at Long Beach, Jordan said after his 2021 pole: “Street courses are great and we love coming to them, but as a driver it’s very stressful when you have to get the maximum out of the car in a session like qualifying. It’s always nice to get through unscathed.”

Ricky shares the No. 10 Acura ARX-06 for WTRAndretti with Filipe Albuquerque; the Portuguese driver won at Long Beach back-to-back in 2018 and 2019, in a Cadillac.

Sebastien Bourdais

Bourdais has four wins in Long Beach – 2022 in IMSA and three in IndyCar – while also adding three wins in Detroit (2022 in IMSA, two in IndyCar). He’s also looking to atone from a first-lap lockup at this race last year.

His pole-to-last-to-first comeback drive in 2022 looms large, though, as he and Renger van der Zande go for their third street course win together as co-drivers in the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.

“When you have the confidence on a street course and really dig deep, you can really switch on the tires in a different way and get to a different level,” he said after his 2022 win.

“When you get in the zone and can really challenge the course and feel under control, it’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced in a race car.”

Renger van der Zande

Lest Bourdais be viewed as Ganassi’s only street course horse, van der Zande has a better record in IMSA street courses than his teammate. The Dutchman has five street course wins to his name.

He shared the No. 01 car with Bourdais to win both Long Beach and Detroit in 2022, won with Kevin Magnussen at Detroit in 2021, and added a pair of Prototype Challenge class wins with Starworks Motorsport at Detroit in 2015 and 2016, setting the fastest race lap in each of them.

Katherine Legge

The GT Daytona (GTD) class is up for grabs at Long Beach this year with three-time winners Paul Miller Racing having moved to GTD PRO, and that class not on the Long Beach schedule. But Legge has as good a chance as any in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 she shares with Sheena Monk at a track that put her on the map. She won her U.S. debut at Long Beach in Formula Atlantic in 2005 and will be inducted into the circuit’s Walk of Fame this year.

She won Acura’s first race for the NSX on the streets of Detroit co-driving with Andy Lally in 2017 and followed it up with an encore in 2018 alongside Mario Farnbacher. Coincidentally, Farnbacher, in his most recent Long Beach start, finished second with Gradient in 2022.

Nick Tandy

Tandy’s Long Beach win last year alongside Mathieu Jaminet in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 drew headlines as it was the new car’s first global victory, inspired by a tire-saving double stint. On reflection, it wasn’t surprising that the Englishman won yet another street race.

It actually marked his third straight street course race win, albeit with somewhat unusual statistical records. Tandy won at both Detroit and Long Beach in the No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R in GTLM in 2021, but the Detroit race did not count toward that year’s GTLM class championship.

He also won the GTLM race for Porsche in 2016 after emerging unscathed from a last-lap incident with two others and scored the Long Beach GTLM pole in 2019.

Felipe Nasr

The two-time WeatherTech Championship champion has two wins, two seconds and a third in seven total street course starts. His and Pipo Derani’s 2021 Long Beach win was pivotal in their title run that season. He’s paired this year with Dane Cameron in Penske’s No. 7 Porsche 963. Cameron has two Detroit wins, but none at Long Beach.

Frankie Montecalvo

While Montecalvo lacks the street course wins of others on this list, the series veteran is a solid GTD win contender in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. He’s the only driver in GTD entered in 2024 with multiple podium finishes at the track, having scored third each of the last two years co-driving with Aaron Telitz.

Montecalvo also secured a third-place finish with Vasser Sullivan at Detroit’s Belle Isle in 2019.

Roman De Angelis

A first Long Beach win seems imminent for De Angelis in his No. 27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Evo. He was second at Long Beach last year, following up on second in Detroit in 2022 and a winner there in 2021.