Michael Shank Racing Acura during Detroit Belle Isle IMSA race results
Photo: Brian Cleary / Michael Shank Racing

Five races into its career as an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship machine, the Acura NSX GT3 is a winner in the highly competitive GT Daytona category.

After Katherine Legge qualified Michael Shank Racing’s No. 93 Acura to the outside of the front row on Friday in advance of the 100-minute race on Saturday, the two-car team, racing for its first time at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in the all-GT3 class, prevailed with a unique strategy in a tight race.

Andy Lally in Michael Shank Racing Audi during Belle Isle IMSA race
Photo: Continental Tire

Remarkably, the race started without contact among the GTD leaders as the top eight cars battled within just enough space to contain them.

The pole-sitting Audi R8 LMS GT3 fielded by Stevenson Motorsports led the entire opening stint of the race.

Legge continued chasing Aschenbach in the Stevenson Audi after five laps. Bryan Sellers in Paul Miller Racing’s Lamborghini ran third and Daniel Morad headed up the remainder of the frantic eight-car group in Alegra Motorsports’ No. 28 Porsche 911 GT3 R.

A break in the action came 26 minutes after the race began. After winning on Belle Isle last year in a Dodge Viper, Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen had their day end early due to heavy contact with the Turn 8 wall for Keating in Riley Motorsports’ No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3.

Keating nursed the damaged Mercedes to the pits, missing its right front wheel and most other components from that area of the car.

The race’s first full-course caution appeared for this incident and another which took place at the other end of the circuit when Kenny Habul in SunEnergy1 Racing’s Mercedes took out Visit Florida Racing’s Gibson-powered LMP2 car at Turn 3.

Pit stops under this yellow saw Aschenbach and the Stevenson team drop from the lead to fourth due to the Audi’s slower refueling time. The Paul Miller Lamborghini suffered a similar fate for the same reason.

Green-flag racing returned with 56 minutes still to go and Andy Lally as the leader after displacing Legge in the No. 93 Acura. While Legge climbed out and Lally got buckled into the Acura, the car’s crew changed only the left side tires, ensuring a quick return to the 2.35-mile temporary street circuit. This decision made possible the eventual victory.

The Alegra Porsche as well as Change Racing’s Lamborghini and the SunEnergy1 Mercedes were issued penalties for infractions that took place during the yellow-flag pit stops, taking them out of contention.

Six minutes into the second run of green-flag conditions, Lally remained the leader and was chased by Scuderia Corsa’s No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3, driven by Alessandro Balzan. Andrew Davis, after taking over for Aschenbach in the Stevenson Audi, had returned the car to the lead group and ran third.

Lally continued to lead as the race entered its final stages while the next few positions behind the Michael Shank-owned car were still being fought for.

The reigning GTD championship-winning Ferrari of Scuderia Corsa chased Lally to the checkers, ultimately finishing 2.441 seconds behind the No. 93 Acura as the NSX GT3 captured its first win in competition.

“I wanted three tires, because I wanted a right-front hot tire when we came out,” Lally said of the pivotal pit stop.

“(Michael Shank) made the decision to just put in left sides to save time. I plugged my last belt in and he said, ‘Go.’

“It was perfect tires and a really fast driver change. We knew the right front would be okay by the end, but the right rear was really just skating all over by the end of the race.”

Katherine Legge exits Belle Isle pit lane in Acura during IMSA race
Photo: Aaron Durant / The Apex

The win is Legge’s first in the WeatherTech Championship.

“It’s a testament to the team,” Legge stated. “The team gave us a car that was capable of winning.”

“That was the longest hour of my life watching Andy drive. I was telepathically talking to him. It was harder to watch than actually drive.”

With Balzan finishing second in the Ferrari after his co-driver Christina Nielsen started the race, two women found the podium in Detroit. Madison Snow ensured the Paul Miller Lamborghini rounded out the podium after taking over for Sellers.

Turner Motorsport’s No. 96 BMW M6 GT3, the only car of its kind on the island during the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear weekend, finished fourth.

The second Acura, after a heavy crash during the weekend’s first practice session forced it to miss qualifying, finished fifth at the hands of Jeff Segal. The car ran as high as third in the closing minutes but was forcefully passed by Snow in Paul Miller’s Lamborghini.

Sage Karam and Jack Hawksworth finished sixth and seventh in the pair of Lexus RC F GT3s from 3GT Racing. Colin Braun, Joerg Bergmeister and Mathieu Jaminet completed the top 10 for CORE autosport, Park Place Motorsports and Alegra Motorsports.

The GTD field will join the Prototype, Prototype Challenge and GT Le Mans categories at Watkins Glen International for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on the weekend of June 29 to July 2.

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