Back-to-back victories on the Long Beach streets

Monday, April 22, 2024
IMSA 2024 - Grand Prix of Long Beach
The IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship was back in action around the Long Beach street circuit, and it was back to business for Vasser Sullivan driver, Ben Barnicoat. Running in a revised line-up in the GTD class, alongside Parker Thompson, the pair converted pole position to a lights-to-flag victory in the #89 Lexus RC F GT3. The result is Ben’s second win of the season, and he retains the Long Beach GP title with a back-to-back victory after his 2023 championship-winning effort.

Fresh off the back of victory at the Sebring 12 Hours, Ben entered the GTD event, looking to defend his 2023 result. In a first time in his Lexus career, he was also pitched against his regular GTD Pro teammate, Jack Hawksworth, as he lined up alongside 26-year old Parker Thompson.

Promising pace in the opening sessions was converted in qualifying, as Ben’s Canadian teammate took to the 1.968-mile circuit, and was immediately in the battle for the front row. The quick-fire session saw the #89 go provisionally quickest as the track continued to evolve. Pace improved further in the final minutes and, with time running out, Parker headed the field once again, leading a Vasser Sullivan front row lock-out.

A strong start to the 100-minute sprint race saw Parker retain his lead, gradually opening a multi-second gap to the chasing pack, before an early Full Course Yellow. On the restart, he set about rebuilding the lead, before pitting with just over an hour remaining.

Different strategies played out across the field, but Ben ran cleanly as he joined the circuit, and was immediately on the pace. Stopping earlier than the chasing pack, the #89 briefly dropped to P4, but steadily climbed the order as the rest of the field made their pitstops. Back in the lead, the gap was once again neutralised after a further Full Course Yellow, but Ben managed the restart well and worked to extend the lead again. The final 20 minutes then saw multiple incidents around the circuit, but Ben stayed out of trouble, negotiated a final Full Course Yellow period, and crossed the line with a winning margin of over 1.5-seconds.

The result gave Ben a second consecutive IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship victory this season, and he made it back-to-back Grand Prix of Long Beach wins. It also marked the second GTD victory for Ben, having taken the win in Detroit during 2022.

Commenting after a return to the Long Beach podium, Ben explained:

To go back-to-back here at Long Beach is special. This track is amazing and it’s a fantastic venue. The atmosphere of having this race with IndyCar is something you don’t get anywhere else. I owe Jimmy (Vasser, co-owner) and Sulli (James Sullivan, co-owner) both a big thank you for the opportunity to race in the GTD class today. They gave me a rocket ship RC F GT3,and it’s pretty special to be back up here.
“I also have to say a huge thank you to the team. Vasser Sullivan and Lexus Racing USA, TRD (Toyota Racing Development). We’re on a bit of a roll at the moment, but we had a fantastic season last year, and very lucky to be part of this team, with all the work they put in, with the hours of dedication to excellence. I don’t believe there’s any other GT team operating, pushing as hard as we are. The results aren’t a shock. You get out what you put in, right? I’ve put so much into this and I’m just happy I can deliver the results for them.”

The championship stays in California for its next round, and Ben returns to GTD Pro action at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca, 10-12 May, 2024.