***A total of 26 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship cars — comprised of DPi, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona entries — unloaded Thursday for this weekend’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach. It marks the first race in Southern California in 895 days following last year’s event cancelation and the postponement of this year’s race to September.
***Next year’s event is already scheduled for April 8-9 and is slated to comprise of IMSA’s west coast swing that will also include a round at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca later in the month.
***Fans and competitors are adhering to strict COVID-19 protocols enforced by the City of Long Beach that includes the mandatory usage of face masks while indoors and outdoors as well as proof of vaccination or daily rapid testing for those who are unvaccinated.
***With GT Daytona class entries not having been eligible in the event since 2017, a number of title contenders and class veterans are making their Long Beach debuts including Robby Foley, Zach Robichon, Ross Gunn, Roman De Angelis, Trent Hindman, Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry.
***McMurry, who has been reunited with 2020 GTD champion Farnbacher in Compass Racing’s Acura NSX GT3 Evo, said: “I can’t even begin to tell you how many laps I have on the HPD sim at Long Beach.”
***Farnbacher, meanwhile, turned laps on the circuit in a Racers Edge Motorsports-owned Acura during last week’s media day festivities.
***The No. 50 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette won the GTD race in 2017, in what has been the category’s only appearance on the 1.968-mile street circuit until this weekend.
***GTD features a 17-car class entry, second only to this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in terms of numbers.
***With last year’s race canceled, the 2021 event marks the second running of the Long Beach Grand Prix under the title sponsorship of Acura. “With our U.S. headquarters nearby in Torrance, this is a true ‘home’ event for the Acura brand,” said Jon Ikeda, Acura vice president and brand officer.
***Despite Acura being winless on the streets of Long Beach in the DPi era, Ricky Taylor and Wayne Taylor Racing co-driver Filipe Albuquerque have combined for a 100 percent win record during that time. Taylor won the race with WTR in 2017 and the Portuguese ace claimed top honors with Action Express Racing in both 2018 and 2019.
***Both the Proton Competition-run WeatherTech Racing team and Pfaff Motorsports utilized Porsche Motorsport North America’s headquarters in nearby Carson, Calif. for prep between the two California rounds.
***Other WeatherTech Championship teams, meanwhile, set up shop at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., which IMSA had helped facilitate with the NASCAR-owned facility.
***The Pfaff Porsche is sporting Porsche Downtown LA graphics as part of the recent sale of Pfaff Automotive to Lithia Motors Inc., the second-largest dealer group in the U.S. The Canadian squad’s Porsche 911 GT3 R was on display at the dealership during an event on Wednesday evening.
***With five entries, Long Beach matches the Rolex 24 as the most Porsche race cars entered in a WeatherTech Championship race this season. Porsche has had a podium-finishing car under all of the Grand-Am, ALMS or IMSA races held at the circuit to date.
***Jacob Abel, who made his WeatherTech Championship debut at Laguna Seca with Compass and is fresh off his first GT3 win in Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS competition last weekend at Watkins Glen International, is taking part in this weekend’s SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks event at the circuit.