Acura’s dominance at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course reached its logical conclusion with a Team Penske sweep of the top two overall positions in the return of top-level North American sports car racing to the Lexington, Ohio road course.
The No. 7 Acura ARX-05 started from the pole position thanks to a blistering pace in qualifying from Helio Castroneves. The car faced challenges throughout the two-hour, 40-minute race not only from its sister car but also the pair of Mazda RT24-Ps fielded by Mazda Team Joest.
From the drop of green flag on the back straight, both Mazdas looked quick and challenged the leading Acura DPi sat various points. Later contact for the No. 55 Mazda DPi with Spencer Pigot at the wheel dropped it out of contention after several pit stops led to an eventual retirement.
With the lead group having made three pit stops, Ricky Taylor brought the No. 7 Acura across the finish line ahead of teammate Juan Pablo Montoya who drove the sister No. 6 at the race’s conclusion. Taylor had a 7.7-second lead over Montoya when he took the white flag, ensuring a drama-free final lap and guaranteeing Penske’s first win of its return to sports car racing.
Montoya wheeled his Penske Acura to the checkers 8.464 seconds behind Taylor, delivering a 1-2 for the team and the manufacturer in its first year as a Daytona Prototype international constructor.
Mazda’s strong showing ended with a podium for the No. 77, which was driven to the finish by Tristan Nunez. Although the car with drivers Nunez and Oliver Jarvis showed speed and the ability to keep up with the leading Acuras early in the race, the only remaining Mazda was 26.8 seconds behind the leader at the checkered flag.
A pair of Cadillac DPi-V.Rs completed the top five with Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 31 Action Express car and Jordan Tayor in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing machine. Both were at the tail end of the lead lap at 57 and 58 seconds behind the winner, respectively.
The best finish for an LMP2 car was delivered by Sebastian Saavedra and Gustavo Yacaman who finished sixth in the No. 52 AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217.
JDC-Miller Motorsports’ Stephen Simpson was the only other LMP2 driver to finish inside the top 10. Simpson, behind the wheel of the No. 99 ORECA 07, also earned the distinction of setting the race’s fastest lap, a 1:13.832 on Lap 98 of 125.
Felipe Nasr’s Cadillac DPi and the Nissan Onroak DPis of Pipo Derani and Ryan Dalziel completed the top 10, but were not on the lead lap.
As the first standard-duration race of the 2018 season, the Mid-Ohio visit ran clean with no full-course caution periods.
Next up for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix at Detroit’s Raceway at Belle Isle Park. The race will take place June 2.