Mid-Ohio: Audi reigns on Acuras parade
Luhr drove the last 1:55 with the same set of Michelin tires and one more stop for fuel. Werner started fifth on the grid but moved up to third on the first lap, was second on the third lap and took the lead for good when Werner passed pole-sitter Gil de Ferran's Acura ARX-01b a minute later.
Penske Racing's Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard won for the fourth straight year at Mid-Ohio and the third consecutive season in LMP2. Dumas held off a hard-charging David Brabham in the closing minutes – a flashback to last week's race at Lime Rock – and won by 0.609 seconds.
Scott Sharp, who started the race from the second place on the grid, drove the first stint, maintaining his position and handing off a strong car to his co-driver, David Brabham, about an hour into the race. Brabham, who finished the race, engaged in a fierce on-track contest for LMP2 class leadership, and made a clean pass of Patrick Long in the #6 Penske Porsche with just 14 minutes remaining . He then fought until the last second to overtake the #7 Penske Porsche, but the class victory was ultimately not meant to be for this young team from Connecticut.
Audi’s victory broke a string of two consecutive overall wins for Penske Racing and Porsche at Mid-Ohio. Werner and Pirro placed third overall last year in the first race for the diesel-powered R10 TDI at Mid-Ohio. Winter development and a better handling race car gave the big Audis and its drivers an easier time navigating the ups, downs and arounds at the track.
“This is not really a circuit for us and that makes this a sweet one,” Werner said. “The whole team was perfect. Over the off season we did some good testing with Michelin and made some good steps. We were really good on the street circuits as well. The combination we have is on the top level - a good tire and a good car.”
There also is something to be said for good pit strategy. The call for fuel only on the last stop and to keep the Michelins on saved Luhr and Werner 12 seconds in the pits compared to the other Audi. Given the final winning margin, it’s easy to say that the decision won the race.
“The engineers saw the performance of the car under the first safety car and again how good it was after the second one,” Luhr said. “They called over and said we were going to keep them on the car. I wasn’t sure at first but it really was the key for winning and a very good call.
“The first few laps after the safety cars I pushed like crazy to build a gap. If you go through traffic and have a lead like we did, you are just a little bit more relaxed and that makes the traffic seem not so bad. Things worked out and even on older tires I was able to pull away from the other cars. This was a perfect race and we are very happy.”
Penske Racing’s Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard won for the fourth straight year at Mid-Ohio and the third consecutive season in LMP2. Dumas held off a hard-charging David Brabham in the closing minutes - a flashback to last week’s race at Lime Rock - and won by 0.609 seconds.
“It was a big battle and very exciting today,” Dumas said. “It was not an overall victory but it was a very nice victory. All of our wins here have been very close and very tight. The track has been good for us and this is good for the championship.”
A week ago saw Brabham get by Bernhard with 90 seconds left at Lime Rock. Brabham got as close as 0.2 seconds in the waning moments again but ran off course slightly and could not make up the time.
“Our crew worked so well and we overtook the No. 9 car in the pits,” Bernhard said. “When you see a team work that professionally, that’s how you win races. This track is very technical and it has been excellent for Porsche. We are trying to keep that reputation up.”
Following Brabham and Scott Sharp, Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz placed third in their Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Acura, giving the home-standing marquee two of the three podium positions. Bernhard and Dumas lead the class championship by 28 points over Brabham and Sharp.
There was major drama in GT1 between Corvette Racing’s two Corvette C6.Rs. Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen won for the fifth time this season and fourth race in a row but a race down pit lane was the story of their day. Both cars pitted at the two-hour mark and left their pit boxes at the same time. O’Connell and Olivier Beretta raced to the pit exit, banging fenders and running a red flag in the process.
Beretta came out first but both cars were penalized a total of seven minutes and 40 seconds for the incident. Once they were back out, O’Connell made the winning pass with 25 minutes remaining.
“A lot of people might think that we are not a competitive group,” O’Connell said. “That was a situation that came out of the long yellow. It was two guys arguing for the same area of road. I thought it should have been mine and he thought it was his. It wasn’t hitting that hard. It was just like two buddies punching each on the arm.”
The victory gave O’Connell and Magnussen a 16-point lead in the championship over Beretta and Oliver Gavin. To say the stakes are at a high point would be an understatement.
“We are here to win,” Magnussen said. “We have to do our very best to beat them and make no mistakes. Sometimes it gets to this level. We are not parading around the track.”
Tafel Racing’s Dirk Mueller and Dominik Farnbacher won for the third time this season in GT2 by taking a dominating victory with their Ferrari F430 GT. Mueller took the checkered flag by 1:04.135 ahead of Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Johannes van Overbeek, who teamed with Patrick Pilet in the No. 46 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
Farnbacher started fourth and pitted from second place. The team beat the Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche out of pitlane and gained nearly a full lap on the rest of the GT2 field during the race’s first safety car period.
“The pit stop is a big opportunity to gain positions. It’s very hard for us to overtake,” Farnbacher said. “All the drivers are very professional and it’s hard to fight for positions. We have good luck all the time as well as good mechanics and pit strategy. If everything works together, then there is a chance for victory. That is what happened today.”
Class championship leaders Jörg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler finished third in class, just 0.459 behind their Flying Lizard teammates. Mueller and Farnbacher won for the first time since Long Beach in April and pulled to within four points of Bergmeister and Henzler.
“It wasn’t as close as St. Petersburg or Long Beach, that’s for sure,” Mueller said. “At the end it was about controlling the field and there was no reason to push. We did everything right and controlled things to the end.”
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