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Penske Acuras Go 1-2 At Mid-Ohio

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 6 2018

The No. 7 Acura DPi car, driven by Ricky Taylor in the final stint, gave Team Penske its first victory of the season on Sunday at Mid-Ohio.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Team owner Roger Penske’s return to American sports car racing produced its first victory Sunday when Ricky Taylor pulled away from teammate Juan Pablo Montoya to win the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Taylor, who shares the drivers seat with three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, finished 8.4 seconds ahead of Montoya in the No. 6 Penske Acura ARX-5 DPi car, which was co-driven by Dane Cameron.

“I’m driving with one of the best organizations in the world, one of the best manufacturers in the world,” Taylor said. “We visited Acura’s factory for the NSX on Thursday (in Ohio) and really got to see all that goes into these beautiful cars, and it really gives you a good sense of pride.

“On top of that, to win for the first time back for Mr. Penske is outstanding and to start the month of May off for Helio with a win is awesome. There was so much pressure to get the car from him in the lead. He did an awesome job, so I had to fight to make his efforts worth it.”

It was Taylor’s first WeatherTech win since taking the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic on Detroit’s Belle Isle circuit last June alongside his brother, Jordan Taylor, in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. It was the brothers’ last of five consecutive wins together en route to the 2017 Prototype championship.

It was Team Penske’s first IMSA win in nearly 10 years, the last one coming at Utah Motorsports Campus near Salt Lake City, Utah, when Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas won in the No. 7 Porsche RS Spyder. It was the first IMSA win for an Acura-branded prototype since the end of the 2009 season, when Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud won at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in an Acura ARX-02 LMP1 car.

It was Castroneves’ first IMSA win since taking the LMP2 class win in the Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 4, 2008. That win came alongside Ryan Briscoe, who co-drove to a fifth-place finish in the GT Le Mans class on Sunday with Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT.
“That was great,” Castroneves said. “It started from the beginning, actually the front row, the No. 7 and the No. 6 (of Montoya and Cameron)were right there. Dane was really strong and put a lot of pressure on me, but in the end, it was a long race. I was taking it easy and making sure we made the numbers that we needed to make, and then I left it to my teammate here, Ricky, and what an incredible job he did.
“Not only making room and trying to find places around the track to pass people and keep cool, which that’s the toughest part. I was biting my nails back there, but in the end of the day, he brought it home in phenomenal style. I’m so glad to be part of this organization, it’s great for myself and Ricky to give the No. 1 victory for Acura and hopefully this is just the beginning.”

Mazda Team Joest DPis showed well Sunday.

Both the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P of Jonathan Bomarito and Spencer Pigot and the No. 77 of Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez challenged the pair of Acura DPis throughout the first half of the race.

The No. 55 car’s bid for the victory came to an end shortly after Pigot took over in the seat just past the halfway point in the race when the car’s suspension was damaged in side-to-side contact with a GT car. Nunez, however, kept up the fight and brought the No. 77 Mazda home in third place.

It was the first podium result for the new-for-2018 Mazda Team Joest operation and was the first Prototype podium for Mazda since a third-place run in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen last June.

Porsche notched its second GT LeMans victory of the season as Laurens Vanthoor, driving the No. 912 Porsche RSR survived a late-race challenge from the No. 27 BMW M8 driven by Connor De Phillippi.

Third in GTLM was the No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Jan Magnussen.

In total, Porsche led 90 of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class’ 118 laps on the day.
“We had really smart strategy that gave us the lead at the pit stop,” said Vanthoor, who picked up his first career IMSA win. “It gave us a good gap, but I had to try and control it a bit with the tires. I knew the guys behind me wanted to catch me, but I didn’t want to destroy my tires too much, which isn’t easy. It was a very stressful one and a half hours. I was happy when it was done and finally we won.
“I had to wait one-and-a-half years to get my first win. We’ve had some opportunities as well, but it always went wrong for some reason. Finally, it worked out and it’s a huge relief.”
It was Porsche’s second win in four GTLM class starts this season, with the No. 911 of full-time drivers Tandy and Patrick Pilet joining Frédéric Makowiecki in a victory in the Twelve Hours of Sebring in March.
While Porsche won the race, the No. 25 BMW M8 GTE of  De Phillippi certainly kept things interesting.
De Phillippi’s team utilized a different pit strategy that saw him lead late, before giving way to Vanthoor for good with 33 minutes remaining. He made a late charge in the closing laps, but ultimately finished second alongside co-driver Alexander Sims, matching the duo’s best finish of the season.
All eight cars in the class finished on the lead lap.
“This was a two-hour, 40-minute race and I think the top six or seven cars were covered by 28 seconds by the end of the race,” said Bamber. “I think that shows how great the BoP is and how great IMSA is doing. You can’t make a little mistake or you’re at the back. But that’s why we’re here, to race the best and make it a tight fight and we love it.”
Magnussen, who co-drove the Corvette with Antonio Garcia, seemed pleased with finishing on the podium.
“For how things developed, this is not a bad result,” Magnussen said. “Obviously we would like to have had the pace of the Porsche and BMW today but we kind of got in the middle of them, so only one of each got ahead. It was a good race… good strategy and good pit stops from the crew as usual. We had a good race car. It was all-around fun.”

In GT Daytona, Dominik Baumann got the victory in his Lexus RC F GT3. To get the win, Baumann had to beat back a final-lap challenge by Alvaro Parente in the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3. The gap was .191 seconds.

Jack Hawksworth in the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 scored the manufacturer’s second WeatherTech pole Award. While the drivers of the team’s other entry – Kyle Marcelli and Daniel Baumann in the No. 14 Lexus completed the 1-2 sweep of qualifying.
At the end of Sunday’s race, it was Marcelli and Baumann on the top of the podium after dominating the second half of the two-hour, 40-minute Acura Sports Car Challenge to deliver the historic first North American victory for the Lexus RC F GT3.
“This is a huge win,” said Marcelli, who also won overall in yesterday’s IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Mid-Ohio 120. “It’s always difficult to get the first one. There is always a lot of pressure. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself. This is the first sprint race of the season and I knew we had a strong car and a strong driver line-up and we needed to execute. I knew if we didn’t make a mistake then we should get a good result.
“It’s a team effort, the 3GT guys have worked so hard for two years. It’s the second year of the program, so it’s an honor to bring them the first win for 3GT and Lexus. (Going to Detroit), I guess you could say it’s a home race for the team, so again we’re probably going to put a lot of extra pressure on ourselves to go ahead and execute.”
Between the two Lexus racecars, 3GT Racing led every lap of Sunday afternoon’s race. Hawksworth and co-driver David Heinemeier Hansson led the first 43 laps and ultimately finished fourth, which also bested Lexus’ prior best finish of fifth up until Mid-Ohio.

(This story will be updated shortly)


| , RacinToday.com Sunday, May 6 2018
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