Mother Nature threw another curve ball for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competitors Saturday at Mid-Ohio. After rain drenched the circuit on Friday, Saturday morning’s final one-hour practice session was run in chilly and overcast conditions, with the 46-degree temperature and lack of rubber buildup leading to slick areas on the track.
“It was really challenging, and not in a fun way,” said John Edwards, driver of the No. 24 Team RLL BMW M8 GTLM. “We were running the rain line in the dry, because the sealant patches had no grip. There is a massive amount of difference in the grip levels. Usually, the pavement and patches are close when it’s dry, but it was crazy this morning. If it stays dry, the sealant patches will build up rubber, especially in the Michelin Pilot Challenge race this afternoon.
Unfortunately, a change in the forecast now calls for rain during that race.
Helio Castroneves led the one-hour session, running 1m12.737s on his final lap in the No. 7 Team Penske Acura DPi. Teammate Dane Cameron was second, 1m13.563 in the No. 7 Acura.
The Penskes were followed by the two Action Express Racing cars. Joao Barbosa was third, at 1m13.851s in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R, followed by Pipo Derani, at 1m14.056s in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac.
Both the Whelen entry and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac turned their first laps at speed of the weekend, opting to sit out Friday’s wet sessions. Renger van der Zande was eighth overall, 1m15.435s in the Wayne Taylor Racing entry.
While the Team Joest Mazdas were 1-2 in Friday afternoon’s session – held in drying but slippery conditions – Oliver Jarvis was sixth in the No. 77 and Ryan Hunter-Reay ninth of 11 DPis in the No. 55.
Matt McMurry led the two LMP2 competitors with a lap of 1m20.365s in the No. 62 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA Gibson, good for 12th overall.
Ryan Briscoe put the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT at the top of GTLM on his final lap, 1m20.100s, followed by the Porsche GT Team of Laurens Vanthoor (1m20.138s in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR) and Patrick Pilet (1m20.162s in the No. 911).
Trent Hindman led GTD in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3, at 1m21.818s.
“The track is cool but very, very low grip,” said Mario Farnbacher, Hindman’s teammate who is racing at Mid-Ohio for the first time. “With these temperatures, the tires took forever to come in so we have to work the tires hard to get up to speed. It was my first time on track when it has been dry this weekend. It took me a while to understand the car’s characteristics to be able to position the car well – turn four through nine especially since it carries a rhythm of turn into turn. It has been a challenge and we are still a little off pace of a clean, dry track. The car may behave differently when the track is faster on race day. We still need to study the car and the track but our pace looks very good.”
Second in GTD was Richard Heistand, 1m21.879s in the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, followed by Lawson Aschenbach, 1m22.467s in the return of the No. 74 Lone Star Racing Mercedes-AMG to IMSA competition after a one-year hiatus.
The session had a pair of red flag periods – both for the No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. Townsend Bell went off in Turn 2 four minutes into the session and was mired in the wet grass. Co-driver Frankie Montecalvo suffered a similar fate at the 50-minute mark when he went off in the Carrousel.
UP NEXT: Qualifying is set to begin at 11:40 a.m. ET with a 15-minute session for the GTD competitors. GTLM is set to take time at 12:05 p.m., followed by the DPi and LMP2 at 12:30 p.m. Showers are forecast later this afternoon that may possibly impact the Michelin Pilot Challenge race at 1:45 p.m. ET.
The Acura Sports Car Challenge will take the green flag at 1:40 p.m. Sunday.