North America’s largest Porsche market will increase by five this weekend as the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship travels to Southern California with a quintet of Porsche customer programs on the entry list. The five Porsche race cars entered in the Grand Prix of Long Beach matches the largest number of 911-based race cars to compete this season in the GTLM and GTD classes of the North American race series. The 100-minute race is tabbed for September 25 on the temporary street course through the Long Beach, California community. It marks the return of the street race after the event was put on a one-year hiatus in 2020.
Porsche are the “defending champions” having won the GTLM class on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn race street course in 2019 with the Porsche 911 RSR-19. While the factory Porsche team is no longer competing in IMSA, the Proton Competition-managed WeatherTech Racing privateer program brings the No. 79 Porsche 911 RSR-19 for Porsche “works” driver Mathieu Jaminet (France) and Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Illinois) to challenge the predominately factory-focused class.
The Pro-Am style GTD category has not competed at Long Beach since 2017. The Porsche contingent in the class is being led by a surging Canadian-based Pfaff Motorsports team. Sharing the No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R race car is the driver pairing of factory ace Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Zach Robichon (Canada). The team owned by Pfaff Porsche – a leading Porsche dealer in Canada – has won the last two races in the series (Road America and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca) in addition to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March. The success has moved the “Plaid Porsche” into a strong second-place in the Team and Driver Championship standings, only 27-points out of the lead, with three events remaining in the season.
Southern California native and resident Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) leads the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R operation entered by Wright Motorsports. Racing with Trent Hindman (West Long Branch, New Jersey), Long has two previous class victories at Long Beach (2009, 2010) and sits fifth in the 2021 GTD Driver standings. The No. 88 Team Hardpoint Porsche 911 GT3 R of Rob Ferriol (Fayetteville, North Carolina) and Katherine Legge (United Kingdom) are the third full-season entry in the GT3-spec Porsche. In its first season with the rear-engine Porsche race car, the Alton, Virginia-based program has been making significant gains in the most recent rounds.
Making its first start of the season is Santa Ana, California-based GMG Racing. A longtime Porsche customer race team, the operation is making its return to the WeatherTech Championship. The No. 34 will be co-driven by team principal James Sofronas (Villa Park, California) and Kyle Washington. It is Washington’s first WeatherTech series event.
The 2019 victory – in which Vanthoor teamed with Earl Bamber (New Zealand) in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team – brought the all-time total of Porsche wins at Long Beach to nine, tied for most by any manufacturer.
Live flag-to-flag coverage of The Grand Prix of Long Beach can be found on NBCSN beginning at 5:00 p.m. ET, Saturday, September 25. In addition, IMSA Radio will offer live coverage on IMSA.tv and SiriusXM satellite radio at XM 202.
Comments before the race
Mathieu Jaminet, Driver, No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19.
“I am really looking forward to Long Beach. It will be my first time racing there. I have been watching the IndyCar and IMSA races for a couple of years and have always wanted to compete there as well. Porsche, in the past, has been competitive at Long Beach. I expect us to be on the pace. I like racing on street courses. I can’t wait to turn my first laps there in the WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR.”
Cooper MacNeil, Driver, No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19.
“I like the Long Beach weekend. It’s a great event. As street races go it is the biggest and best. I am fortunate to have won there in 2017, so I am looking for another great run this weekend. The race is short, just 100-minutes, so we will have to be on our strategy, have good solid pit stops and, of course, Mathieu and I will have to run clean stints. I am excited to put in my first laps in the Porsche RSR on Friday. We will need every second of practice to get the car setup and to get Mathieu familiar with a circuit that is new to him.”
Steve Bortolotti, Manager, No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“We are looking forward to the Long Beach Grand Prix. Obviously, the team is on a high right now and we’re hoping to keep the momentum going. On a street circuit anything can happen, so we are not taking anything for granted. We have to make sure we have a clean race and don’t dig ourselves in a hole. We want to get through this race and on to VIR and Petit to end the year. We have to keep it clean. Larry [Laurens Vanthoor] and Zach and the whole team have done an amazing job. We just have to keep the momentum going at what will be, undoubtedly, a challenging event.”
Laurens Vanthoor, Driver, No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“This is honestly my favorite track on the calendar. I love the street courses. We [Porsche with Vanthoor driving] won the last time we were out there. I love to go Long Beach. On the track and outside of the track is surreal. It is a cool event. I am happy this can take place with just a few more COVID restrictions. We have won two races in a row this season. Now, we are full-on in the championship hunt. Honestly, from now on, I would be happy to finish on the podium at every single one of the remaining races. Clinching the championship is our target. I think running for a minimum of a podium finish and making points on our competition is the goal. But, if we can get a win, we will go for the win. Who doesn’t like three in a row?”
Patrick Long, Driver, No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“Long Beach is such a special environment. This is biggest GT entry we have seen in probably a decade. It shows just how many people want to be on the stage of such an iconic event. It is a special event. The track is fast and flowing which is unique for a street course but the ambiance, the energy and the California spirit is equal to that. Each time you get on the race track it feels a little bit different. The energy grows each day of the weekend. You always walk away thankful for the opportunity to race here. This is my home grand prix and I always have friends and family on-site. It will be a special one this year and I am excited.”
Trent Hindman, Driver, No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“Last time GTD visited Long Beach, I had yet to step foot in anything GT3. Now, four years on, the challenge of learning a new street circuit becomes less steep when considering the familiar machine behind us at Wright Motorsports. We’ve had excellent execution in the last two outings, but it’s about time we get the 1st Phorm/Mountain Motorsports/Una Vida team a win, and motivation is at an all-time high to make it happen.”