Momentum can mean everything in racing, and when you have it you don’t want to let it go. Such is the case for Porsche, who continued its dominant stretch in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class this season with its third consecutive victory in the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio.
Points leaders Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor co-drove to their second consecutive win in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR, beating the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia and co-driver Jan Magnussen to the stripe by 2.340 seconds.
The Porsche duo also won one race ago on the streets of Long Beach, while the team’s No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet won at Sebring International Raceway in March.
“I think we need to keep pushing forward,” said Bamber. “We’ve found a good rhythm, especially on our car. We’ve got a new engineer this year, so every race we’ve been getting stronger and stronger as a crew. Last year was a tough year, so we had to bring a bit of tools to get ourselves into the game, and this year we’ve been executing well.”
With the win, Bamber and Vanthoor have opened up a seven-point lead in the championship standings, 126-119, over Garcia and Magnussen – the defending GTLM champions – and nine points on their teammates Tandy and Pilet.
Porsche’s hot start hasn’t just been on race day, either. The manufacturer entered the Mid-Ohio weekend with poles in all three races to date but fell one spot short in qualifying Saturday when Vanthoor qualified second.
Despite going winless so far in 2019, the No. 3 Corvette Racing team is lurking with the type of consistency that has made it a perennial GTLM stalwart with its third consecutive podium finish. The team led much of the middle part of the race before pitting from the lead with just over one hour remaining. During the sequence of pit stops, however, the No. 912 took advantage of less lap traffic to make up enough ground to inherit the lead, pacing the final 38 laps.
“From where we started to where we finished, today was a good result and good for the championship,” said Magnussen. “At the beginning for me, the balance wasn’t great and I had little grip. We made some adjustments for Antonio, and as the track built some rubber into it, things got somewhat better. So, we’re happy with P2. But we really need a win. I don’t know what we need to do, but we need a win.”
It was an impressive comeback for the No. 911 Porsche after the team was issued a drive-through penalty for jumping the start of the race. Pilet and Tandy ran flawlessly from that point forward, marching through the field despite the race not seeing a yellow flag until 34 minutes remaining.
On the final restart, Tandy slipped to fourth behind the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 of Tom Blomqvist but was able to get back around the BMW to secure the final podium position in the final few minutes. Blomqvist and his co-driver Connor De Phillippi finished fourth, while the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe finished fifth to make it four different manufacturers in the top-five.
The GTLM class now goes into its summer break with a number of its teams and drivers preparing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The next Weather Tech Championship event with the GTLM class in it is the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on the weekend of June 27-30.
Hawksworth Hits Marks in Final Minutes to Give AIM VASSER SULLIVAN First IMSA Win with Lexus
Jack Hawksworth proved to be calm under intense pressure on Sunday afternoon at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to send AIM VASSER SULLIVAN to victory lane for the first time in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Driving the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 in the GT Daytona (GTD) class, Hawksworth kept a hard-charging Mario Farnbacher in his rearview mirror after stealing the lead from him on a restart with 30 minutes remaining in the two-hour, 40-minute Acura Sports Car Challenge.
Farnbacher didn’t relent, though, keeping Hawksworth within striking distance of his No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 machine. On the final lap, Farnbacher was able to pull along the driver side of the Lexus, yet couldn’t complete the pass on the outside line.
The victory is Lexus’ third in IMSA GTD competition, with the first coincidentally coming one year ago at Mid-Ohio. The No. 14 was expected to be a fierce competitor on Sunday, with Hawksworth’s co-driver Richard Heistand placing the car on the pole during qualifying on Saturday.
“My first race in the WeatherTech Championship I won (2014 Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Prototype Challenge class), and then I went on the biggest dry spell of all-time, so it’s nice to be back in a win,” said Hawksworth. “I was a part of the team last year when they won here and I’ve had some great times in the Lexus RC F over the last three years. It’s a pleasure to work alongside Lexus and drive with these great teams. I’ve had a lot of poles and fastest laps and I’ve had a lot of fastest cars, but it just never happened. But this race, it just all came together.”
Hawksworth described his battle with Farnbacher as a cat-and-mouse game, seeing the Lexus and Acura having strengths at different sectors of the track. Heistand was quick to give credit to his co-driver following the race for holding off the Acura.
“Jack did an unbelievable job,” said Heistand, who earned his first IMSA victory. “That pass on the restart, it was just incredible. His pace at the end, people don’t realize this Lexus at the end of the stint is hard compared to the other cars with the tires. What he does at the end of the stint is remarkable. Just look at the pace of the other cars at the end of the race there. What he did was incredible. I’m thrilled.”
It was a bittersweet runner-up finish for Farnbacher and co-driver Trent Hindman, who led a class-high 85 laps after starting from the ninth position. Hindman and Farnbacher, however, now hold a seven-point lead over the other AIM VASSER SULLIVAN entry, the No. 12 of Townsend Bell and Frank Montecalvo.
The No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Scott Hargrove and Zach Robichon was poised for its first podium finish of the season until bad luck struck the team again. With under seven minutes remaining, and running third at the time, Hargrove’s Porsche slid off the track into the gravel and was unable to continue. The team ultimately finished 12th.
Capitalizing on the Porsche’s bad luck was the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Bryan Sellers and Ryan Hardwick. It is the team’s first top-10 finish of the season.
A television re-air of the Acura Sports Car Challenge will be shown on NBCSN on Wednesday, May 8 at 3 p.m. ET.
The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship takes place at the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle Park. The 100-minute Chevrolet Sports Car Classic is set for Saturday, June 1 at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN with live coverage also available via IMSA Radio on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio. Tickets are available now on DetroitGP.com.