Acura takes overall honors, Porsche scores GTLM win

IMSA’s return to the scenic Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, has been a true rollercoaster, Acura enjoying a green light route to their first victory where they needed it most, at the venue sponsored by the luxury brand itself. It was the first time that IMSA raced at Mid-Ohio since 2012, a return that’s been long awaited by sports car racing fans across the land. All three classes were present with the grand total of cars reaching 34 including 14 prototypes. With the other 20 cars being GTs, there were worries of incidents on the tight and tumbling 2.25-mile-long road course during the race, as was the potential of rain that eventually evaporated.

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The Qualifying

IMSA Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio - Race Report
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The Acura-backed event saw the two Penske-entered and ORECA-based Acuras fight for pole position

The Acura-backed event saw the two Penske-entered and ORECA-based Acuras fight for pole position with Dane Cameron and Helio Castroneves trading first place all the way to the end of the 15-minute-long session. The two works Mazdas also looked strong, rebounding from some lackluster runs in practice. In the end, Brazilian Castroneves nicked pole from Cameron thanks to a lap of Mid-Ohio completed in just 1:11.837, just under 0.150-seconds quicker than Cameron. This was the first pole for the No. 7 Acura and the second on the trot for the team which also started from the first position at Long Beach thanks to Juan-Pablo Montoya’s stellar effort.

Row two was all Mazda with the two Joest-prepped RT24-Ps managing lap in the low and mid 1:12s, Oliver Jarvis slotting third next to Jonathan Bomarito. Joao Barbosa was sixth in the Mustang Sampling AXR Cadillac, while Gustavo Yacaman qualified seventh and quickest of the non-DPI cars in the PR1/Mathiasen Ligier.

IMSA Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio - Race Report
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The top three in GTLM were all in the same tenth, John Edwards being the fastest at his home track aboard the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE

The top three in GTLM were all in the same tenth, John Edwards being the fastest at his home track aboard the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE. The RLL-entered machine was clocked at just 1:17.853, while Nick Tandy managed a 1:17.919 to fill up the front row in his Porsche. The other M8 was third, followed by the other Porsche, while the two Corvettes sandwiched the Fords at the rear end of the grid.

The returning GTD class offered some very welcomed variety in qualifying, four different manufacturers making up the front three rows on Sunday’s grid. First was Briton Jack Hawksworth who fought to the dying seconds with team-mate Kyle Marcelli for pole, Marcelli ending up second for an all-3GT Racing lockdown of row number one. The No. 48 championship-leading Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini of Madison Snow was third, while Katherine Legge qualified the No. 86 MSR Acura in fourth. Bill Auberlen was back on BMW duty in the No. 96 Turner Motorsports M6 GT3, which qualified sixth. Will Turner’s previous last race at Mid-Ohio dated back to 2013 when the team’s M3 won in the Grand-Am GT class.

The first Mid-Ohio Sports Car Grand Prix in over half a decade provided a sunny atmosphere, green flag running, and exciting battles at all times. The series was right in its decision to return to Lexington.

Prototype

IMSA Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio - Race Report
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Acura’s dominance in qualifying translated into a perfect race, the No. 8 and No. 7 leading all of the 125 laps

Acura’s dominance in qualifying translated into a perfect race, the No. 8 and No. 7 leading all of the 125 laps that were contested in the two-hour-and-45-minute event. Their only opposition came from the two Mazda Team Joest entries, but those lacked some luck in traffic and the last bit of performance throughout the race. Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves walked away with the win after leading a massive 87 laps. Castroneves started aboard the No. 7 and managed to keep both Mazdas at bay during his stint, battling at the same time with team-mate Montoya in the No. 8.

After Castroneves left the car in Taylor’s hands, the defending champion drove the first bit of his stint at a slower pace to save fuel as the team opted for the car to make the middle stint a shorter one. That was, indeed, the case and Taylor made the undercut with 80 minutes to go, the move proving successful in giving him track position. Thereafter, with the Mazdas fading, it was plain sailing until the end in a race that saw no yellow flag stoppages. It was the first win for Castroneves in IMSA competition since Team Penske’s last stint in Le Mans-style endurance racing a decade ago with the Porsche RS Spyder in LMP2.

IMSA Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio - Race Report
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An incident at the start essentially ended the chances for both ESM Nissans

Oliver Jarvis looked to be the only one who could threaten the Cadillacs, but Tristan Nunez wasn’t quite up to speed in his stint and the No. 77 crew had to settle for a season-best third place finish. A strong finish was on the cards for the No. 55 before it was retired with suspension issues caused by an on-track collision with a slower GT car. More than half a minute adrift was the fourth place finishers Barbosa and Albuquerque who maintained their championship lead. The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac followed suite to complete the top 5. Sixth and seventh were filled by global LMP2 cars, Stephen Simpson in seventh notching up the fastest race lap in his unsuccessful bid to catch up to Sebastian Saavedra.

An incident at the start essentially ended the chances for both ESM Nissans – one ending up with damage, the other with a penalty – as well as the No. 85 “Banana Boat” JDC ORECA.

Prototype Class Top 5 Results

Pos No. Team Car Drivers Laps
1 7 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi Taylor / Castroneves 125
2 6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi Montoya / Cameron 125
3 77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi Nunez / Jarvis 125
4 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi Albuquerque / Barbosa 125
5 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R Cadillac DPi Taylor / Van der Zande 125

GTLM

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Variety was the name of the game in GTLM, where each team tried to play a different card

Variety was the name of the game in GTLM, where each team tried to play a different card in the second sprint-esque race of the season. Porsche came out on top, the No. 912 911 GTE of Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor winning from the No. 25 BMW of Connor de Philippi and Alexander Sims.

Bamber started from fourth but managed to stay in contact with the leaders, team-mate Vanthoor picking up the lead early on in his stint. The Belgian subsequently lost P1 as BMW opted to keep the No. 25 M8 GTE out for a long middle stint but eventually regained the lead after De Philippi pitted for the final splash of fuel. The American then started to reel Vanthoor in but ultimately came short of a victory, finishing over 1.5-seconds behind the mid-engined Porsche.

The No. 3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia finished third, while Ford completed the top 5 in what was a very exciting race with four manufacturers at the sharp end. The pole-sitting No. 24 BMW finished at the other end of the field after almost being involved in the first-lap incident.

GTLM Class Top 5 Results

Pos No. Team Car Drivers Laps
1 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR Bamber / Vanthoor 118
2 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE Sims / De Phillippi 118
3 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R Magnussen / Garcia 118
4 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT Mueller / Hand 118
5 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT Westbrook / Briscoe 118

GTD

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Acura was close to getting two wins from two as Meyer Shank’s Acuras proved racy all day at Mid-Ohio

Acura was close to getting two wins from two as Meyer Shank’s Acuras proved racy all day at Mid-Ohio, dueling hard with the 3GT Lexus cars entered by Paul Gentilozzi. The No. 15 car, which was the class pole-sitter, lost out on pitlane in favor of the No. 14 car, which led for much of the event thereafter. This meant that, just like in the Prototype class, one team led all of the laps although Lexus couldn’t deliver a 1-2 finish.

That’s because the No. 15 lost ground and finished fourth behind the No. 48 Lamborghini of Paul Miller Racing and the No. 86 Acura. The grey NSX of Alvaro Parente was glued to the rear of the winning Lexus in the final moments of the race, but the former Pirelli World Challenge champion from Portugal could not find even half of a door opened and settled for second alongside Katherine Legge. The other Acura finished fifth, while the BMW held station to come home sixth.

Wright Motorsport debuted its second 991 GT3 at this even, but the team walked away with a seventh and 11th place finish, respectively. It was also not the day of the Ferraris with the highest 488 GT3 coming in eighth. The Riley Mercedes was ninth and the sole Audi of Magnus completed the top 10 in what was a lackluster run for the John Potter-led operation.

GTD Class Top 5 Results

Pos No. Team Car Drivers Laps
1 14 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 Marcello / Baumann 116
2 86 Meyer Shank Racing / Curb-Angajanian Acura NSX GT3 Parente / Legge 116
3 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Sellers / Snow 116
4 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 Hawksworth / Heinemeier Hansson 116
5 93 Meyer Shank Racing / Curb-Angajanian Acura NSX GT3 Aschenbach / Marks 116

Full Results

Check out the full results from Mid-Ohio - https://sportscarchampionship.imsa.com/schedule-results/current-results?eventid=89&sessid=675

What’s Next

Up next in the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship is the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at the Belle Isle street course. The sprint race will take place in the first weekend of June.

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