For the first three and a half months of 2011, the No. 48 Marquis Jet/TOTAL/IPC Porsche team from Paul Miller Racing focused on North America’s most prestigious endurance races at two of the continent’s most historic permanent road courses.
This weekend, the focus of the No. 48 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR team and co-drivers Bryce Miller and Sascha Maassen shifts dramatically to one of the shortest and most prestigious sports car races on North America’s most historic permanent road circuit. This week is the annual trek to Southern California for the Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach on Saturday, April 16, starting at 4:30 p.m. PT.
It’s a special event for Paul Miller Racing and the team drivers for a number of reasons, not least of which is the fact that Long Beach is in the virtual “backyard” of the team’s tire partner, Yokohama, with a U.S. base in nearby Fullerton, Calif. It’s also a place where both Miller and Maassen have been top-five performers in the past.
Maassen has been a podium finisher in both of his previous Long Beach visits, taking second in LMP2 and overall in 2007 and third in the LMP2 class in 2008. Miller finished fifth in the GTC class in his inaugural visit last year and – along with the team – has taken the big step up to the GT class in 2011.
“The Long Beach circuit is really fun,” Miller says. “The fans come out in a big way to support our sport. The circuit is difficult to pass on so qualifying and race strategy always plays a big role. I am really excited to try some different Yokohama compounds and I know it will be a step forward for our team.”
Maassen, who debuted with the team in the 2011 season opener at Sebring, feels much the same way as his co-driver when it comes to the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit. But he also wouldn’t mind if the weather was just a bit cooler than the forecasted 80-degree temperatures for both days of on-track activity on Friday and Saturday.
“I like street circuits and Long Beach is the shortest race of the season,” said Maassen. “So it is even more important to push to the maximum. Our performance in Sebring when the track temperature came down was promising. So I hope the weather will not be too warm…”
Another challenge all ALMS teams face this weekend is a much more limited amount of track time than what they got to open the year. The Paul Miller Racing team participated in pre-event test sessions and got a considerable amount of practice time in addition to several hours in endurance races at Sebring last month and Daytona in January.
That will not be the case this week. Miller and Maassen will get two hours of practice time from 7:15 to 9:15 a.m. PT on Friday morning and one driver will get another 15 minutes during the qualifying session on Friday afternoon at 5:20 p.m. local time. Their only track time on Saturday will be the two hours of racing from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. PT, so arriving with a good setup on the No. 48 Porsche will be crucial.
However, while there might not be a lot of track time, Long Beach represents one of the biggest markets the ALMS visits. The race is part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend for the IZOD IndyCar Series, and there will be plenty to do.
Miller, Maassen and the No. 48 Porsche team will partake in a pit stop competition as part of the Tecate Thunder Thursday on Pine Ave. in Long Beach. The event runs from 6:30 to 10 p.m. local time, and the pit stop competitions will go off at 6:45 and 7:45 p.m. In addition, Miller and Maassen will be part of an all-driver autograph session at the Paul Miller Racing team transporter from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
Friday’s qualifying session and Saturday’s race can both be seen live in the United States on ESPN3.com, with qualifying set to air at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, April 15 and the race broadcast set for 7:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 16. A tape-delayed telecast will also air on ESPN2 at 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 17.
Paul Miller Racing is among the top GT teams competing in North American sports car road racing. In 2011, the team will contest the full American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, as well as the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The team enjoys a long-standing relationship with Porsche and competes with the support of three international sponsors in Marquis Jet, IPC Information Systems and TOTAL Lubricants.
Follow the team on Twitter @paulmilleracing and @bryceracer and become a Facebook fan at facebook.com/paulmillerracing and facebook.com/brycemiller.net.
PHOTO: The Marquis Jet/TOTAL/IPC Porsche GT3 RSR during the 2011 ALMS season opener at Sebring last month. Credit: Bob Chapman/Autosport Image