IMSA Mid-Ohio: Taylor, Castroneves claim third straight win

Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves won their third straight IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race following a dominating run in Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio.

Taylor, driving the 2nd stint,  finished 0.607 seconds ahead of the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R of Felipe Nasr.

It marked the third consecutive win for Acura Team Penske at Mid-Ohio.

After dropping to the fourth position when the race began, Castroneves settled in and eventually moved into second place when his teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, briefly ran off track on lap 47.

Race strategist Tim Cindric made the decision to run two laps further than their chief competitor, the No. 31 Cadillac, on the second pit cycle of the race to allow the No. 7 Acura ARX-05 team to jump into the lead during the cycle despite making a driver change to Taylor during the pit stop.

From there, the No. 7 Acura team executed their strategy to perfection as Taylor beat the No. 31 to the finish line by two seconds to pick up the third win in as many seasons for Acura Team Penske at Mid-Ohio.

“I’m just so proud of everyone on the No. 7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 crew,” said Taylor

“Helio did a great job on the start of the race. It’s not easy starting on the outside, but he settled in and started to pick off positions gradually. That really set us up to jump the 31 car on pit lane.

“I thought we were the strongest car in the field on new tires, but the 31 was able to really put some heat on us late in the race on double-stinted tires. Hats off to everyone at Acura. Winning in their backyard is always important, always a race we circle on the schedule and I’m glad we were able to get the job done for them today.”

#7 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi, DPi: Helio Castroneves, Ricky Taylor, podium

Juan Pablo Montoya raced his way from fifth to third following the final restart until spinning with less than ten minutes to go and dropping to 7th.

Montoya found himself in the lead late in the race with teammate Ricky Taylor behind him. Taylor was able to get around on lap 79 prior to the final pit stop for the No. 6 Acura on lap 85. With fresh tires, Montoya was blazing fast around the tough Mid-Ohio circuit, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 109.

Unfortunately, just one lap later, Montoya spun on the entry to Turn 1. The spin resulted in severe handling issues that forced the team to retire from the race on lap 112, three laps from the finish.

It promoted the DPi championship-leading No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac of Renger van der Zande and Ryan Briscoe to third with the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P of Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell finishing fourth.

2nd place finisher Derani started fourth in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Action Express Cadillac DPi-V.R. When the green flag dropped, Derani passed the No. 55 Mazda and the No. 7 Acura on the opening lap to put himself P2, right behind the DPi leader. Derani held this spot for the first 45 laps.

On lap 46, the No. 6 Acura went off course in Turn 5. This allowed Derani to take over the race lead. From there, Derani continued to open up the gap before having to bring the No. 31 Cadillac to pit lane on lap 61 for tires, fuel and a driver change. That is when Nasr took the wheel.

While Nasr was on pit lane, waiting for the team to complete its service, the No. 7 Acura stayed out and inherited the race lead. In fact, the No. 7 Acura completed two additional laps before it made its pit stop. By staying out, the No. 7 Acura hoped it had gained enough track position to maintain the race lead by the time the No. 31 Cadillac completed its first lap following its pit stop. Unfortunately for the No. 31 crew, that strategy worked. The No. 7 returned to the track just in front of the No. 31 to retain the overall race lead.

Whelen Engineering Cadillac finishes a close second

Nasr spent the race’s final hour trying to pass the No. 7 for the lead. But, his efforts were to no avail. He just could not find the right opportunity to take the lead and finished second.

“I think that everyone on the entire No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac did a fantastic job today,” Derani said. “I started the race fourth. With a very nice move, I immediately moved up to second. A little bit later, I moved up to first when [Juan Pablo] Montoya made a mistake. Unfortunately, we lost the lead on the pit stop. But nevertheless, the team did a fantastic job. We managed to take some points away from the Championship leaders. We’re now just three points away. It’s the fourth podium in a row for the Whelen Engineering Cadillac, which is very positive. I think we did the best we could’ve today. Felipe did a fantastic job at the end, pushing the No. 7 to its maximum. But, we came up just short of the victory. We’re looking forward to the next one.”

“We had another strong run from the Whelen Engineering Cadillac and the whole Action Express Racing team,” Nasr said. “Pipo did an amazing job at the start, gaining a couple of valuable positions. It seemed the Acura had a little quicker [pit] stop. [The reason the Acura got out in front of us] had nothing to do with our team. They did a perfect job and strategy call. And, somehow, the Acura came out in front of us. When I got in the car, I was pushing. I was on it until the end. I made sure I had the Acura close by in case an opportunity [to pass] happened. But, it didn’t happen. We came up short this time. I’m happy with second place, but not satisfied. It shows we’ve had some strong runs the last few races. Taking home second place is important for the Championship and we still have three more races to go.”

Garcia, Taylor Lead Corvette 1-2 in GTLM

Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor scored their third GT Le Mans class victory in the last four races with a dominant run in GTLM.

Garcia in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R finished 1.472 seconds ahead of teammate Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette.

#3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R, GTLM: Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor

Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia controlled the day in GT Le Mans (GTLM) competition at the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, capturing their fourth win of the season and leading a 1-2 Corvette class finish in the seventh race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

Driving the No. 3 Corvette C8.R, Garcia crossed the finish line 1.472 seconds ahead of the No. 4 Corvette shared in the two-hour, 40-minute race by Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner. It marked the ninth Corvette victory on the 2.258-mile permanent road course in the last 20 years, but the first since 2012.

“The (No.) 3 car has been particularly strong all weekend,” said Taylor, who earned his 25th career IMSA victory but first at Mid-Ohio. “We led all four sessions. I think we just had a little bit of speed on them all weekend. The balance of the car was just really strong from the get-go. It says a lot for the team, coming here for the first time with the C8.R, with no testing, just simulator time and rolling off the truck so strong. … I think it’s hard to complain about anything at this point.”

After winning the GTLM pole in morning qualifying, Taylor surrendered the class lead to Gavin on the opening lap but regained the top spot from his teammate 25 minutes later and never looked back. The Corvettes held the rival BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTEs at bay all afternoon to complete their third 1-2 sweep this season.

The No. 3 Corvette has won four of the last six races in 2020. Taylor and Garcia expanded their points lead to 17 over Gavin and Milner, while Chevrolet pushed its advantage to 11 points over BMW in the manufacturer chase.

For Garcia, the result earned some satisfaction. He finished third at Mid-Ohio in 2018 and second last year, both times in the previous version Corvette C7.R. The Spaniard credited the mid-engine C8.R, which debuted in competition this season, for helping propel the victory on Sunday.

“Jordan did a fantastic job all day long, getting on pole and then getting a solid lead even if there were a ton of yellows,” said Garcia, who picked up his 21st career IMSA win and also his maiden Mid-Ohio victory. “When you are in that position, you are in control of the race. The C8.R worked perfectly again today. Not only on a quick lap but the consistency through the stint was the main thing. … The C7 was good as we proved over the years, but this is definitely a step forward.”

The No. 25 BMW driven by Bruno Spengler and Connor De Phillippi finished third, with the sister No. 24 BMW co-piloted by Jesse Krohn and John Edwards placing fourth. The Porsche GT Team, normally a two-car entry in GTLM, bypassed the Mid-Ohio weekend out of caution after members of its 24 Hours of Le Mans program tested positive for COVID-19. GTLM drivers Fred Makowiecki, Nick Tandy and Laurens Vanthoor all raced at Le Mans.

Lexus win in GTD

Lexus has come to own Acura’s track in WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) competition. For the third straight year, a Lexus won the class in the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio as the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 took the victory for the second consecutive year.

Jack Hawksworth has been in both AVS winning entries at Mid-Ohio, sharing the car in 2019 with Richard Heistand for the team’s first-ever IMSA triumph and this year with Aaron Telitz. It delivered the sixth career IMSA win for Hawksworth, the fourth for Telitz and allowed both to close in on points leaders Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry.

#14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC-F GT3, GTD: Jack Hawksworth, Aaron Telitz, podium

“We’ve been good here the best part of three years, it’s the nature of the circuit,” Hawksworth said. “The fast rolling corners seem to suit us. All three of those races have been pretty similar that we were battling the Acuras. Fortunately, we’ve been able to come out on top a few times.

“I’m just delighted, I really love this track. Two in a row for the team and absolutely stellar.”

The turning point for the No. 14 came with a critical strategy call late in the race. Telitz started first in GTD after winning the Motul Pole Award in morning qualifying and led until surrendering the point to McMurry in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 on the first round of stops. Telitz hounded McMurry for the next 45 minutes but couldn’t retake the lead.

When the No. 30 Team Hardpoint Audi R8 LMS stopped just off track with little more than an hour remaining, Telitz was ordered to pit before a full-course caution came out. The No. 86 lost track position when it had to pit under caution. Hawksworth led the rest of the way, edging across the finish line 0.858 seconds ahead of Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3.

“They seemed to have a bit faster car than us,” Telitz admitted of the Acura. “It was going to be tough to get around them on the racetrack. Mid-Ohio is a tough track to pass at in the first place, so unless you have quite a bit more speed on the other car, I just couldn’t get it done. I was just staying behind them and the only way we were going to get back out front was a strategy call, and that’s what happened for us.”

“The team did a fantastic job,” added Hawksworth. “They pitted us before that yellow came out. It was a brave move to make, and ultimately was what got us the lead at the end. It was awesome really to see the team execute such a good strategy.”

Race Results

1 1 7 DPi H. Castroneves / R. Taylor ACURA TEAM PENSKE Acura DPi 115
2 2 31 DPi F. Nasr / P. Derani Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi 115
3 3 10 DPi R. van der Zande / R. Briscoe Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R Cadillac DPi 115
4 4 55 DPi J. Bomarito / H. Tincknell Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi 115
5 5 77 DPi O. Jarvis / T. Nunez Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi 115
6 6 5 DPi J. Barbosa / S. Bourdais Mustang Sampling Racing / JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi 115
7 7 6 DPi J. Montoya / D. Cameron ACURA TEAM PENSKE Acura DPi 112
8 1 3 GTLM A. Garcia / J. Taylor Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R 110
9 2 4 GTLM O. Gavin / T. Milner Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R 110
10 3 25 GTLM B. Spengler / C. De Phillippi BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE 110
11 4 24 GTLM J. Krohn / J. Edwards BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE 110
12 1 14 GTD A. Telitz / J. Hawksworth AIM VASSER SULLIVAN Lexus RC F GT3 108
13 2 74 GTD G. Robinson / L. Aschenbach Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 108
14 3 16 GTD R. Hardwick / P. Long Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R 108
15 4 23 GTD I. James / R. De Angelis Heart Of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 108
16 5 86 GTD M. Farnbacher / M. McMurry Meyer Shank Racing w/Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 108
17 6 57 GTD A. Parente / M. Goikhberg Heinricher Racing w/MSR Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 108
18 7 44 GTD J. Potter / A. Lally GRT Magnus Lamborghini Huracan GT3 108
19 8 76 GTD C. Fergus / P. Holton Compass Racing McLaren 720S GT3 108
20 9 22 GTD T. Bechtolsheimer / M. Miller Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 107
21 10 12 GTD F. Montecalvo / T. Bell AIM VASSER SULLIVAN Lexus RC F GT3 87
22 8 85 DPi G. Aubry / T. Vautier JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi 86
23 11 96 GTD B. Auberlen / R. Foley Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 83
24 12 30 GTD R. Ferriol / S. Pumpelly Team Hardpoint Audi R8 LMS GT3 60