Single-Set Tire Run Propels No. 01 Cadillac to Long Beach Victory

By Tony DiZinno

IMSA Wire Service

The pace exhibited by the pair of Cadillac V-Series.R prototypes this weekend indicated one of their two cars would likely win Saturday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Round 3 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

The only question was which one. The answer came for a second straight year by a strategic masterstroke on the only pit stop of the 100-minute race that often comes down to time spent on pit lane.

Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande took home the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class and overall honors in the Chip Ganassi Racing-prepared No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R, after starting third.

Bourdais bided his time and pitted a lap later than Motul Pole Award winner and early race leader Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac, on Lap 27 to Derani’s Lap 26.

Both cars changed drivers, Bourdais to van der Zande and Derani to Long Beach rookie Jack Aitken, but the difference came in the tire selection.

With a softer compound Michelin tire on offer this year compared to last year, it was unclear going into the race whether the 2024 winning car would be able to repeat the 2023 winning strategy of running the whole race on a single set of tires.

The Whelen Cadillac team from Action Express Racing changed two left-side tires, while the Ganassi Cadillac team opted to go for it by not changing any tires.

That proved the difference in the race, with van der Zande returning to the track ahead of Aitken and hanging on for the remaining hour through a pair of restarts that provided ample opportunity for overtakes while maneuvering through Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) class traffic.

Ultimately, van der Zande held off Aitken by 0.564 seconds in the 68-lap race. Afterward, van der Zande noted it was a late call to opt for the no-tire-change approach.

“It was quite cold, then the sun came out and it started to warm up,” van der Zande said. “We left it to the last minute to decide. They made the right choice for sure.

“Strategy won this race. The tires were kind of gone at the end; it was quite slippery. But I’m very proud of my team.”

Aitken ran within a few tenths of van der Zande, but a series of incidents around the track cost him time before one final restart, when he was unable to make a move.

“It was pretty much the same as the last 50 minutes. I gave it everything,” Aitken said. “It was a big call for them to go on one set, and they jumped us there. I really tried. But it was a great drive by Renger.

“Once they had track position, it’s extremely difficult to pass without taking a huge amount of risk. The couple yellows we did have helped Renger to take care of the tires. They lasted surprisingly well, better than I think we expected at the start of the weekend.”

The win is van der Zande’s 20th of his IMSA career and Bourdais’ 12th. The duo teamed in a Ganassi car to win at Long Beach in 2022. Bourdais crashed out on the opening lap last year when a mechanical malfunction made the car veer into the front straight wall.

“When we make it through Turn 1, we win,” van der Zande joked toward his co-driver, who promptly followed with a humorous water toss back at van der Zande.

For IMSA’s GTP class, it’s the second consecutive year three different manufacturers have won the first three races. Last year it was Acura, Cadillac and Porsche in that order and this year it’s Porsche, Acura and Cadillac.

Coincidentally, an Acura won this year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac, while a Cadillac captured today’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Behind the pair of Cadillacs on Saturday were three Porsche 963s. The championship-leading pair of Felipe Nasr and Dane Cameron in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 finished third ahead of the sister No. 6 car and the customer No. 5 Proton Competition entry.

Unofficially, Nasr, Cameron and the No. 7 Porsche have 1,032 points and a 58-point gap to van der Zande, Bourdais and the No. 01 Cadillac, with Derani, Aitken and the No. 31 Cadillac 77 points in arrears.

The WeatherTech Championship returns to California from May 10-12 for the Motul Course de Monterey Powered by Hyundai N at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.