As happened a year ago, a restart decided the outcome of the Lexus Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio, and once again it was the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura that made the winning move. Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque scored their second consecutive victory at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and the second consecutive win of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season as they took control of the points lead.
Sebastien Bourdais had put the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac on pole for the 2h40m race around the 2.258-mile, 13-turn circuit, a bit of a surprise on a track that has been largely dominated by Acura in the DPi era. But Albuquerque swept into the lead from outside the front row and began to pull away. Traffic allowed Bourdais to close the gap, and on lap 10, as Albuquerque was checked up by GTD traffic, Bourdais dove inside at the Keyhole and with a bit of door-banging, took the lead. The No. 01 would remain out front until the only caution of the race came at 1h14m into the race for Rasmus Lindh spinning and stalling the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier LMP3.
Renger van der Zande did NOT want to give up the lead!
Ricky Taylor gets by him and the No. 01 spins #IMSAatMO
— Motorsports on NBC (@MotorsportsNBC) May 15, 2022
On the restart, Taylor, who had already been in the WTR car for a stint, attacked Renger van der Zande, freshly installed into the CGR car. He got inside him in the Keyhole, but couldn’t get fully alongside, then got a good run out of the corner toward Turn 4. Going outside of van der Zande in Turn 4 put him on the inside for Turn 5, and that’s where things went wrong for the CGR squad.
Taylor ran van der Zande wide on the exit, and the Cadillac got loose as the right-side tires were on the curb. The Cadillac’s tail shot sideways, and the left front of the nose hit the Acura, throwing the Cadillac into a spin. Van der Zande recovered and continued, but the No. 01 wouldn’t be a further factor in the race.
“Our strong point today was the first few laps on new tires,” explained Taylor. “On top of that, I think Renger was fresh in the car. You know, it’s always easier when you’re hot and you’ve already done a stint so I knew I had that little edge driving-wise. I knew the track conditions, I knew the marbles, I knew the brake points.
“I saw him come off of the last corner after the restart and get massive wheelspin and he’d got a lot of pickup on the tires, so I knew I had to go for it and trusted the car on the outside. I honestly thought I was going to go straight off, then the car hooked up right at the end. Then we had the rest of the fight up the hill. I was just relieved that we pulled it off and we were able to hold on for the win.”
Van der Zande was philosophical about the incident, knowing that getting the tires working quickly was WTR’s strong suit, and Bourdais had predicted before the race that it could be a trouble spot.
“I think Seb did a fantastic job putting it in the lead,” said van der Zande. “When I got in I struggled with the tires on the restart. I tried to keep the position in first but lost control of the car by a little touch. It’s tough to keep a fast car behind when dealing with low grip. It’s a shame. I think we had a good shot at winning with a good car and a good strategy.”
After that, Taylor’s closest challenger was Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian Acura he took over from Oliver Jarvis. Blomqvist could never get close enough to attack, though and ended up following Taylor to the checker with a 2s gap.
“They just executed a better race than us,” lamented Blomqvist. “I think, as the last race as well, we had a bit of pace. So that’s the last three events, you know, Long Beach Laguna and here … we’ve really improved our car massively. I think it’s just a matter of time before we win. We’ve got to look at the positives — we have a quick car. We just had two mistakes today: one in the pits, we stalled; and in the second one, I made a bad call with traffic which enabled two Cadillacs to get by. But the team made a great strategy, I did some good out-laps and managed to get back in front of them. So I made up for that, but I think we would have got the lead in that first stop, so it’s tough to swallow.”
Pipo Derani and Tristan Nunez completed the podium, which was a copy of the last race two weeks ago at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
Juan Pablo Montoya had not stepped into the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA this weekend until this morning’s warmup, having been competing in the IndyCar race in Indianapolis. But once he took over from Henrik Hedman, he barged his way into the LMP2 lead past Jonathan Bomarito twice. The first pass incurred a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility when Bomarito’s No, 11 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA spun after contact with Montoya. But Montoya ended up only a few seconds behind Bomarito after the drive-through and charged again. When Bomarito was held up by an LMP3 car, Montoya saw his opportunity and seized the lead a second time.
“He went really deep past some GTs and went wide and missed the corner,” Montoya described the first incident. “I put the nose inside. And I thought, ‘OK, I got like half a car in,’ and we started accelerating and he came all the way down to the curb. It’s not like I ran wide and ran him over. If you look at it, he actually came down where I was. I didn’t make it all the way there, I made it about halfway, so I get the blame. I understand the penalty because I spun him, but I didn’t want to spin him. After that, we got the drive-through, and I came out like four seconds behind him. He made a mistake in traffic, he hesitated, and I went for it.”
It was a nice reward for Hedman’s efforts throughout the weekend.
“it was really fun to work with the team and try to set up the car,” he said. “And I was actually more nervous of hearing Juan Pablo’s opinion after warmup than to qualify because I thought, ‘If he doesn’t like the car….’ But he liked it today. Today the track was a little more slippery than Friday and Saturday, so I struggled a little bit in the second stint with some scuffed tires. I don’t know what it was, but what a drive Juan had. We were lucky with the safety car. We got on the lead lap, and then well, he did his job.”
Bomarito and Steven Thomas ended up second, with Anders Fjordbach and Dennis Andersen third in the No. 20 High Class Racing ORECA.
LMP3 winner Jon Bennett struggled in his first stint, having used up too much of the tires in qualifying. When Colin Braun took over the No. 54 CORE Autosport Ligier, things began to happen and Braun drove the car to the front.
“I had my head down pretty hard yesterday to try to improve our qualifying, and I drove monster hard for 15 minutes,” explained Bennett. “I may have paid the price for that. The tires were not happy with me. It is what it is sometimes, and you know, Jeff Braun, our race engineer said, ‘Hey, you know what, this is not the biggest problem. Like always, wring what you can out of the car, and let’s go from there.’ And so that’s what I did. And we had a good exchange. And then Colin got in the car, super pit stop, and then that’s when things started to click for us.”
Braun, though, didn’t have it completely easy. His last pit stop came an hour and 18 minutes from the end, so he couldn’t put the hammer down.
“Once I jumped in the car, we immediately made up a couple spots,” said Braun. “On the outside it probably looked easy, but on the inside, we were trying to hit a fuel number that was pretty crazy. And so, a blend of that with a blend of trying to pass guys on the restarts. I pushed pretty hard on first couple laps in the restart kind of got position, and then we’re able to control the race from the front.”
They were followed by Ari Balogh and Garrett Grist in the No. 30 JrIII Racing Ligier and polesitters Jarett Andretti and Gabby Chaves in the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier completed the podium.