Mid-Ohio – Live Race Blog
Mid-Ohio – Live Race Blog
Two hours are complete and less than 45 minutes remain at Mid-Ohio. The LMPC-class leading No. 99 Green Earth Team Gunnar was beached in the gravel at Turn 1, which brought out the second full course caution. Both the leading Lolas pitted just before the yellow although the No. 37 Intersport Lola, which runs on Cellulosic E85 ethanol, needed to top off under the caution period to see if the car can make the finish.
In GT, what was a difficult stretch where both the Nos. 90 and 92 Rahal Letterman BMWs had off-course excursions, they pitted sooner than the rest of the GT competitors to leapfrog back to first and second in class at the restart. The No. 62 Risi Ferrari and No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche both jumped the No. 4 Corvette, which was leading, on the round of pit stops that took place under yellow.
Immediately on the restart Jaime Melo put in a fantastic maneuver to pass both BMWs at the Keyhole. The Ferrari now leads the two BMWs as the GT race remains incredibly close.
Clint Field put in a sterling double stint, running two hours in the Intersport Lola from the start of the race until the team’s second pit stop. His father Jon takes over for the distance and will chase down the No. 16 Dyson Lola of Chris Dyson and No. 1 Highcroft HPD of Simon Pagenaud for the rest of the race.
We are now one hour, 30 minutes into the race at Mid-Ohio. No sooner did the first 45 minutes elapse and immediately thereafter the first caution flag flew. Several cars had offs, including the No. 8 Drayson Lola Judd Coupe and No. 88 GTC Porsche Cup car. With the incidents, the track went full course yellow.
Just prior to that the No. 92 Rahal Letterman BMW pitted for full service – fuel added, a tire change and a driver change from Tommy Milner to Bill Auberlen. The gamble on the team’s split strategy between the two cars paid dividends, as the yellow flew and the car jumped from seventh to the lead at the restart.
That said, it is still only a few seconds covering the GT leaders! The No. 62 Risi Ferrari, the two Corvette ZR1s, the second BMW and the No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche were within striking distance. Some of the LMPC cars are also mixed in to the battle.
Now the battles are intensely close. Oliver Gavin closed to within a couple tenths of Auberlen, the Corvette hounding BMW. Risi Ferrari runs third with the pole-sitting No. 62, with Jaime Melo driving, the No. 90 BMW fourth, the No. 45 Porsche fifth and No. 61 Ferrari sixth. The top three are tightly bunched with three different engine and two different tire manufacturers, and on lap 60 with one hour and 17 minutes remaining, Gavin passed Auberlen into Turn 4 on the inside.
In LMP, it is still the two Lolas – Intersport (Clint Field still driving) and Dyson (Chris Dyson taking over from Guy Smith) – leading the Highcroft HPD with Simon Pagenaud behind the wheel.
Drayson’s Lola has had issues with the right side steering arm, Corvette’s No. 3 has retired due to overheating, and the No. 5 Radical has also retired with oil pressure issues.
We are through the first 45 minutes, and two hours remain in the sixth round of the American Le Mans Series, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. So far, there has not been a yellow flag to slow the pace as the leaders approach the first round of pit stops. Michelin tire engineers report temperatures of 75 degrees Fahrenheit ambient and 96 degrees on track.
Paul Drayson started the polesitting No. 8 Drayson Racing Lola Judd Coupe as the race start happened the second time by the backstraight. The initial start was waved off. Clint Field made a spectacular start in the No. 37 Intersport Lola AER to weave from fourth to first by Turn 4, the de facto first turn on the start.
Drayson went off course at Turn 1 a few laps later but continued without damage. The car picked up a large amount of dust from the excursion but everything else was unscathed. At the time, he was one lap down about to hand the car over to Jonny Cocker.
LMP leaders Field and Guy Smith in the No. 16 Dyson Racing Lola Mazda Coupe led David Brabham in the No. 1 Patron Highcroft HPD ARX 01-c as the three then streaked away from the field. Field and Smith were only split by a few tenths of a second.
Within the first 15 minutes the leaders were already encountering and lapping the GT class leaders, which could easily be covered by a blanket or two.
The two Risi Ferraris, two Corvettes, two BMWs and the remainder of the GT field were only separated by a few seconds. Libra Racing’s Radical IES, the newest prototype on the grid, was running comparable lap times to the GT cars but slower than the other prototypes. The GT cars have struggled to get past.
Prior to the first round of stops, Field leads in LMP, Elton Julian in the Green Earth Team Gunnar entry in LMPC, Gianmaria Bruni in the Risi Ferrari in GT, and Luke Hines in the GTC class. Cars on Michelin tires hold the top three spots in GT with the two Risi Ferraris 1-2 and the No. 4 Corvette driven by Olivier Beretta holding off the charge from the No. 90 BMW.