Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Bamber Seals Mid-Ohio Victory for Porsche

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The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s second visit to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course saw all four classes back in action for the first time since March and ended with a Porsche in victory lane for the third consecutive race thanks to pit stop strategy and a spirited end-of-race drive from Earl Bamber.

While the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR Bamber shares with Laurens Vanthoor missed out on starting from the GT Le Mans pole, the car was competitive and inside the top three throughout the two-hour, 40-minute race.

Pole sitter Sebastien Bourdais lost the lead early, giving it up first to Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R but a driveline issue eventually dropped that car out of contention. The sister No. 3 Corvette piloted by Antonio Garcia then took over the lead and held a six-second advantage over Bamber near the the halfway mark of the race.

Pit stop strategy flipped the two class leaders, causing Bamber to emerge as the leader with just over an hour to go. The Porsche only relinquished the lead during the final round of green-flag pit stops and survived a late-race caution for Colin Braun’s Nissan-powered DPi in the Turn 4 gravel.

Bamber went on to take the checkered flag with a 2.340-second advantage over Garcia, securing the third consecutive victory for the Porsche GT Team and the second in a row for the No. 912 machine.

Earl Bamber apexes hairpin turn of Long Beach IMSA circuit
Consecutive wins at Long Beach and Mid-Ohio have kept the No. 912 Porsche in the GTLM title hunt. | Photo: Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media

The victory gave Bamber and Vanthoor a seven-point advantage in the GTLM standings over Garcia and Jan Magnussen, who placed second in both the race and the points.

Overcoming an early penalty for jumping the start, the No. 911 Porsche crossed the finish line in the third position with Nick Tandy behind the wheel, 3.762 seconds in arrears of Bamber. Like the first two finishers, Tandy and co-driver Patrick Pilet matched their race result with their position in the drivers’ championship after four rounds.

Tom Blomqvist brought the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE he shares with Connor De Phillippi to the finish in the fourth position ahead of Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 Ford GT. John Edwards and Dirk Mueller added BMW and Ford machinery to the top seven while the No. 4 Corvette never recovered from its trip behind the wall for repairs, finishing eighth in class and 11 laps behind Bamber.

Late-Race Pace Secures GTD Victory for Lexus

This year’s visit to Mid-Ohio was Meyer Shank Racing’s to lose after both Trent Hindman and Mario Farnbacher delivered drives in the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 that were the class of the field, but the late caution collected the field and allowed AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth to take the GT Daytona lead on the restart and cruise to the checkered flag.

Despite starting ninth in class after a challenging qualifying session, Hindman drove through the field and took the lead just 13 minutes after the start. The dominance continued once Farnbacher took over: The car held a 13.5-second advantage over Hawksworth after final stops were complete.

The caution eliminated Farnbacher’s advantage and compelled Hawksworth to pounce. Once out front, Hawksworth’s No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 was dogged by the Acura over the final 23 minutes but Farnbacher was unable to execute a pass. The battle continued through the final lap, with Hawksworth coming to the finish line 0.598 seconds in front of Farnbacher. The result delivered the second consecutive victory for Lexus at Mid-Ohio despite the cars being run by a different team.

It took just three races for AIM Vasser Sullivan to celebrate a GTD victory as Hawksworth earned his first WeatherTech Championship win since his debut race in the series with Prototype Challenge team RSR Racing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014.

Jack Hawksworth in AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus at Mid-Ohio
Jack Hawksworth and Richard Heistand put AIM Vasser Sullivan on top at Mid-Ohio. | Photo: Jake Galstad / IMSA

On the strength of the second-place finish, Hindman and Farnbacher take over the GTD championship lead with a four-point advantage over the No. 12 Lexus.

With only the top two on the lead GTD lap, Bryan Sellers finished third in Paul Miller Racing’s Lamborghini ahead of Patrick Long and Townsend Bell who collectively added a Porsche and a second Lexus to the top five.

Several GTD competitors ran into issues during the race, including Scott Hargrove whose hard crash into the Turn 1 wall relegated his Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R to a 12th-place finish ahead of Matt Plumb in the No. 76 McLaren 720S GT3 which endured multiple spins during its IMSA debut at Mid-Ohio.

Both Riley Motorsports’ Mercedes-AMG GT3 and Turner Motorsports’ BMW M6 GT3 retired from the race in separate on-track incidents, neither of which resulted in a full-course caution.

The WeatherTech Championship will be back in action June 1 at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park, where DPi and GTD competitors will contest a 100-minute race in Detroit. The GTLM battle will pick back up June 30 with the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.

Ben Hinc
Ben Hinchttp://www.benhinc.com
Ben's executive editor title is purposefully broad to encompass the bottomless list of roles he fills for The Apex, which includes webmaster, graphic designer, quality consultant and writer. Ben's technical background and progressive media distribution approach set The Apex apart technologically and philosophically.

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