Acura, Penske combine for first win at Mid-Ohio

May 9, 2018

Acura, Penske combine for first win at Mid-Ohio

May 9, 2018

Acura and Team Penske’s union announced last summer provided a jolt of energy to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Neither the manufacturer nor the team had been at the top level of prototype racing in some time, so mouths immediately began to water at the prospects.

After thousands of miles of testing in the fall and winter, the Acura Team Penske unit made its race debut with the two longest races of the season: the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Success, however, proved hard to find with mechanical niggles taking both of the new Acura ARX-05s out of contention throughout the “36 Hours of Florida.”

But by Long Beach, it was evident the “firsts” for this new partnership would take hold. Juan Pablo Montoya delivered the car’s first pole position on the streets of Long Beach, in the No. 6 car he shares with past IMSA Prototype champion Dane Cameron.

Last weekend, Acura Team Penske placed its first full stamp of authority on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

After dominating most of practice with 1-2 results, the team backed up in qualifying with a 1-2 run. The No. 7 car qualified on pole, as Helio Castroneves beat Cameron to the top spot by just 0.147 of a second.

In the race, Acura Team Penske led all 125 laps in the two-hour, 40-minute Acura Sports Car Challenge. Different strategies between the two cars shifted the lead between the Nos. 6 and 7 cars, but at the end it was the polesitting No. 7 car of Castroneves and Ricky Taylor that delivered this combined unit its first victory together. Cameron and Montoya finished second, to complete the 1-2 finish.

“To win for the first time back for Mr. [Roger] Penske is outstanding and to start the month of May off for Helio [Castroneves] with a win is awesome,” said Taylor, who became the 50th different driver to win for Team Penske, and who finished the race. “There was so much pressure to get the car from him in the lead. He did an awesome job, so I had to fight to make his efforts worth it.”

Penske’s most recent sports car win came in October 2008 at Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe – then Penske teammates – shared a Porsche RS Spyder to score the LMP2 class victory. Briscoe now races in the GT Le Mans class with Penske archrival Chip Ganassi Racing, in a Ford GT.

Acura nearly pulled off a two-class sweep, and almost won in the GT Daytona ranks. Katherine Legge started the car, and Alvaro Parente took the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 to within just 0.191 of a second of the class winning 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3. Parente had four prior wins in four prior Mid-Ohio starts in his sports car career. The team’s sister car of Lawson Aschenbach and Justin Marks finished fifth.

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