Michelin celebrated the return of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, with an exciting race which saw a great blend of speed, strategy and racecraft. The 11-turn, 2.258-mile circuit provided the first elevation changes and standard length race of the season of two hours, 40 minutes.
Michelin technical partner factory teams from Porsche, BMW, Chevrolet Corvette, and Ford took advantage of the performance and consistency of their Michelin “soft” and “medium” temperature range tires to play a wide range of set up and strategic options.
“We are happy be back at Mid-Ohio and very pleased that our GTLM teams were able to perform at a very high level on a technically difficult track and deliver a great race for the fans,” said Chris Baker, director of motorsport, Michelin North America Inc. “Since our last visit here during the 2012 season, technology has marched on and qualifying times in the GT Le Mans class were approaching two seconds per lap faster!
Porsche withstands BMW heat
Taking the GTLM class victory was the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR driven by New Zealand’s Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor of Belgium. Finishing second was the No. 25 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE driven by young Englishman Alexander Sims and young American Connor De Phillippi. A brilliant pit strategy and stirring late drive by De Phillippi saw him cut the Porsche lead from 8.817 seconds on Lap 95 to just 1.1426 seconds on Lap 110 before running out of time.
“It was horrible! I knew he was coming and he was on fresher tires. I was trying the best I could, but it was getting harder and harder. But the last six or seven laps, I knew it was OK. I saw when we were alone that we could maintain the gap. It was stressful,” said Vanthoor. Rounding out the podium were the defending series champions, Spain’s Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen of Denmark, driving the No 3. Corvette Racing C7.R.
Quality runs deep
The quality of the IMSA WeatherTech Championship cars, teams, and drivers and race preparation was clearly evident as 33 of the 34 race starters finished the race, which ran caution-free. Despite track temperatures of 105 degrees and differing choices of Michelin tire options, the eight factory backed GTLM entries posted best race laps within a range of 0.392 of a second.
The next 2018 GTLM class race is at Watkins Glen on July 1 although some GTLM competitors will race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 16-17.