April's Long Beach Grand Prix marked the second time in as many years that the American Le Mans Series unloaded its high-powered racing show on the streets of the SoCal port city. For the Corvette contingent, the most notable development was the absence of the C6.Rs' only competition, the Aston Martin DBR9 of Bell Motorsports. The Aston had a major run-in with a GT2 Dodge Viper at the St. Pete race two weeks earlier and suffered significant damage to its lone chassis-damage that could not be repaired in time for the LBGP. This left the C6.Rs to once again battle it out amongst themselves for GT1 bragging rights.
The no. 3 vette had a minor setback during practice, experiencing a broken halfshaft. The break was especially disconcerting, as it was identical to the failure suffered by the car's stablemate at sebring a month earlier. Considering that the no. 4 car was eliminated from last year's 24 hours of le mans with a broken driveshaft, it was clear that a thorough driveline analysis of both cars would be required prior to the race at la sarthe.
Qualifying, by contrast, went well for both Corvettes. Jan Magnussen was on a tear, shattering the class qualifying record by almost 0.5 second and taking the pole position in 1:17 (about a half-second quicker than the No. 4 car.) The LMP2 Porsche Spyders of Penske Racing, meanwhile, landed the overall pole and took the first five positions on the starting grid. In GT2, the Flying Lizard Porsche 911s grabbed the front row, relegating the Risi Competizione Ferrari 430GT to third.
Race day would prove a long one for the competitors, with the ALMS program not scheduled to get underway until 4:00 p.m. When the green flag finally did drop, the LMP2 Porsches drag-raced to the first corner and dived into first and second positions. Establishing a lead early is critical at Long Beach, since the street course offers precious little room for passing. The only question was whether the more powerful Audi R10 TDIs would have enough extra grunt to run down the yellow-and-red, DHL-liveried Penske cars and slip past them before the checkered flag fell.
Lucas Luhr was the first Audi pilot to claw his way up through the order, eventually putting a wicked pass on one of the Penske Porsches going into Turn 1. Horsepower and light weight had served the Porsches well in qualifying, but the immense torque of the Audi diesels was proving to be an invaluable trait on the tight Long Beach layout. The R10s eventually took over first and second positions, a formation they would hold to the finish of the 100-minute timed race.
With no class competition to worry about, the Corvette Racing crews looked upon the pit stop as one place to establish team bragging rights. When both cars entered pit lane at the same time, the contest was on. Unfortunately, an ALMS official found himself directly in Magnussen's entry path. He managed to jump out of the way, slightly clipping the No. 3 car's right front, but landed right in front of Ollie Gavin in the No. 4 car. Gavin had to stop short, delaying the start of his pit session. Magnussen, too, had to get on the binders early to avoid mowing down the official. Despite the challenge, both crews flew into action and quickly had the cars ready to roll. Johnny O'Connell got out just ahead of Olivier Beretta, and off went the two cars in the same order as they had entered. The rest of the race passed without incident, with No. 3 and No. 4 taking First and Second in class, respectively.
The LMP2 class turned out to be a real barn-burner, with the Acura of David Brabham catching up to the Penske Porsches late in the race. With a banzai dive under Romain Dumas' Spyder in the waning minutes, Brabs took First Place in class and Third overall. GT2 was equally thrilling, as the upstart Tafel Ferrari team took advantage of a Risi pit-stop miscue (the car would not restart) to take its second class victory in a row. Driver Dirk Mueller just squeezed past the Flying Lizard Porsches in what was the closest finish in ALMS GT2 history.