At the start, polesitter Dane Cameron retained his advantage but Acura Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves was jumped by Action Express Racing’s Cadillac piloted by Pipo Derani and Jonathan Bomarito of Mazda. By Lap 20, Cameron had pulled a 5sec advantage over Derani, but 14sec on Bomarito who occasionally felt some pressure from Castroneves but always seemed to have the pace to ease away. A further three seconds back ran Ryan Briscoe in the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac, while JDC Miller Motorsports’ Sebastien Bourdais tried to get past Oliver Jarvis (Mazda) in traffic but didn’t have the acceleration to do so.
Jarvis was the first of the prototypes to stop, on Lap 22, just before the half-hour point of the 2hr40min race but a couple of laps later the #77 Mazda spun at the penultimate corner after contact with Robby Foley’s Turner Motorsports BMW M6. Foley’s broken car had missed the pitlane entrance and stopped on track, bringing out the first caution period.
In the subsequent pitstops, Juan Pablo Montoya took over the #6 Acura from Cameron, Derani stayed aboard the #31 AXR Caddy, while Penske got Castroneves out ahead of Bomarito to claim third. Briscoe, Bourdais, Gabriel Aubry (DPi debut in second JDC-Miller Cadillac) and the now-lapped Jarvis completed the eight-car class, although the Mazda driver was given a stop-and hold penalty for the collision with Foley’s BMW. Throwing further salt in Mazda’s wound was a drive-through penalty for Bomarito for leaving the pits with equipment still attached.
Montoya initially struggled on cold tires but eventually eased away from Derani, who found himself under increasing pressure from Castroneves and (following Bomarito’s demotion) Briscoe.
Then just past the one-hour mark, Montoya understeered off the track exiting Turn 5 while on the outside of a GTD car and bumped over the grass, rejoining third behind the Derani vs Castroneves battle. However, out of precaution, Montoya pitted, promoting Wayne Taylor Racing into a provisional podium spot ahead of the two JDC Miller Cadillacs. Montoya would return to action some 25sec behind Bomarito who by now had recovered sufficiently from his penalty to run 1.5sec behind Aubry.
Derani pitted after 1h22min, his 62nd lap to hand off to Felipe Nasr. Castroneves went two laps longer before pitting and relinquishing to Ricky Taylor, and that extra lap gave the #7 Acura the lead (effectively), although Montoya’s earlier unscheduled pitstop had allowed him out front.
Harry Tincknell who had taken over the #55 Mazda rejoined still behind the #85 JDC Miller car now driven by Tristan Vautier, but Tincknell – in his first ever race at Mid-Ohio – would have to serve a drive-through penalty for co-driver Bomarito speeding in pitlane on his in-lap. A truly wretched day for Mazda. JDC’s pitstops, meanwhile, had not only been strong enough to keep the #85 ahead of the Mazda, but had also put Bourdais’ #5 Cadillac ahead of the WTR #10 now steered by Briscoe’s co-driver Renger van der Zande.
That deficit was heavily reduced by another full-course caution for a GTD clash, and Multimatic took the opportunity to stop Tincknell again for a fuel top-up. Montoya, meanwhile, was left out in front of the pack.
Soon after the restart, Montoya allowed Taylor through into the lead, and with 45mins to go, the Prototypes made their final pitstops, most of them for fuel only, but the exception was of course the #6 Acura, as JPM took on new tires too. He emerged in fifth, ahead of the JDC Miller cars which had given up their superb performances on pitlane, with Joao Barbosa – taking over from Bourdais – only sixth. The squad’s day got worse when Vautier’s Cadillac lost power exiting Turn 1 with 38mins to go, bringing out the third caution of the day.
Thus the next restart would see Taylor trying to hold off Nasr, van der Zande, Tincknell, Montoya (on fresh tires) and Barbosa. It was a clean restart with 28mins to go and they remained in this order, but Nasr wasn’t letting the lead Acura escape, the gap only opening up as they hit traffic.
With 15mins to go, the other Acura was applying the pressure, and taking advantage of Tincknell behing held up by a GTD car, sent the #6 ARX-05 around the outside of the Mazda in the penultimate corner which gave him the inside for the final turn. Fourth place was his. With his fresher tires, Montoya soon closed down van der Zande in the WTR Cadillac. With 10mins to go, Montoya dived down the inside of the Cadillac at Turn 2 to grab third. However, just a couple laps later, and just after setting the fastest lap of the race, JPM lost it on entrance to Turn 1 when he dropped his right-rear in the grass on turn-in, and he dropped to the back of the class and made a precautionary pitstop.
Tincknell was now all over van der Zande but the battle for third place was resolved in WTR’s favor – by half a second. Fifteen seconds up the road, Taylor delivered his and Castroneves’ third straight victory and drew to five points of Briscoe/van der Zande’s point lead. Barely more than half a second behind was Nasr, whose co-driver Derani is now just one point from the championship lead. Mazda salvaged fourth and fifth, Tristan Nunez having gotten ahead of Barbosa.
GT Le Mans
The class in which only four cars were running had some further heat taken out of the fight when Jesse Krohn ran straight on at Turn 4 into the sand trap and immediately lost 20sec to the others.
Those were intitially led by Oliver Gavin in the #4 Corvette C8.R but polesitting teammate Jordan Taylor kept the pressure on, until Lap 18 when his efforts paid off. Gavin braked a little too deep at Turn 4 and in the next three turns the #3 Corvette pulled alongside and past. Gavin quickly fell 4sec back and found himself under pressure from the #25 BMW, driven by Bruno Spengler.
The #24 BMW was pulled back into contention by the first yellow, and following the restart Krohn’s co-driver John Edwards got ahead of Spengler’s co-driver Connor De Phillippi to pursue the #4 Corvette, now driven by Milner.
The second caution and pitstops saw Antonio Garcia take over from Taylor and retain the #3 car’s lead ahead of Milner, while De Phillippi’s #25 BMW this time emerged ahead of Edwards’ #24.
This order remained the same to the checkered flag, Garcia being careful to keep Milner at arm’s length.
Pole winner Aaron Telitz in the AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus retained his advantage at the start and eased away from Matt McMurry who in turn pulled some 6sec clear of Meyer Shank Racing Acura teammate Misha Goikhberg, the Turner Motorsports BMW M6 of Robby Foley and Till Bechtolsheimer in the Gradient Racing Acura. Behind, Ian James ran sixth in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage. The big loser had been Frankie Montecalvo who fell out of contention needing repairs to the front left fender of the second Lexus RC F.
Then Foley was knocked into retirement by the clash with Jarvis’ Prototype Mazda, and the pitstop under yellow saw Telitz lose out to McMurry. The battle between these two following the restart saw them swiftly stretch away from Goikhberg, who was chased by the HoR Aston and Compass Racing’s McLaren 720S driven by Corey Fergus. The latter had done a fine job making up for having to start at the back of the field following a ride-height infringement in qualifying, and in this second stint he ran ahead of Bechtolsheimer and applied pressure to James.
McMurry and Telitz, were in another world during the second stint, their battle being not just for the race win but also the GTD title, as they are first and second in the championship.
Another yellow with 67mins remaining was caused by Andy Lally’s Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracan accidentally punting Rob Ferriol’s Hardpoint Racing Audi R8 into the tires exiting Turn 6 as they dueled over sixth place.
The subsequent pitstops saw AVS get the #14 Lexus RCF’s pitstop absolutely right and Telitz’s co-driver Jack Hawksworth was sent out into the lead, while the big winner was Compass Racing which put the McLaren into second – now with Paul Holton at the wheel – ahead of Mario Farnbacher who’d replaced McMurry in the #86 MSR Acura. Fourth (another strong stop) was the Riley Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3 of Lawson Aschenbach, chased by Pat Long’s Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Following the restart, Farnbacher pulled alongside Holton to take second, but the McLaren driver bashed him three times down the front straight, and the subsequent damage cut down the Acura’s right front tire, sending Farnbacher into the sandtrap at Turn 1 and limping around to the pits, thereby tumbling to ninth in class. The loss of momentum for both cars allowed Ashcenbach’s Mercedes into second. When Holton inevitably was given a stop-and-hold penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, Long’s Wright 911 moved into third, ahead of Roman De Angelis who’d taken over the Heart of Racing Aston from James.
With a dozen minutes to go, Hawksworth was running 1.4sec ahead of an entertaining scrap between Aschenbach’s Mercedes and Long’s Porsche for second, but the Riley Mercedes driver held firm, and was actually within one second of the victorious Lexus at the flag.
Farnbacher did an ace job of damage control, with teammate Alvaro Parente in the #57 MSR machine letting him through to clinch fifth at the checkered flag, behind de Angelis in the Aston Martin.