***DPs swept the top five positions in opening practice, with the quickest P2 car, the No. 42 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan of Gustavo Yacaman, nearly one second off the pace. While at a deficit, Yacaman’s time was still some four-tenths quicker than Ryan Briscoe’s P2 pace-setting time from opening practice last year, although the cars were on different tires and running to a fixed gear ratio.
***The No. 93 SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R of Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer battled power steering issues in this morning’s two-hour practice session. Marc Goossens jumped into the car for a few laps to help diagnose the problem, which was solved with a new power steering pump. The SRT team won its first pole here last year courtesy of Dominik Farnbacher.
***Spirit of Daytona’s Michael Valiante had a slight off at Turn 1 when he broke too late on entry. Valiante’s last time at Long Beach was in 2012, when he was the fastest qualifier in GTC before the rest of the session was canceled due to rain. He is a past Long Beach race winner, having won the Formula Atlantic event here in 2002.
***Porsche North America should be back to full song in this afternoon’s final 30-minute practice session after engine issues (No. 912) and driveshaft failure (No. 911) for both of its factory GTLM contenders. Three of its four drivers: Nick Tandy, Richard Lietz and Michael Christensen, are making their first appearances at the 1.9-mile, 11-turn street circuit.
***OAK is relying on the circuit expertise of Yacaman, who has four prior Indy Lights starts at Long Beach with a best finish of fourth (2011). The biggest difference from an open-wheel car to the Morgan Nissan P2-spec chassis, he said, was the tires more than anything else.
***Also OAK-related, this marks the team’s first trip to this circuit as a whole, and first for Olivier Pla as well. Pla described the track as “fairly tricky” but said he enjoyed the layout. The Frenchman is in the midst of a busy schedule between his TUDOR Championship commitments, the kickoff to the FIA World Endurance Championship with the OAK-supported G-Drive Racing entry next week, and testing the new Ligier JS P2 coupe in preparation for its race debut later this year.
***After sharing the wheel with Max Angelelli for the opening two rounds, plus their dad, Wayne, at Daytona, brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor will be co-driving alone in today’s 100-minute race aboard the Konica Minolta-sponsored WTR Corvette DP. The last time that happened? Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2009, in a Beyer Racing Riley-Chevy DP.
***The chances of an imminent return to top-level sports car racing appears unlikely for Level 5 Motorsports, which laid off the majority of its employees this week. Team manager David Stone, however, said they are working on the potential of a few “high value” programs that could come online in the near future.
(Tony DiZinno contributed to this report)