After early race contact, a puncture and penalties for both cars, a creative switch in strategy and some determined driving hauled the Mazdas up the order from the very back to finish fourth and fifth at the chequered flag, the #77 recovering from being a lap down at one point.
The two-hour, 40-minute race got off to a typically fast and furious start, with the pair of Mazda RT24-Ps hanging onto their third and sixth qualifying spots respectively in the hands of Jonathan Bomarito (#55) and Oliver Jarvis (#77), despite it taking a considerable number of laps to get the tyres into their working window due to Mid-Ohio’s famously low grip surface.
The #77 car had struggled to match the pace of the frontrunners during the practice and qualifying sessions so its engineering team launched a bold strategy, which had Jarvis coming in for his first pit stop considerably earlier than the other DPi cars. Unfortunately this move, to ultimately gain track position, didn’t come off due to subsequent contact with a GT car, a puncture and a couple of penalties.
“That was a difficult race for us,” said Jarvis. “We were fighting with the balance of the car all weekend so we tried to go off strategy in an attempt to make up positions. Unfortunately during my stint I had light contact with a BMW which spun me and punctured a tyre, which resulted in putting us a lap down. With some good strategy calls we managed to get back on the lead lap and Tristan did a great job to overtake the #5 Cadillac at the end to grab fifth. We came to Mid-Ohio with higher hopes than fourth and fifth so we now need to regroup and focus on Petit Le Mans.”
The drivers of the #55 Mazda went into Mid-Ohio ranked fourth in the championship. Despite not having the pace to compete at the front, they maintained that position and look forward to Road Atlanta knowing that the car will be quick there.
“Jonathan took some front end damage at the start of the race,” said Tincknell. “Firstly on the right hand side in a tussle with (Pipo) Derani and then on the left after contact with a GT car so the car was a little second-hand after that but the pace was okay. A communication error in the first pit stop meant that Jonathan nearly took the fueller with him so we got a penalty for that which put us to the back.”
Bomarito fought on and managed to catch up to sixth place before handing the #55 Mazda over to Tincknell, who then had to serve an immediate drive through for a pit lane speed infringement. The second of the day for the Multimatic squad, diagnosed as a calibration issue that was rectified before the final critical pit stops.
With little left to lose the #55 car then switched its strategy, coming in for a fuel top-up under yellow while the rest of the field stayed out, thus gaining a fuel advantage without losing any track position. This paid-off in the final round of stops as, with less fuel to go in, it was super-fast, putting Tincknell back out in fourth place, his eventual finishing position.
“We go back to Road Atlanta next and we know the car is quick enough to win there so we’re just going to have to have three good races in a row,” he said. “We’re still in it!”
The next round is indeed at Road Atlanta and it is the blue ribbon 10-hour “Petit Le Mans” event, being contested on Saturday 17th October.
DOUBLE TROUBLE IN MICHELIN PILOT CHALLENGE AT MID-OHIO
The IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge series offered up a double helping of racing at Mid-Ohio with two-hour events on both Saturday and Sunday. Unfortunately for the #22 Multimatic Mustang squad, the team was unable to improve on its podium showing last time out at Road Atlanta. Maxwell qualified a hard fought fifth for the Saturday even and enjoyed a strong, trouble-free opening stint, before Seb Priaulx took over for an equally trouble-free run to finish exactly where the car had started the race.
“Multimatic provided us with a perfect car across the meeting and we gave it everything we had in every session,” said Priaulx. “Unfortunately it didn’t quite suit the circuit enough for us to challenge for top honours. I pushed hard through to the finish in race one and fifth was a strong result. We were confident we could build upon that in race two but it didn’t quite work out that way.”
From a strong fourth qualifying spot, Maxwell nailed the second race start and got the jump on the #4 Mercedes, which then chased him hard for over half an hour. Scott had an answer to the AMG’s every move and appeared to be capable of maintaining third place up to the handover to Priaulx, but after 22 laps of intense fighting, it all ended when the Mercedes driver sent it down the inside of the Mustang in a spot nobody would have expected, including Maxwell. The cars contacted hard side to side and the Mustang ended up in the tyre wall and the Mercedes limped back to the pits to retire.
“We knew we didn’t have the pace to run at the front but I made a good start and had to just hang on!” said Maxwell. “There was no way we could have raced that close for two hours and I was thinking we would be on for a Top 5 finish and then I was in the wall. I wasn’t expecting him to make the move where he did and we made contact. Simple as that. I feel bad for Seb as he didn’t get to drive but we’ll look forward to Road Atlanta, which suits the Mustang a lot better.”