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VANTHOOR: Winning in Long Beach

Laurens Vanthoor files his latest Sportscar365 column after victory in Long Beach…

Photo: Porsche

Finally! Ever since I started racing IMSA, Long Beach has been one of my favorite events. It’s my third time there and in the previous two, I came into the pits with the lead, and then something happened.

The first time, Kévin [Estre] got hit by a Prototype and it destroyed the diffuser.

Last year, we were leading and Earl [Bamber] had a suspension failure. I was pretty keen on getting things right and it worked out. I was very happy about it.

It was a nerve-racking race though. I got hit at the start by my cycling buddy Oliver Gavin. He told me afterwards he was hit from behind. The contact broke the diffuser.

The way it looked, five more laps and I think it would have come apart. Thankfully it held together and we finally got the win. It’s good for the team and the championship.

I don’t know if you can see on TV, but I can get really grouchy about qualifying.

I love qualifying and I used to be quite good at it, but now in IMSA, I haven’t won a single pole. I’m always second.

Photo: Porsche

Like at Long Beach, I really like that track and we were fastest in Practice 2, so I thought ‘Here we go, time to get that pole,’ and I lost it by half a tenth [of a second] to my teammate Nick [Tandy].

Everyone knows to let me sulk a bit after I get out of the car, but I’m always smiling later.

Earl and I laugh about it. It was an all-Porsche front row, so I should be happy but he said I had my ‘resting bitch face’ on when I got out of the car.

I really like being in L.A. I’ve spent a lot of time in Florida previously, in the Tampa area, but now I’ve been to L.A. a couple times and I think I prefer it to Florida. I can’t explain exactly why.

The nature is a little different; the hills and the hiking and there’s lots of cool spots for food.

I came in early before the race and went cycling with the IMSA cycling group, with Renger van der Zande and Oliver Gavin.

We went to the Malibu hills. It’s mega around there for cycling. A lot of people like to make fun of me now about the cycling, so I won’t talk about it for too long, but it’s really an amazing place to ride.

The day after the race we did a four-hour ride there as well.

Photo: Jake Galstad/IMSA

On Sunday, I was giving Ollie a hard time about hitting me on the start. We get along well, but somehow the driver I end up hitting the most in the race is Ollie.

It’s not on purpose… maybe one time he hit me on purpose. I do have a lot of respect for him. I hope he has the same for me. If we ever crash into each other, the ride would be a little less funny I think.

We’re all the same though: once you put your helmet on, you don’t have many friends left.

The respect remains, but I wouldn’t let him get away with a victory if I can pass him on the last lap, that’s for sure.

It’s been a bit quiet now. I’ve been able to spend more time at home with the baby, which is nice.

Photo: Porsche

Besides IMSA, we’ve been busy with the Nürburgring project, we have some VLN preparation races. We also have some tests.

End of May it gets busy because of Spa and Le Mans. May, June and July is the busiest it gets.

I think at one point I have seven weekends of racing in a row, with tests in between. At the moment I’m enjoying the quiet time at home, because I know busy times are coming.

I think my wife and I will spend some time in L.A. between Road America and VIR for a holiday.

My wife loves the area even more than me. She loves to hike and the restaurants. We’ll take our daughter with us as well.

Maybe I can get Pat Long to babysit. I hear he’s a pro at changing diapers!

Laurens Vanthoor (@VanthoorLaurens) is a former Blancpain GT Series and FIA GT World Cup champion driving for Porsche GT Team in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

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