Lexus, Acura make gains after GTD Ohio jumble

May 8, 2019

Lexus, Acura make gains after GTD Ohio jumble

May 8, 2019

Daytona and Sebring GT Daytona winners GRT Grasser Lamborghini didn’t race at Mid-Ohio. This opened up the situation where the class point standings would get shaken up following the two-hour, 40-minute race.

Once this occurred, two brands – Lexus and Acura – took the biggest advantage of the opportunity to move forward in GTD during the Acura Sports Car Challenge race weekend.

LEXUS EXCELS IN DAMP AND DRY CONDITIONS
James “Sulli” Sullivan, Jack Hawksworth, Richard Heistand, Andrew Bordin, Jimmy Vasser. Photo: Michelin North America

The AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus team enjoyed a near-perfect weekend to score both the pole and win. Lexus did this last year with its prior partner team, but the new group of drivers, team members and team principals (James “Sulli” Sullivan, Jimmy Vasser, Andrew Bordin, Ian Willis, Keith Willis) carried the success through to a new season with the RC F GT3.

Richard Heistand continually improved his pace with Michelin Pilot Sport GT S8M slicks on a drying track during GTD qualifying to score the pole. Then after handing off to Jack Hawksworth, the English driver got around and then defended against the advances of occasional 2018 teammate Mario Farnbacher to win the race.

Hawksworth’s win was his first in GTD, and additionally his first podium finish since joining the class at the start of 2017. His and Heistand’s performance brought the No. 14 car up to third in GTD points, seven back of the leaders.

Their teammates are also in good shape coming out of Mid-Ohio. Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo finished fifth in the No. 12 Lexus. These two entered the weekend second, 16 points behind the GRT Lamborghini car, and remained second after the weekend only four points back of the leaders.

SHANK ACURA PAIR MOVES INTO GTD DRIVER LEAD
No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo. Photo: Michelin North America

With their first podium finish of the year, Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman took the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 Evo into the GTD points lead. They’re now up by four points over the Bell/Montecalvo pair and seven over the Heistand/Hawksworth pair and Patrick Long in the Park Place Porsche.

Hindman and Farnbacher continued the 2019 theme of the dominant car in GTD not winning the race. Despite qualifying on Michelin Pilot Sport GT Rain tires, which left both Acuras much further down the order than anticipated (ninth and 14th), they immediately moved forward. Hindman made it to the lead by Lap 9. Meanwhile Christina Nielsen advanced 10 positions off the start up to fourth in what she called the “best start of my life.”

Hindman set the fastest race lap on Lap 4 and also went the furthest on his first stint, over an hour before pitting and taking on a fresh set of Michelin tires. Farnbacher tried consistently to get around Hawksworth, but was unable to do so. Still, finishes of fourth, seventh and second now place the black-and-pink No. 86 AutoNation-backed entry up front. In this race, the No. 86 Acura led 85 of 114 laps. This marked the third straight GTD race where the car that led the most laps didn’t win the race.

The Caterpillar-backed Heinricher Racing No. 57 Acura of Nielsen and Katherine Legge finished 10th. They dealt with a bent toe link and an electrical issue that cropped up during the race.

LAMBORGHINI STILL LEADS ATOP MANUFACTURER’S STANDINGS
No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3, GTD: Bryan Sellers, Ryan Hardwick. Photo: Michelin North America

Lamborghini scored another podium to open 2019, courtesy of a strong drive from Ryan Hardwick and Bryan Sellers in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Evo. Sellers advanced to third in the final lap when the PFAFF Porsche went off course at Turn 1.

Sellers hailed Hardwick’s performance in his third GTD race to take the 1st Phorm car to the podium. “It’s a difficult series, track and conditions. When you look at the entirety of his work all weekend he did a good job. It’s a good step in the right direction at the start of the sprint season,” he said.

After two tough races to open 2019, the third place for Hardwick and Sellers vaulted them nine places to 10th in points. Andy Lally and John Potter remain in the top five in points in the second full-season Lamborghini. The No. 44 Magnus Racing pair ended the race eighth and sit fifth in points, eight back of Hindman and Farnbacher.

In the manufacturer’s championship, Lamborghini holds a nine-point lead over Lexus (100-91) with Audi, Acura and Ferrari in the top five.

UPDATED GTD DRIVER STANDINGS

After this race, here’s the GTD standings. Note the next round at Detroit, the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic, is only a WeatherTech Sprint Cup race for GTD competitors. That means the race counts for that sprint championship classification, not the full season standings.

  1. 86-Farnbacher/Hindman, Acura, 84
  2. 12-Bell/Montecalvo, Lexus, 80
  3. 14-Hawksworth/Heistand, Lexus, 77
  4. 73-Patrick Long, Porsche, 77
  5. 44-Lally/Potter, Lamborghini, 76
  6. 11-Bortolotti/Breukers/Ineichen, Lamborghini, 70
  7. 33-Bleekemolen/Keating, Mercedes-AMG, 68
  8. 57-Legge/Nielsen, Acura, 63
  9. 63-Vilander/MacNeil, Ferrari, 62
  10. 48-Sellers/Hardwick, Lamborghini, 61

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