Good morning from race day at Mid-Ohio!

May 6, 2018

Good morning from race day at Mid-Ohio!

May 6, 2018

The stage is set for the fourth round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (1 p.m. ET, FS2).

Three of the four Michelin technical partner teams have won the first three GT Le Mans class races.

Entering today’s first IMSA “standard length” two-hour, 40-minute race of the season, will any of Ford, Porsche or Corvette be first to win their second race of the year? Or will BMW Team RLL secure its first win with the new M8 GTE?

BMW starts from the pole in class in today’s race. John Edwards shares the No. 24 BMW M8 GTE with Jesse Krohn. While Edwards will start the race, he’ll hand over to the flying Finn for the final stint of the race. This will mark Krohn’s first time finishing within the GTLM class.

Edwards, who is the only one of BMW’s four race drivers with past Mid-Ohio race experience, outlined how the traffic management among the GTLM, Prototype and GT Daytona classes may work.

“I think there is only one line through quite a few corners,” said Edwards, who now lives in Davidson, N.C. but whose parents live in Cincinnati. “Some other tracks, you get off line you can make it work. Some tracks have more relative grip on outside.

“Now, you have to be on the racing line to make it work. Say a Prototype comes by you at any point, you could get freight trained by the whole GTLM class. It’s going to be critical to make the Prototypes pass us where we need them to pass us, and for us to get through the GTD field where we can.”

The No. 24 BMW is the only car of the eight in the GTLM class that is yet to visit the podium this year in the first three races. If they do so today, it will complete the set of eight cars all with at least one podium finish through four races, which speaks to the variety, diversity and competitiveness of the class.

Corvette Racing, meanwhile, is going for its second straight win both this year and at Mid-Ohio. Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin won last race at Long Beach in their No. 4 Corvette C7.R, and they won the last American Le Mans Series GT race here in Mid-Ohio in 2012. They’d also won Long Beach that year, too.

“The track is almost identical to how I remember it six years ago,” Gavin said. “The curbs are much the same. It’s a challenge. The first lap out of the pits, you think, is there something wrong with the car? You know the traffic will be an issue. The GTD cars are really close on lap times and were in-between us. That will spice the race up. At this place, to get by someone, you have to use a little bit of fender and paint exchange. It’s narrow. It’s tight. But you have to work out how to get by. Dive-bombing doesn’t always work. You need to chip away a bit.”

Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia have had a difficult start to their season. Back-to-back races with issues outside their control have left them just eighth and fourth in the last two races. Magnussen won the pole at the season opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, and along with Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller, they finished third their.

If Magnussen and Garcia are to repeat their GTLM class championship, they’ll need to turn things around starting today.

“It has been not so nice to not fight for the win,” Garcia summarized. “Daytona we didn’t have the pace. Then Sebring and Long Beach, were too soon in the races when we went out of contention.

“At Long Beach, it was a bit of a shame after a great start and opening by Jan, and a great pit stop… we were right there to the front. That pit stop was mainly the driver change, and we nailed that one. It’s a shame we didn’t get to start with the gearbox. We were second, but the virtual leader since the (No. 25) BMW pitted early.

“We need to have some luck here to get some good results ourselves.”

Porsche enters today having led the three pre-qualifying practice sessions, and will start second and fourth with its two 911 RSRs.

Patrick Pilet is the only one of Porsche GT Team’s four drivers who has prior race experience here.

The rest of Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor are making their Mid-Ohio race debuts. Given that both Bamber and Vanthoor paced the practice sessions, they’ve shown to be quick studies.

The Ford GTs got a bit closer to the front of the GTLM field in qualifying, but although they were only 0.354 and 0.480 of a second off pole, that still only placed them sixth and seventh.

Track conditions change here quite a bit, with track temperature swings around 30-plus degrees this week.Rain may enter the frame later in the race, too.

GTLM is usually anyone’s race. And the added degree of difficulty with Mid-Ohio being a new event only adds to that equation.

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