STEAM CORNERS, Ohio — The intensity of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was clearly evident on a warm spring Sunday afternoon at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Ricky Taylor (No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura DPi) came out best in a tense door-banging clash with the Motul Pole Award-winning No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac DPi driven by Renger van der Zande following a restart after the only full-course caution of the Lexus Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio.
The clash in Mid-Ohio’s famous Esses just past the halfway point of the 2-hour, 40-minute contest left van der Zande spinning through turn six across the path of eventual second place finisher Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Meyer-Shank with Curb Agajanian Acura DPi, while Taylor accelerated away to a lead he would not relinquish.
The son of Konica Minolta Racing team owner Wayne Taylor crossed the finish line 2.098 seconds ahead of Blomqvist to claim his fourth Mid-Ohio victory in the last five years in the Daytona Prototype international class of the WeatherTech Championship. Ricky Taylor co-drove with Filipe Albuquerque
The Acura ARX-05 DPi prototype is an undefeated five-for-five at a track that Acura and parent company Honda consider a home course.
“It’s amazing to be in Acura’s backyard and Honda’s backyard and there were a lot of associates out here today,” said Taylor, who is a two-time DPi class champion (2017 and ’20). “It’s great to win and represent the brand, because you want to do them justice for how much support they give you.”
IMSA reviewed the contact between van der Zande and Taylor and declared no incident responsibility. Van der Zande and his teammate Sebastien Bourdais, who qualified the No. 01 Cadillac on pole and started the race, were philosophical after finishing fifth.
“I think Seb did a fantastic job putting it in the lead,” stated van der Zande. “When I got in, I struggled with the tires on the restart. I tried to keep the position, 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,” he added. “I think we had a good shot at winning with a good car and a good strategy.”
Taylor offered his perspective on the key moment of the race.
“I knew he was going to attack after the restart,” he said. “I made a strong move to the outside of turn four and almost went off track. I think he might have lost it a bit in the middle and bumped me two wheels off. Then I did everything I could to carry speed into five, but it went dead sideways.
“I tried to leave him a car width, but honestly, I couldn’t see whether he was at my door or not,” he continued. “So, I just raced as hard as I could down the hill and I saw him backwards before I turned in.”
Blomqvist and teammate Oliver Jarvis were downcast after finishing second to the No. 10 Acura for the second race in a row. “We lost that one,” lamented Jarvis.
Pipo Derani and Tristan Nunez finished third in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi, followed by Alex Lynn and Earl Bamber in the No. 02 Cadillac Racing Cadillac DPi.
Juan Pablo Montoya had to nudge his way past Jonathan Bomarito twice during Sunday’s race, but the second time was good enough to lead the former DPi champion and two-time Indy 500 winner to his first Le Mans Prototype 2 victory in WeatherTech Championship competition. Montoya and co-driver Henrik Hedman, in the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA LMP2 07, won by 13.652 seconds over Bomarito and Steven Thomas in the No. 11 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA that dominated all but the final stage of the race.
Montoya moved into second place, 13 seconds behind Bomarito, with an hour remaining. From there, he chopped into Bomarito’s advantage and made a first attempt to take the lead in Mid-Ohio’s famed Keyhole with 25 minutes to go. The cars made significant contact, with Bomarito spinning before continuing. Montoya earned a pit-lane drive-through penalty for incident responsibility.
Returning to the track behind Bomarito, Montoya closed again quickly and took the inside line into turn six with 10 minutes on the clock. The cars made side-to-side contact again, but this time the pass was legal and Montoya pulled away to victory.
“I understand the penalty because I spun him,” Montoya said after collecting his seventh IMSA win. “I didn’t want to spin him; I thought I could pass him fair and square. Then we got the drive-through and I came out like four seconds behind and caught him. He made a mistake in traffic, he hesitated and I went for it.
“I’ve raced here, I’ve won here many times and I know traffic is the key. And he didn’t use it well.”
Bomarito said the first contact with Montoya damaged the No. 11 so that he couldn’t keep pace when the No. 81 was in his shadows once again.
“The problem is he bent the car for us,” Bomarito said. “We had right-rear damage and the penalty just wasn’t enough. The drive-through only puts him back a few seconds and then he got back by us again to win. Disappointed, for sure. Steven did a great job. He checked out to like a 50-second lead. The team executed perfect so from that I’m super happy for everybody. We can hold our head up high.”
Hedman was especially pleased with his third career win because he did all the driving to set up and qualify the car on Friday and Saturday while Montoya was racing in Saturday’s IndyCar Series event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
“It was really fun to work with the team and try to set up the car,” Hedman said. “I was actually more nervous of hearing Juan Pablo’s opinion after warmup (Sunday morning) than to qualify. I thought if he doesn’t like the car, boy! But he liked it. We were lucky with the safety car, we got on the lead lap and then he did his stuff. That’s what he’s paid for.”
Hedman and Montoya took an unofficial nine-point lead over No. 18 Era Motorsport drivers Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel in LMP2.
Colin Braun knew the drill; he’s done it before. Faced with a comfortable lead but an uncomfortable fuel level in his No. 54 CORE autosport Ligier JS P320, he knew he had to keep pushing while meeting a fuel mileage number to hang on for the win in Le Mans Prototype 3.
Braun did just enough – he said the No. 54 sputtered on the cooldown lap after the finish – to take the class victory with longtime co-driver Jon Bennett. It’s career win No. 21 in IMSA for Braun and No. 19 for Bennett, but the first for either driver at Mid-Ohio.
“They gave me a target fuel number to try to hit,” Braun said. “I was trying to get through a couple guys ahead of me on the restart, so we got clear of those guys and then went into fuel-save mode and just tried to command the race. Total team effort from the guys at CORE.”
The No. 30 Jr III Racing Ligier, driven by Ari Balogh and Garett Grist, finished second, with the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier shared by Jarett Andretti and Gabby Chaves taking third.