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BLOMQVIST: A Bitter Sweet Long Beach

Tom Blomqvist files his latest Sportscar365 column after narrowly missing out on podium finish at Long Beach…

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

Bitter sweet. Those are the best words I can find to describe our weekend. If you were to ask me before the weekend if I would be happy fighting for a podium on the streets of Long Beach in a car we knew didn’t suit the characteristics of the circuit like our competitors, then I most definitely would have said yes!

But to come away fourth after holding third for so long hurts a little. But we have many positives to take away from the weekend and it gives us a lot of confidence heading into the upcoming events.

We came into the weekend after an extremely tough Sebring 12 Hours where we weren’t happy with the performance.

The whole team, especially the engineering team had worked super hard in preparation for the Long Beach event. We came up with a slightly new philosophy on the setup that we were excited to try in practice.

FP1 got off to a decent start as Olly and myself got up to speed with the track. I enjoy streets tracks and felt at home pretty quickly and the car was working reasonably well out the truck which is always promising. We weren’t expecting any miracles from this event but we were closer to the Cadillacs than we initially expected.

Photo: Mike Levitt/IMSA

FP2 we tried our new setup and Olly was the first one to give it a go, he was much more comfortable with the car and the pace showed it, sitting on the stand I was pumped to get in the car and give it a crack.

The track was super fast this year with so much grip and you could really push the limits.

We definitely made a step forward and I was able to get in a qualifying simulation at the end of the session which gave us some good confidence and a direction to head in for qualifying later that evening.

We made a few more minor tweaks to the car for qualifying. The track and car really came alive for me! I had a lot of pleasure pushing the car to its limits in qualifying.

We made the right call on setup and I was able to qualify our car in third amongst the five Cadillacs which we were super happy with.

The qualifying times were nearly three seconds faster than the year before which was pretty impressive.

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

Because I qualified I had to take the start and I was hoping I could get a good run down to Turn 1 and squeeze into second. Unfortunately I didn’t get the best jump and had to fend off the 31 car instead of attacking for second.

I slotted into third for the for the opening laps behind the 01 and 02 Ganassi Cadillacs, that soon became second when the 01 car made a mistake at the final corner.

I settled into a good rhythm behind Lynn in the 02 car, we were both saving fuel quite aggressively and the gap ebbed and flowed as we carved our way through traffic. I managed to get a run on him twice but he did a good job defending and I couldn’t find a way past.

I was really happy with our handling, so it was a pleasant surprise I could fight with the Cadillacs.

Unfortunately towards the end of my stint I got caught up with some GT traffic which enabled the 31 and 01 (who was absolutely flying) to sneak through.

The 01 was untouchable and bolted off and strangely the 31 pitted early meaning they were committing to a two stop or gambling on a yellow.

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

By the time I had to pit and hand over the car to Olly we were comfortably running 3rd with a decent margin to 4th place. The race had been going smoothly up until that point with zero yellows, we then got three in quick succession.

This gave up our advantage and now Olly had to look in his mirrors to keep the quicker Cadillacs behind.

Unfortunately with two laps to go Derani in the 31 decided to force his way through which resulted in contact and the 5 Cadillac watching patiently from behind managed to sneak through and take the final podium spot.

We were guttered!

To come so close to a podium on a track where we never expected to be in contention hurts. But the progress and competitiveness we had here at Long Beach fills us with confidence heading into the upcoming events where we know we will have a competitive package. So bring on Laguna Seca!

Tom Blomqvist is the 2022 Rolex 24 at Daytona winner, driving for Meyer Shank Racing and Acura in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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