The pace-setting pair start round six of this year's ALMS full of confidence and on a roll having taken the No.66 XM Radio de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-02a to three consecutive victories in Long Beach, Salt Lake City and most recently at Lime Rock in Connecticut. A fourth consecutive success in the upcoming Acura Sports Car Challenge would be even more significant for the Indianapolis-based team as, despite those wins, it's still holds second place in the title race and also as four major Honda/Acura plants are located close to the circuit in Ohio.
"Every race is crucial and it's important that we maintain our recent momentum at Mid-Ohio," confirmed driver and team owner Gil de Ferran. "Our failure to finish at the opening round at Sebring is still hurting us in the points table even though we have won more than twice as many races as the leaders. That said there's no point worrying about the championship at this stage; we just need to keep our heads down and do the best we can each weekend. It's a case of taking one race at a time and then seeing where we are closer to the end of the season.
"In the meantime, I'm looking forward to Mid-Ohio as this is always a home race for all the Honda and Acura folk. Consequently there's always huge support for us, which supercharges the atmosphere. We were very competitive at Mid-Ohio 12 months ago – it's a circuit that we understand well, so that bodes well for another strong performance," predicted de Ferran who has qualified on pole position on his last three visits to Mid-Ohio – when racing IndyCars in 2001 and 2002 and last year in the Acura ARX-01a LMP2 car.
Indeed the 41-year-old former Indianapolis 500 winner was well set for outright victory last year before an unfortunate refueling incident during a mid-race pit stop resulted in team member Keith Jones receiving serious burns.
"Thankfully 'Jonesie' is now back working full time with us. It will be undoubtedly an emotionally charged weekend for me personally and the whole team as it's the scene of what was a very traumatic event for us all," admitted de Ferran.
Pagenaud, the impressive 25-year-old Frenchman who shares the driving duties in the No.66 XM Radio de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-02a prototype, echoed de Ferran's sentiments. "The team is doing a great job but we must keep winning to maintain our challenge for the championship," he said. "Mid-Ohio is, in effect, our home race so this is a very important weekend for Acura. It's a very technical circuit with two fast corners, which should suit the ARX-02a. We had a good race there last year before the incident in the pits. Now it would be great if we could get a good result for Jonesie."
The Acura Sports Car Challenge kicks off a crucial run of three American Le Mans Series events in four weeks. The two hour 45 minute showdown is scheduled for 3:00pm EDT on Saturday 8 August and will be screened on NBC at 2:30pm. ET on Sunday 9 August.