It made for great television, and Jack Hawksworth’s calm under intense pressure from Mario Farnbacher in the closing laps of Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car race at Mid-Ohio rewarded the fledgling AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus team its first IMSA victory.
Hawksworth’s GT Daytona-class Lexus RC F GT3 kept a hard-charging Farnbacher’s Acura NSX in his rearview mirror after stealing the lead on a restart with 30 minutes remaining in the 2h 40m Acura Sports Car Challenge.
Farnbacher never gave up, though, his Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 hounding the black and yellow Lexus all the way to the finish. On the final lap, Farnbacher pulled alongside briefly, but couldn’t complete the pass around the outside as Hawksworth protected the inside line.
The victory is Lexus’ third in IMSA GTD competition, the first coming, coincidentally, one year ago at Mid-Ohio. The AVS No. 14 was expected to be a strong contender, with Hawksworth’s co-driver Richard Heistand putting the car on the pole in qualifying on Saturday.
“I won my first race in the WeatherTech Championship (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 with a win,” said Hawksworth who spent much of that time in IndyCars. “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 such a pleasure to work alongside Lexus and drive with these great teams,” the British driver added. “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, with the Lexus and Acura strong on different sectors of the track.
Heistand was quick to give credit to his co-driver after the race.
“Jack did an unbelievable job,” said Heistand, who collected his first IMSA victory. “That pass on the restart — it was just incredible — [and] his pace at the end … What he does at the end of his stints is remarkable. Just look at the pace of the other cars at the end of the race.
“What Jack 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 ninth. By finishing second, though, the pair now hold a seven-point lead over the sister AIM Vasser Sullivan entry, the No. 12 of Townsend Bell and Frank Montecalvo.