Saturday saw IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge teams deal with mixed conditions at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Despite Audi and McLaren dominating early, it was the Porsche of VOLT Racing’s Trent Hindman and Alan Brynjolfsson who outlasted the field to pick up their first win of the season.
After an equally topsy-turvy qualifying session, eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing’s Kenton Koch started on the overall pole in his Audi and led early. While the race was dry at the start, all of the rain that fell in the days leading up to the race rendered anything off the course into a complete go.
On the second lap of the race, Rebel Rock Racing’s Frank Depew drove through some water running across the track exiting the Keyhole and spun, getting himself stuck in a combination of gravel and mud to bring out the first of six full course yellows.
After the restart, Motorsports in Action’s Jesse Lazare was able to get past Koch and take the lead. Once out front, Lazare pulled out a gap. Then, Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport’s Bryce Ward went wide in Turn 12 and slid into the tires to bring out another yellow. The pit strategies split here with Lazare stopping and Koch staying out to regain the lead.
With the cautions coming on a regular basis, the key was to make your pit stop when you knew you could make it to the finish. The potential for rain threw another wrench in the plans as well. Koch led until the rains started once again. Before he could get in to make his final stop, Jeff Mosing spun in the same place that Depew had earlier and got himself stuck to bring out another yellow. Around the same time,
Everyone stopped for tires, fuel and a driver change. Those who gambled on slick tires were forced to make an additional stop for wet tires. When the dust cleared, Hindman ended up with the lead.
The remainder of the race saw Hindman drive away from Riley Motorsports’ Dylan Murry, but a couple of more incidents kept the field close together. In case you’d like to know what happens when you get off-course at Mid-Ohio in these conditions, Automatic Racing’s Brandon Kidd had an excursion into the grass Saturday. He didn’t hit anything, but his Aston Martin Vantage GT4 looked like this afterwards:
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Hindman and Brynjolfsson’s margin of victory was 3.361 seconds over Murry and James Cox. CarBahn Motorsports’ Tyler McQuarrie and Jeff Westphal were third, followed by Murillo Racing’s Brent Mosing and Tim Probert in a career-best fourth. KohR Motorsports’ Nate Stacy and Kyle Marcelli recovered from an early penalty to finish fifth.
In TCR, HART’s Chad Gilsinger started from pole, but almost immediately lost the advantage to Atlanta Speedwerks’ Brian Henderson. Slower traffic from the faster Grand Sport actually affected the TCR cars for a good chunk of the race. Henderson lost his advantage to LA Honda World Racing’s Shelby Blackstock on Lap 10 after getting held up.
The restarts played a huge role in the race. Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian’s Mark Wilkins was able to steal the class lead away from Blackstock on a lap 25 restart and assumed. The wet conditions in the second half of the race, a series of penalties for pit violations and drivers making multiple stops meant that the TCR cars stayed on the lead lap for the entire race.
The race came down to a battle for the win between Wilkins’ teammate Michael Lewis and Mark Motors Racing’s Remo Ruscitti in an Audi. Ruscitti was able to take the lead with just over two minutes to go when Lewis got blocked by a slower Ford Mustang GT4. Three-quarters of a lap, Lewis used that same slower car to get the lead back. From there, Lewis pulled away to claim the victory in an impressive fifth overall.
Lewis and Wilkins’ margin of victory was 1.077 seconds over Roadshagger Racing’s Audi for Gavin Ernstone and Jon Morley. The aforementioned Lewis-Ruscitti battle allowed Morley to gain on both drivers. On the final lap, contact was made exiting Turn 11, resulting in Ruscitti spinning out. No penalty was assessed.
The No. 12 Audi of eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing’s Russell McDonough and Ryan Nash ended up third on the day. Ruscitti and Marco Cirone had to settle for fourth, while Blackstock and Tom O’Gorman finished fifth despite running the last 45 minutes in the rain on slicks.
Michelin Pilot Challenge teams are off for the next few weeks. They will return to action at Watkins Glen International on June 29 for four hours of racing.