Acura Team Penske’s Dane Cameron was able to get himself to the lead early Sunday (May 5) at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Once Juan Pablo Montoya got in the car, he spent much of the second half of the race battling with Mazda Team Joest’s Tristan Nunez. Montoya pulled away over the final 25 minutes to take his and Cameron’s first IMSA victory with Penske.
“I think we just executed well,” Montoya said after the race. “We had been very unlucky with mechanical issues and stuff. There were silly things that had happened. And I think we had made some not very great calls on strategy before and I think it was executed today the way it needed to be.
“Last year, we had a lot of paces and just could never you know, we could finish second and third, sometimes but could never get it done,” Montoya continued. “If you had told me last year when I made the deal it was going to take me this long to win my first race, I would have said no way. So it’s nice to finally put it together. It’s a pretty big day.”
Oliver Jarvis started from the pole in the Mazda Team Joest No. 77 with Helio Castroneves alongside. The first lap was not a good one for the Brazilian racer as he had contact multiple times. First, he had contact with Pipo Derani exiting turn four, then he hooked Ryan Hunter-Reay exiting turn five. Hunter-Reay spun and hit Castroneves, damaging part of the nose and additional bodywork on the No. 7. Castroneves’ day was effectively compromised from that point onward.
Cameron took the lead on lap 8 and pulled away to a comfortable advantage over Jarvis. Everyone else was 20 seconds or more behind.
The first round of stops allowed Jarvis to catch up to Montoya and take the lead on lap 35. Jarvis held onto the advantage until he made his second stop and got out of the car in favor of Nunez. Since Acura Team Penske had already made their driver change, they had a faster stop that allowed Montoya to jump back out in front.
The only full course caution of the race came out after the final pit stops had been completed when Colin Braun spun the CORE autosport Nissan DPi and got stuck in the gravel. That eliminated a decent lead for Montoya and put Nunez on his tail.
Unfortunately, Nunez was not particularly all that good on cold tires. Once the green came back out, Montoya opened up a big gap and held onto it for the remainder of the race.
Cameron and Montoya’s margin of victory was 2.022 seconds over Nunez and Jarvis. Hunter-Reay and Jonathan Bomarito were third in the No. 55 Mazda, followed by Derani and Felipe Nasr in the Whelen-sponsored Action Express Racing Cadillac. Castroneves and Ricky Taylor finished a lap behind in fifth.
The LMP2 race was effectively over before it began. On the first lap, there was a stack-up in the Esses that resulted in the BMW M6 GT3 of Turner Motorsport’s Robby Foley running into the back of Performance Tech Motorsports’ Cameron Cassels and spinning out the No. 38. Foley was out on the spot, while Cassels continued briefly before gearbox issues put him behind the wall. The No. 38 would return to the race, but more than 30 laps down.
The GT Le Mans race started with Porsche GT Team’s Patrick Pilet charging to the lead from last on the first lap. That sounded outlandish, and it was. Pilet jumped the start to do it and had to serve a drive-through penalty. When Pilet pitted to serve his penalty, Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner moved up to the class lead, having dispatched of pole sitter Sebastien Bourdais on the first lap. Porsche GT Team’s Laurens Vanthoor was just behind and gave chase to Milner for the lead.
Milner had a great day going until an issue with a half-shaft put the No. 4 Corvette behind the wall. The team would eventually get back out, but any chance of a decent run was over for them.
That left the No. 3 Corvette with Antonio Garcia to salvage the day for Corvette Racing. Garcia led until he made his final stop with a little more than an hour remaining. In that round of stops, the No. 912 Porsche with Earl Bamber at the wheel was able to jump the Corvette and take the lead.
From that point on, Bamber was able to manage the gap. The caution brought Garcia back up very close to Bamber, but he could not prevent Porsche from taking their third straight victory.
Garcia and Jan Magnussen ended up 2.34 seconds back in second. Pilet and Nick Tandy recovered from their penalty at the start to finish third. BMW Team RLL’s Tom Blomqvist and Connor De Phillippi were fourth, while Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook were fifth in the No. 67 Ford GT.
The first lap stack-up also allowed for a big move in the opening laps from Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Trent Hindman. Hindman started ninth, avoided the Cassels-Foley incident and moved up to third in class by the end of the first lap. Within only a couple of laps, Hindman was right on the tail of pole-sitter Richard Heistand in the No. 14 AVS Vasser Sullivan Lexus. It didn’t take long for Hindman to put the moves on Heistand and take the lead.
Once out front, Hindman pulled away to a lead of more than 10 seconds over the rest of the pack. Mario Farnbacher was able to maintain that built-in advantage in the AutoNation-sponsored Acura until the race’s sole full course caution erased the lead. That put Heistand’s teammate Jack Hawksworth right on Farnbacher’s tail. On the restart, Hawksworth was able to make the move on Farnbacher and take the lead with 25 minutes to go.
From there, Farnbacher hounded Hawksworth for the remainder of the race, dodging traffic in the process. On the final lap, Farnbacher made a couple of last-ditch moves, but could not prevent Hawksworth from taking the GT Daytona class victory.
Hindman and Farnbacher had to settle for second, six-tenths of a second back. Third went to the Lamborghini of Paul Miller Racing’s Bryan Sellers and Ryan Hardwick while Park Place Motorsports’ Patrick Long and Marco Seefried came from the rear of the field to finish fourth. Frankie Montecalvo and Townsend Bell in the second AVS Vasser Sullivan Lexus were fifth.
What’s next for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship? That depends on the class. For the DPi class, the next race is at Belle Isle Park in Detroit on June 1 as support to the NTT IndyCar Series. They will be joined by the GT Daytona class, but that race will not count for regular GT Daytona points. It will count for points toward the WeatherTech Sprint Cup, though. The next race for GT Le Mans and LMP2 teams is the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen at Watkins Glen International on June 30.