Saturday’s changing track conditions provided an array of challenges for the 27-car Rolex Series field at Mid-Ohio.
Track temperatures dropped 10 degrees in the first hour and sprinkles of rain throughout the 2.75-hour race kept the drivers hands full. At times the track had grip and at other times it was greasy slick. In the end, the consistency of the Continental tires provided the confidence that the Daytona Prototype (DP), Grand Touring (GT) and GX drivers needed to get to victory lane.
The DP action was tight all day and there were multiple lead changes before the No. 5 Action Express Corvette emerged at the front of the field on lap 87 of 110.The duo of Christian Fittipalid and Joao Barbosa teamed up for a spectacular run that gave the team its first trip to victory lane in 2013.The misfortune of some teams saw others gain in the overall point standings. The second-place team of Enzo Potolicchio and Michael Valiante in the No. 3 8 Star Motorsports Corvette and the third-place team of Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel in the No. 2 Starworks Motorsports Ford, gained in the point standings while the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabetes team fell in the points for a second race in a row.
“This tire seemed like you could push for much longer and keep the same performance,“ said Barbosa after the race. “We were able to find a good setup and a good compromise at this track so we could make the tire last a little bit longer. I was able to push every time I needed to and the tire was always under the car and I could push. It was a great tire to have here. I think Continental is doing a good job and looking forward winning more races for Action Express and Corvette.”
The battle for the GT victory was nose-to-tail all day.In the early go, it looked like the Stevenson Motorsports team was headed for a fourth victory with John Edwards and Robin Liddell but that was not how the story ended. Lap after lap, Liddell bobbed and weaved as Bill Auberlen, in the No 94 Turner Motorsports BMW, pressured him from behind.Then on lap 64, Auberlen made a fantastic pass for the lead and never looked back.
With less than an hour to go, the second and third place cars of Liddell and Jeff Segal, in the No. 61 Ferrari, made contact exiting pit road forcing them both back to pit road to change out cut down tires. As the clock wound down, it was Eric Curran in the No. 31 March Racing Corvette hot on Auberlen’s tail. With two laps to go, Curran made contact with Auberlen sending him spinning into the gravel and grass. Auberlen recovered, Curran was assessed a penalty by GRAND-AM, and Auberlen along with co-driver Paul Dalla Lana, made a trip to victory lane for Turner Motorsports while the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche with drivers John Potter and Andy Lally finished second.
“The track conditions were changing all the time,“ said Auberlen fresh off the win. “It started to drizzle then it would stop, drizzle, stop and whenever it got wet, the wetter it got, the Corvette was amazing in the wet. The drier it got, then I could hold my own. The first stint, I didn’t touch the tires at all and they were good beginning to end. The second stint, I used them kind of hard and I didn’t leave myself much at the end. I didn’t think he would try to drive over me, he nerfed me a little bit and it was enough to send me spinning.”
Andy Lally chimed in on the track conditions as well saying, “Track conditions were tough because it was drizzling and cooling the track off then the sun was coming out and it was getting it greasy but it was fast.“ He continued, “We were putting down some really fast laps but we were sliding all over the place trying to keep up with these Ferrari’s, Camero’s and Corvette’s and BMW’s. It’s a huge testament to Continental Tire because I beat the snot out of these things and they held up for me the whole race.”
In GX racing, it was the Mazdaspeed/Speedsource team on top of the podium.Drivers, Sylvain Tremblay and Tom Long drove a smooth race and avoided issues throughout the day to log their first win of the 2013 season.
For some the number 13 is unlucky, but not for the No. 13 Rum Bum Porsche team who captured their 13th win in the car after starting eighth in the 56-car combined field.Nick Longhi and Matt Plumb drove a flawless race which, combined with Rum Bum’s pit strategy, proved genius in the end.With the fuel gauge moving to empty, a lengthy caution flew with less than 10 minutes to go, allowing the team to make the most of their fuel mileage and score a win over the No. 96 Turner Motorsports BMW team in the Grand Sport (GS) Class by a mere .452 seconds.The one thing the team didn’t have to worry about, the Continental tires which once again provided the durability and confidence the teams needed to the end.
“We set the car up on brand new tires we had a tiny bit of a push and as the run wears on, our handling actually comes to us,“ said Plumb after the win. “From tire to tire, set to set, throughout the whole run, it’s so predictable. (The tire is) very stable and it really helps us nail our setup because we can have a constant with (the tire) throughout the whole run.”
In the Street Tuner (ST) Class, the No. 196 RSR Motorsports duo of Andrew Novich and Tom Dyer won their first career race. Dyer held off defending Mid-Ohio ST winner, Michael Valiante, by .455 seconds and making the ST podium a sweep for Honda with the No. 93 HART Honda and No. 75 Compass 360 Honda finishing second and third respectively.
The GRAND-AM Series returns to the track at Watkins Glen International on June 29 and 30 for a double-header that includes the Rolex Series and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series.Fans can catch live coverage on SPEED and MRN.Check local listings for times.
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