IMSA WeatherTech Championship

Albuquerque and Acura Are Peerless in Long Beach GTP Qualifying

No. 10 Konica Minolta ARX-06 Takes Pole, with No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura Second

April 14, 2023

By John Oreovicz

IMSA Wire Service


LONG BEACH, Calif. – The IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship is famous for multiclass racing.

Friday on the 1.968-mile Long Beach street course, Filipe Albuquerque and Acura were in a class by themselves.

Albuquerque clocked a lap of 1 minute, 9.909 seconds (101.343 mph) in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-06 to claim the Motul Pole Award for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. It was the Portuguese driver’s fourth career IMSA pole and the first of both the 2023 season and the WeatherTech Championship’s new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) era for Albuquerque and Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport.

Tom Blomqvist locked up the front row for Acura with the second-fastest qualifying lap, a 1:10.583 (100.375 mph) in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian ARX-06 he shares with Colin Braun.

Acura’s previous prototype, built to Daytona Prototype international (DPi) specifications, tended to struggle on the bumpy Long Beach street course. But Albuquerque was confident that the new ARX-06 he shares with Ricky Taylor would be more competitive than its predecessor.

His confidence was justified as the pair of Acuras displayed a significant speed advantage in the two practice sessions earlier in the day, and that strong performance carried over into qualifying.

After starting the season with 24- and 12-hour endurance contests, the 100-minute Long Beach race opens the sprint portion of the WeatherTech Championship schedule.

“The last two years we were always suffering here, but statistics in the first two races this year showed we are really competitive,” Albuquerque said. “But I must say I was not expecting to be so competitive compared to the competitors – especially the Cadillac. (The Cadillac) has no turbo engine, so putting the power down is a strong point for that car. But obviously they are struggling with something.

“At the end of the day, it’s about ticking all the boxes on a complex car that everybody is still learning about,” he added. “I think the communication between Honda Performance Development and the teams is going fantastic and smooth. We did the homework, and it’s paying off. I’m super happy about it.”

Defending Long Beach winner Sebastien Bourdais set the early pace in the 20-minute qualifying session in the No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R before Albuquerque became the first driver to break into the 1-minute, 11-second bracket.

Blomqvist briefly took the top spot with a 1:10.720 with five minutes remaining, only for Albuquerque to quickly reestablish his dominance with three consecutive quickest laps, topped by the only sub-1:10 lap of the day.

He revealed that he ran eight consecutive hours in HPD’s simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana, last week in preparation for Long Beach.

“No food, nothing to eat, just covering all that we needed to do,” he said.

“When we were building this car, we definitely tried to put on paper why we were struggling in the past at Long Beach and Sebring,” Albuquerque added. “And we made it right. When you’re looking at your performance, you focus on your weaknesses. I’m just happy the work we all did is paying off. It was a lot of hours.”

Bourdais posted a 1:10.981 lap (99.812 mph) to claim the third qualifying position but was still more than a second behind Albuquerque. He was followed by the two BMW M Hybrid V8s prepared by BMW M Team RLL.

The Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach airs live from 5-7 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA Radio.

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