After a 5-year break, the highest ranked US sports car racing series was back at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course near Lexington.
While especially the Friday was wet, the weather on Saturday and Sunday for the fourth round of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship 2018 was a lot better.
Acura Team Penske had qualified 1-2 followed by the two Mazda Team Joest cars with #7 ahead of #6, #77 and #55.
In the GTLM category we had BMW Team RLL #24 on Pole ahead of Porsche #911 and BMW Team RLL #25.
In GTD it was 3GT Racing Lexus #15 ahead of the sister car #14 and the Paul Miller Racing Porsche #48.
Mazda #77 tried to grab second going into Turn 1, but the two Acuras fended it off.
Tequila Patron ESM #2 was part of a pile-up on the first lap, so they got damage to their rear end. They pitted early for new tires, but sent the car back out.
The other ESM #22 received a drive-through penalty for starting the mess, and for hitting the JDC-Miller Motorsports #85, which spun and rejoined at the back of the field.
Porsche #911 and #912 managed to get to the front in GTLM, while 3GT Racing kept #15 and #14 at the front of GTD.
Mazda Team Joest #55 got past #77 when the latter was caught up in some GT traffic.
The gaps between top 3 in the Prototype category was going up and down, depending on how the cars hit the traffic. Sometimes the #55 was right on the rear bumper of the Acura’s, but then they extended the gap again, once they got into clear air.
The two Mazda cars swapped during the pitstops, and so did the Acuras when they had their first stop. So the new order was #6, #7, #77 and #55. But it didn’t last long before #7 was behind both Mazda cars.
One hour into the race we saw Mazda Team Joest #55 having a trip through the grass, dropping down to 4th.
Porsche #912 had taken the GTLM lead from #911, while Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 was ahead of #66 in third and fourth.
In GTD we saw a swap between the two Lexus’, while Michael Shank Racing Acura #86 had made it into third.
Oliver Jarvis in the Mazda Team Joest #77 was caught behind Colin Braun in the CORE autosport #54 about midway through the race. Braun was two laps down, but still blocked Jarvis for several laps, creating a gap of almost 5 seconds between Jarvis and the leading Dane Cameron in the Acura Team Penske #6.
Acura #6, Mazda Team Joest #55 and #77 all pitted together – while Acura #7 had grabbed the lead of the race.
With just over an hour left of the race, Alvaro Parente in the Michael Shank Racing Acura #86 made it past David Heinemeier Hansson in the 3GT Racing Lexus #15, in the fight for second. 3GT Racing Lexus #14 was still leading GTD.
Corvette Racing #3 slowly came to life, and started pressuring Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 under pressure , after having already passed #66. Antonio Garcia started sniffing a podium position, and the team really wanted that.
BMW Team RLL #25 showed an impressive fuel economy, and drove much further than the other GTLM cars. They were able to wait all the way until 33 minutes before the chequered flag to do their final stop. They rejoined in second, behind Porsche #912 and right front of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67, Corvette #3 and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66.
There was a bit of rubbing between Acura Team Penske #6 and Tequila Patron ESM #22, when Juan Pablo Montoya was about to lap Pipo Derani. When the pair should overtake a GTD car, the two banged wheels – luckily nothing more happened, after going three-wide.
Impressive enough all 2 hours and 40 minutes were run under green flag, without any break, or off track moments other than a bit of scratching in the grass edges. Very impressive since the track is quite narrow and difficult to overtake on.
Acura Team Penske took a 1-2 victory with #7 ahead of #6, while Mazda Team Joest #77 took their first podium of the year. Ricky Taylor was Penske driver number 50 to win for Team Penske, while his teammate Helio Castroneves just added another one to the collection. It was the first victory for Acura in the Prototype category – very fitting at the event named Acura Sports Car Challenge.
In GTLM we had Porsche #912 winning ahead of BMW Team RLL #25 and Corvette Racing #3. Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor took the first victory of the car, following the #911 winning Sebring early in the year.
The GTD category was won by the 3GT Racing Lexus #14 with Dominik Baumann and Kyle Marcelli, which was the first victory for Lexus in the IMSA class – in fact the very first podium for the team.Michael Shank Racing Acura #86 finished second ahead of Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48.
Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 leads the Prototype ranks, ahead of teammates Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 and Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10. Both Acura Team Penske #7 and #6 aren’t far behind – but with CORE autosport #54 splitting the two.
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 leads GTLM ahead of Porsche #912 and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66, while Corvette Racing #4 and #3 are 4th and 5th.
GTD is led by Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48, ahead of Michael Shank Racing Acura #86 and Mercedes AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33.
The next round of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be run in Detroit on 2 June – but with Prototype and GTD only, since most of the GTLM will be in France for the Le Mans test day.