In stark juxtaposition to the incredibly meh 6 Hours of Spa on Saturday, this afternoon’s IMSA race provided infinitely more on-track action in less than half the time. The race held battles in all three categories, ultimately ending with a maiden victory for Acura in the prototype category, Porsche’s second win of the year in GTLM, and 3GT Lexus also victorious for the first time in the GTD class. Even better, the full two hour and 45 minute race stayed green flag for its full time.
Sports car anoraks like myself have been waiting for this day since the middle of last year, as Roger Penske’s Acura team fought head-to-head with Reinhold Joest’s Mazda team for the overall race laurels. For the first two hours or so, two of the most storied motorsport teams in the world were fighting tooth and nail, and despite Acura leading the race from Pole to Checkers, there was no point at which they could relax. Congrats to Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves for winning their first race for the new Acura Penske team.
Both Mazdas looked as strong as they had ever been, taking the fight directly to Acura with good pit stop work and incredible driving talent. The drama came to a head after an early race pit stop cycle washed out with the Acuras rejoining the circuit mere millimeters in front of the Soul Red Mazdas. The #55 Mazda was pushed wide exiting the keyhole corner by eventual race winner Ricky Taylor, which led to the car’s retirement with suspension failure (Update: a representative of the Mazda team has confirmed that the failure was actually a result of contact from an errant Mercedes GTD car). The #77 Mazda fell to third after Colin Braun—in a lap-down car—held up Oliver Jarvis for several laps, and the car was never really able to recover. I still can’t figure out what Braun was trying to prove.
In GTLM the racing was about as complex and convoluted as it always is. Representatives from all four manufacturers can be found in the first four finishers of the class. Porsche ended up winning the class battle with Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber—both of whom are flying to Germany for next weekend’s Nurburgring 24—in the car, but the win was by mere inches over the hard-charging BMW in the closing minutes. It was a real nail biter.
GTD was similarly close with a handful of last-lap passing attempts on the lead. This class wasn’t quite as closely matched, as it was largely a battle between the two Lexus and the two Acuras. Lexus stretched out an early lead, gaining almost 30 seconds of clear track over the Acuras in the first 30 minutes of the race, but they managed to claw it all back by the end. Jack Hawksworth put in a few great stints for Lexus, but it was the team car with Dominik Bauman aboard that would take the checkered flag with the very quick Alvaro Parente immediately behind in the second placed Acura.
To get an idea of what it’s like to race at Mid Ohio, here’s a lap with the Mike Shank-entered Acura in the rain with Parente driving.