Remarkable Comeback Yields Win for Bourdais, van der Zande
April 9, 2022
By John Oreovicz
IMSA Wire Service
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Cadillac Racing’s 1-2 finish in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach – the third round of the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – was anything but cut and dry.
“That was a little more difficult than it should have been,” admitted winning driver Sebastien Bourdais.
Bourdais, the fastest qualifier in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class and early race leader, slipped up just seven minutes into the 100-minute race while trying to lap a GTD class Porsche at the iconic hairpin of the Long Beach street course.
The wall contact was light, but Bourdais struggled to get the No. 01 Cadillac DPi-V.R prepared by Chip Ganassi Racing back in gear and he fell to the back of the field, 21 seconds behind his teammate Alex Lynn in the No. 02 Cadillac.
It made little difference to the 43-year-old Frenchman, who had smashed the Long Beach IMSA track record by nearly two seconds in qualifying. Bourdais required 22 laps, or a little under half an hour, to work his way past the five cars in front of him, culminating in a pass for the lead on Lynn in Turn 8.
Not only did he make up a 21-second deficit and pass five competitors, he did it while under instructions to save fuel due to a lack of telemetry data.
“You kind of go into a bit of a trance when you try to pull off something that really shouldn’t be possible,” Bourdais said, shortly after handing off the leading Cadillac to co-driver Renger van der Zande.
“You’re on fire because you’re so mad at yourself. I guess I’m accustomed to stupid mistakes and trying to make up for that. Luckily, there wasn’t much damage and I’m just glad we got the lead back.”
Van der Zande was able to maintain the lead over Earl Bamber in the No. 02 Cadillac through three full course cautions and restarts in the second half of the race. He pulled away for a 3.761-second margin of victory after completing 73 laps of the 1.968-mile Long Beach layout.
Tristian Vautier and Richard Westbrook claimed third place in the No. 5 JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac after a furious four-car scrap in the final laps.
“I think we learned something today, which is don’t make a Frenchman angry,” said van der Zande. “He (screwed) up; he put it in the wall, but then he did well by moving up the order and he gave the car to me in the lead.
“Amazing job by Sebastien, and I just had to drive it home,” he added. “We had a fantastic car – all smiles at Chip Ganassi Racing.”
It was the first win of the 2022 season for the No. 01 team after they encountered difficulties in the opening two endurance rounds at Daytona and Sebring. Bourdais claimed his first sports car trophy at Long Beach after earning three wins in Indy cars; it was also van der Zande’s first victory on the Southern California streets.
“I’ve had some pretty awesome days on street courses,” Bourdais said. “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.
“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.”
The No. 02 Cadillac, which was victorious in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in March, moved into the lead of the DPi standings in the WeatherTech Championship by just 3 points over the No. 5 Cadillac.
The No. 01 duo ranks fifth, 79 points behind their Ganassi Racing teammates.
“It’s a long season, luckily,” said van der Zande. “Pole position is worth a few points, winning is a few points. We’re not going to give up. The only thing we can do to win the championship is win races, so let’s keep it going.”
The next round of the WeatherTech Championship is the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship Presented by Motul at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, April 29 – May 1.