Andrew Wojteczko Autosport’s Kuno Wittmer took the lead away from TeamTGM’s Matt Plumb with 15 minutes to go. From there, he held off a charging Jan Heylen to earn his second win of the year in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Mid-Ohio 120 Saturday (May 15). Wittmer was teamed with Chris Green for Saturday’s race because regular driver Orey Fidani had to opt out of the weekend for family reasons. Don’t worry, it’s a good reason.
“I gave it all I had at the end,” Wittmer said after the race. “Hats off to AWA, McLaren and the Michelin shoes. The team executed everything [perfectly], Chris [Green] drove a phenoemenal stint. In the end, this race is for Orey [Fidani], who’s going to be a daddy soon.”
Wright Motorsports’ Ryan Hardwick, in his series debut, led the field to green in his Porsche. Green, who hadn’t raced in the series in more than 18 months, was right on his tail. It only took a couple of laps for Green to take the lead away entering turn 1. Once in the lead, Green pulled away to a decent advantage while Hardwick fought with Hugh Plumb to keep second.
Green continued to pull away a little bit on each lap until AWA struck out on their own pit strategy. Green made his first pit stop just 27 minutes into the race, roughly halfway through a fuel run. That put Hardwick back in the lead.
A spin for American Wheelman’s Jack Roush Jr. in the Carousel after contact from Russell Ward brought out the first caution 53 minutes into the race. However, there was a lag in about a minute and change after the spin and the yellow flying. This resulted in another splitting of the pit strategy as most of the teams got into the pits before they were closed. Turner Motorsport’s Dillon Machavern did not.
As a result of getting in prior to the yellow, Matt Plumb ended up with the overall lead with James Vance giving chase in his Audi. Wittmer and Wright Motorsports’ Jan Heylen quickly moved up to second and third once Vance made his final stop.
Further back, points leader Bill Auberlen was hit by Motorsports In Action’s Spencer Pigot entering the Keyhole (turn 2). Auberlen ended up going off into the sand before rejoining. However, the contact bent the front suspension in his BMW M4 GT4. After a trip to the pits, the No. 95 BMW was sent behind the wall. Auberlen and Machavern would return to the race, but finished 26 laps down in 36th overall.
PF Racing’s Chad McCumbee spun his Ford Mustang GT4 out of ninth with 27 minutes to go in turn 9, clipping Murillo Racing’s Eric Foss in the process and bringing out the final caution. The hit ripped the front bodywork off of McCumbee’s car and damaged the left rear suspension on Foss’ Mercedes. McCumbee was out on the spot, while Foss ended up four laps down after repairs.
Wittmer was able to make the pass for the win a couple of laps after the restart on the backstretch. As Wittmer pulled away, a big battle for second broke out between Matt Plumb, Heylen, Trent Hindman, Pigot and HTP Winward Motorsport’s Alec Udell. A couple of laps later, contact was made between Matt Plumb and Hindman in turn 6, resulting in the No. 46 Camaro spinning out.
Matt Plumb was able to resume, but ended up finishing 19th overall, 11th in Grand Sport. Hindman’s Aston Martin was significantly damaged. His car refused to turn and slid off-course, breaking part of the front splitter. Later on, Hindman’s car went straight in turn 12 and hit the tires. Eventually, he pulled off and retired.
Heylen was able to run down Wittmer in the final laps and fought the McLaren to pull off what would have been a complete weekend sweep (the team had been fastest in both practice sessions and Hardwick had won the pole). However, Wittmer had better straight-line speed, which meant that Heylen was never able to get alongside to prevent Wittmer from taking the win.
Green and Wittmer’s margin of victory was just four-tenths of a second over Hardwick and Heylen. Udell and Bryce Ward were third in their Mercedes, followed by Pigot and Sheena Monk. Turner Motorsport’s Robby Foley and Vin Barletta were fifth. McCann Racing’s Andrew Davis and Michael McCann Jr. were sixth, then Russell Ward and Indy Dontje. FASTMD Racing’s Vance and Alexandre Papadopulos recovered from their pit stop to finish eighth, f.ollowed by the Toyota of Riley Motorsports’ Alfredo Najri and Javier Quiros. FCP Euro’s Michael Hurczyn and Nate Vincent were 10th in their debut.
In TCR, JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Chris Miller inherited the pole in his Audi after Atlanta Speedwerks’ Brian Henderson was sent to the rear for a non-homologated piece of aluminum on the car that was discovered in post-qualifying inspection. The team had shown a lot of speed all weekend, but when the race came around, it disappeared. There was a reason for this.
The IMPC Race at Mid-Ohio didn't go as hoped. The #17 JDC-Miller MotorSports Unitronic Audi TCR suffered a fuel pressure issue that brought us into the pit more than expected. After starting on pole, we know we had the pace to be there at the end. On to the next one.#IMPC
— JDC MotorSports (@JDCMotorSports) May 16, 2021
Unfortunately, fuel pressure issues can do much more than force a team to pit more often. It can affect power output as well if the normal amount of fuel cannot be used. That allowed a charging Rory van der Steur to rise up from fourth on the grid in his Hyundai Veloster N TCR to take the class lead in the first 10 minutes. Miller quickly dropped back to sixth. Miller and teammate Mikey Taylor would eventually finish 14th in class.
Van der Steur ended up in a fierce duel with Bryan Herta Autosport’s Parker Chase. The two swapped the lead back and fourth while Chase’s teammate Harry Gottsacker and LA Honda World Racing’s Mike LaMarra sat back and enjoyed the show.
The Roush spin brought the caution out at the perfect time for TCR teams as they were able to make their sole pit stop and easily make it to the finish. Copeland Motorsports was able to swap in Tyler Maxson for Tyler Gonzalez and beat the rest of the class out of the pits to take the lead.
Once the green came back out, Maxson was able to lead for a while. Then, Ryan Norman put the pressure on Maxson in his Hyundai Elantra N TCR. With a half-hour remaining, Norman was able to get the lead away from Maxson. The last caution flew a couple of laps later, which packed everyone back up.
The final 18 minutes of the race was a six-way duel for the lead. Norman continued to lead, but teammate Michael Lewis moved right up to his rear bumper. Atlanta Speedwerks’ Ryan Eversley quickly moved up from sixth on the restart to get into third. Unfortunately, any chance that he had at the class win in his Honda Civic Type-R TCR ended when Norman and Lewis got by the FCP Euro Mercedes of Vincent for overall position. Eversley could not get past the Grand Sport entry, disconnecting him from the battle.
Lewis made multiple attempts at getting the lead from Norman, but couldn’t do so before dropping back. Norman was able to hold on to take the first-ever victory for the Hyundai Elantra N TCR. Their pace was such that Chase and Norman ended up finishing on the lead lap in 10th overall.
Norman and Chase’s margin of victory was just over a second over Lewis and Taylor Hagler. Eversley and Scott Smithson were third in their Honda, followed by Copeland Motorsports’ Maxson and Gonzalez. Gottsacker and Mark Wilkins were fifth.
The Mid-Ohio 120 will air via tape delay on NBCSN at 4 p.m. ET on May 25. Next up for IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge is a four-hour race at Watkins Glen International on June 26.
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