IMSA Mid-Ohio notebook: Taylor, Montoya sweep WeatherTech practices

Photo courtesy IMSA

Courtesy: IMSA Communications

Notebook items include:

  • Taylor Leads 1-2 Sweep in Mid-Ohio Practice for Acura Team Penske
  • WeatherTech Championship Weekend Schedule for Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio
  • Bamber Tops GTLM Charts for Porsche GT Team
  • Auberlen Picks Up Where He Left Off in Turner Motorsport BMW
  • Faulkner Leads Continental Tire Challenge during Practice Day at Mid-Ohio
  • Estep Leads Day 1 of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Practice at Mid-Ohio
  • Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo Makes First Official Laps at Mid-Ohio

Acura Team Penske got its Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio weekend off to an outstanding start, with both of its ARX-05 DPi cars sweeping the top two positions in both of the day’s two practice sessions.

Leading the way was Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi with a best lap of one minute, 13.601 seconds (110.443 mph). Taylor’s lap came in dry conditions during the morning session. He was second to teammate Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 6 Acura in the afternoon session, which was interrupted twice by stormy weather.

“It’s been a great start to the weekend,” Taylor said. “We tested here about a week and a half ago. I’m really happy with the way we’ve unloaded. I think we learned a lot at our test. Now was a good opportunity to get some laps in the wet, because it looks like it could go either way in the race on Sunday. I’m just really looking forward to starting this Acura Sports Car Challenge in our Acuras. I think we’ve got a really good shot.”

In the wet afternoon session, Taylor did spin and make contact with the barrier. However, the team still was able to make repairs and get him back on course before the checkered flag came out.

“There was 15 minutes left in the wet and I really wanted to kind of get going quickly,” Taylor explained. “I made a simple mistake and spun, and once I got in the grass, I was going to hit the wall. Unfortunately, I cost myself the laps and the guys had to do a little bit of bodywork repair, so I feel bad for that, but I’m glad they were able to get me back out for a couple more laps.”

Montoya was second on the day at 1:14.089 (109.716 mph). Third was Prototype points leader Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R at 1:14.608 (108.953 mph).

WeatherTech Championship Weekend Schedule for Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio

The WeatherTech Championship race cars return to the challenging, 2.258-mile, 13-turn circuit for a final, pre-qualifying practice session Saturday morning from 8:35 to 9:35 a.m. ET. The three 15-minute qualifying sessions for the three classes begin at 12:05 p.m. ET for GTD, followed by GTLM at 12:30 p.m. ET and Prototype qualifying at 12:55 p.m. ET.

Live streaming coverage of qualifying, with IMSA Radio audio, will be available on and on the all-new IMSA app.

Sunday’s schedule gets under way at 8 a.m. ET with a 20-minute warm up session for the WeatherTech Championship. The two-hour, 40-minute race will take the green flag at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Live FS2 television coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET, with live IMSA Radio coverage also available on, the IMSA app, and SiriusXM Radio.

Bamber Tops GTLM Charts for Porsche GT Team

In preparation for the final GT Le Mans (GTLM) race before June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, two-time Le Mans overall winner Earl Bamber got the Mid-Ohio weekend off to a solid start in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR for the Porsche GT Team.

Bamber posted the fastest lap in GTLM at 1:20.148 (101.422 mph) in the car he is sharing with Laurens Vanthoor. Not unlike Taylor, Bamber also credited a recent test at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as a key contributor to early success in the Acura Sports Car Challenge weekend.

“We had really good preparation before coming here,” Bamber said. “I think we were one of the only teams that managed to actually run. We had a little bit of snow and a little bit of ice and stuff like that, but we had some prep, so the car came out really good.

“Obviously, it’s the first time for IMSA being back here in a long time. It’s a track that I really like. I enjoy it. It’s going to prove quite a challenge, because it’s super slippery in the wet and we’re unsure about the conditions, but generally, I love driving the track here. It was an OK lap, the setup was good, acceptable, but I think it’s going to be super tight.

“If you look, all manufacturers are pretty competitive all the way down the range, so I think qualifying is going to be mega tomorrow, tight and a tough job. It’s going to be a good race.”

Second in GTLM was Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R at 1:20.467 (101.020 mph), while Jesse Krohn was third in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE at 1:20.704 (100.723 mph).

Auberlen Picks Up Where He Left Off in Turner Motorsport BMW

The last time Bill Auberlen raced a Turner Motorsport BMW at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, he won the race. That was back in 2013 in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.

From 2014 through 2017, Auberlen was a full-time driver of BMW Team RLL’s GTLM team. This year, however, he’s shifted to a Tequila Patrón North American Endurance role with that team in addition to new responsibilities as a BMW Brand Ambassador.

That made Auberlen available to rejoin Turner Motorsport, which he has done at this weekend’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, sharing the No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 with 2017 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Grand Sport champion Dillon Machavern.

And in Friday’s WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) practice session, Auberlen picked up right where he left off with Turner at Mid-Ohio. He led practice with a best lap of 1:20.803 (100.599 mph).

“The last time we were here in Ohio, I think we won,” Auberlen said. “The neat thing about BMW is we all run our teams the same. When I jump from one car into this car, I know it very well. The procedures are the same, the way we do driver changes is the same, everything is the same, so it’s very comfortable right away.

“Then, to get back with my old engineers, my crew chiefs, it’s like coming home. And to see the P1 running around on the car this morning after I got out, that was icing on the cake.”

If P1 is showing on the car at the end of Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute race, it will be Auberlen’s 59th career IMSA victory, moving him to within one of all-time win leader Scott Pruett’s record 60 victories.

Faulkner Leads Continental Tire Challenge during Practice Day at Mid-Ohio

It was a tale of two seasons for the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge on Friday, with the day’s two practice sessions at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course being run under vastly different conditions.

The first practice, held early in the afternoon, gave teams a chance to test their cars under sunny skies on a slick track – the conditions expected for the series’ Mid-Ohio 120 Saturday afternoon.

Damien Faulkner in the No. 33 Winward Racing/HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG GT4 topped the charts in the Grand Sport (GS) class during the first session with a time of one minute, 28.762 seconds (91.579 mph). The lap was just .096 seconds quicker than second-place Nate Stacy in the No. 60 Roush Performance/KohR Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4.

“It’s quite a nice track,” said Faulkner, who owns a third-place finish at Mid-Ohio from a 2001 Indy Lights race. “It’s challenging, it’s going to be really challenging to overtake. It’s got some undulating sections where it goes up and down and over and back, and I like it. It’s a nice rhythm track. Sector Two for example, if you get the first part of it wrong, the rest of it is tougher so it’s nice when you get into a rhythm. It’s very sort of flowing.”

Following two brief rain cells that cooled temperatures and dampened the track, drivers played it safe in the day’s second practice session later Friday afternoon. As a result, the fastest times in the TCR and Street Tuner (ST) classes were also posted in Practice 1.

Kuno Wittmer’s lap in the No. 74 Compass Racing Audi RS3 LMS – 1.29.903 (90.417 mph) – stands as the fastest in the TCR class, while Mat Pombo’s time of 1:35.690 (84.949 mph) tops the ST charts for the No. 73 MINI JCW Team MINI JCW.

Saturday’s schedule for the Continental Tire Challenge involves a 15-minute practice session before qualifying begins at 11:10 a.m. ET. The Mid-Ohio 120, the third of 10 rounds on the year, goes green at2:20 p.m. ET and can be streamed live on

Estep Leads Day 1 of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama Practice at Mid-Ohio

Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama points leader Trenton Estep posted a best time of one minute, 24.076 seconds (96.683 mph) during Friday’s practice sessions at Mid-Ohio in the No. 3 JDX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup machine.

Estep turned in the best time during the second of the day’s two practice sessions. His speed was more than four seconds faster than the time Roman De Angelis turned to lead the first official practice session of the weekend on Friday morning.

“It’s been raining the past couple of days so the track has been pretty green,” Estep said. “But as soon as (the) WeatherTech (Championship cars) got on track, the track gripped up quite a bit. The guys gave me a really good car to go and put it on the top.”

After leading the morning session, De Angelis ended the day second on the time charts with a best lap of 1:24.273 (96.457 mph) in the No. 1 Kelly-Moss Road and Race Porsche. De Angelis comes into the Mid-Ohio weekend third in the Platinum Cup championship standings, just two points behind Estep and one behind second-place Will Hardeman.

The Canadian is expecting each of this weekend’s two 45-minute races to be challenging.

“I think in a 45-minute race, it’s going to be super tiring,” De Angelis said. “There’s no breaks on this track at all. Even the straightaway’s not straight, so you’re really, really busy. That’s one of the things that’s going to play a huge factor, the physical performance of yourself. I think it should be a lot of fun for the race, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Hardeman was third quickest on the day at 1:24.434 (96.273 mph) in the No. 19 Moorespeed Porsche. Mark Kvamme, who hails from nearby Columbus, Ohio, led the way in the Platinum Cup Masters class with a best lap of 1:26.078 (94.435 mph) in the No. 43 JDX Racing entry.

Victor Gomez IV, who leads the GT3 Cup Challenge USA Gold Cup standings for cars built between 2014 and 2016, also led the way in Gold Cup practice. His best time was 1:26.530 (93.941 mph) in the No. 25 Porsche from NGT Motorsport.

Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo Makes First Official Laps at Mid-Ohio

The Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series made its official return to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car course Friday with a pair of 40-minute practice sessions ahead of the weekend’s first and second rounds of the 2018 North America championship.

The morning session was run under dry conditions despite the threat of rain that lingered all day, which provided a good opportunity for teams to take the new Huracán Super Trofeo Evo out on track for the first time.

Sixteen of the seventeen teams entered made laps, paced by the Pro-Am class co-drivers JC Perez and Loris Spinelli in the No. 71 P1 Motorsports Lamborghini Huracán Super Trofeo Evo with a time of one minute, 22.487 seconds (98.546 mph) around the 2.25-mile road course.

“The track is very green, but our cars behaved very well,” said Perez. “We obviously have the fastest car out there right now, so we are very happy with the results the team has provided and we are very happy that IMSA and Lamborghini have provided a really, really, really good series for us to run.”

Pro class drivers Trent Hindman and Jonathan Cecotto in the Wayne Taylor Racing No. 1 (1:23.359, 97.515 mph) and Corey Lewis and Madison Snow (1:23.722, 97.092 mph) in the Charge Racing No. 29 rounded out the morning’s top-three.

The afternoon session saw times drop as teams became more familiar with their new cars on a Mid-Ohio track that is unfamiliar to many of the competitors. Hindman and Cecotto were at the top of the chart after the second session with a fastest lap of 1:22.640 (98.363 mph).

“I like Mid-Ohio very much,” Cecotto said. “Race tracks are quite different here (in the United States) compare to European tracks. The asphalt is quite slippery. That is something you really do not find in Europe. I am enjoying it a lot though. It is a new adventure for me.”

Hindman echoed his co-driver’s enthusiasm for the weekend ahead.

“The team is doing a great job,” Hindman said. “We really haven’t had to touch the car all day. It really is very solid. Maybe a few minor adjustments. The name of the game here is to try and learn this place more quickly than anyone else.”

Perez and Spinelli backed up their first session speeds, charting second (1:22.646, 98.356 mph), with Pro class drivers Edoardo Piscopo and Taylor Proto in the US RaceTronics No. 50 (1:22.815, 98.155 mph) rounding out the afternoon’s top-three in a session that was cut four minutes short due to weather.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).