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.

‘Baby Borgs’ bring special Indy 500 bonds, memories for Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi

Ganassi Ericsson Indy
Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner

THERMAL, Calif. – Winning the Indy 500 is a crowning achievement for driver and car owner, but for Chip Ganassi, last May’s victory by Marcus Ericsson had meaning even beyond just capturing one of the world’s greatest sporting events.

When Ganassi was 5 years old and growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, his father, Floyd, attended a convention in Indianapolis in 1963. Floyd went to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to tour the track and visit the former museum that used to stand next to the main gate on 16th and Georgetown.

Ganassi’s father brought young Chip a souvenir from the gift shop. It was an 8-millimeter film of the 1963 Indy 500, a race won by the legendary Parnelli Jones.

“I must have watched it about 1,000 times,” Ganassi recalled. “More importantly than that, something you did when you were 5 years old is still with you today.

“I was 50 years old when I celebrated my Thanksgiving with Parnelli. It dawned on me that something I did when I was 5 years old took me to when I was 50 years old. That’s pretty special.”

Ericsson and Ganassi were presented with their “Baby Borgs,” the mini-replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy, in a ceremony Feb. 2 at The Thermal Club (which played host to NTT IndyCar Series preseason testing). The win in the 106th Indy 500 marked the sixth time a Ganassi driver won the biggest race in the world.

Ganassi will turn 65 on May 24, just four days before the 107th Indianapolis 500 on May 28. The 2023 race will mark the 60th anniversary of the victory by Jones, who is now the oldest living winner of the Indianapolis 500 at 89.

Jones wanted to do something special for Ericsson and Ganassi, so each was given framed photos personally inscribed by Jones.

Parnelli Jones (Steve Shunck Photo For BorgWarner)

“Congratulations Marcus Ericsson and my good friend Chip Ganassi on winning the 2022 Indianapolis 500,” Jones said in remarks conveyed by BorgWarner publicist Steve Shunck. “There is no greater race in the whole world and winning it in 1963 was by far the biggest thrill in my life.”

Ganassi’s relationship with his racing hero began 60 years ago, but the two have shared some important moments since then.

It was Jones that signed off on Ganassi’s first Indianapolis 500 license in 1982. Jones was one of the veteran observers who worked with Ganassi and other rookie drivers that year to ensure they were capable of competing in the high-speed, high-risk Indianapolis 500.

When Ganassi turned 50, he got to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with Jones.

“We’ve been friends over the years,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “He wrote me a personal note and sent me some personal photographs. It really says what this race is all about and how important it is to win the biggest auto race in the world.”

Michelle Collins, the director of global communications and marketing for BorgWarner, presented the “Baby Borgs,” first to Ganassi and then to Ericsson.

“More special is winning the Indianapolis 500,” Ganassi said during the presentation. “It’s been a big part of my life. I want to call out my buddy, Roger Penske, and thank him for the stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and what it means to us. It’s about the history, the tradition and, to me, it’s about the people that have meant so much in my life.

“Thanks for the trophy, Marcus.”

Marcus Ericsson and Chip Ganassi hold their Baby Borgs while posing with the Borg-Warner Trophy (Bruce Martin).

The Baby Borg presentation also came on the birthday of sculptor William Behrends, who has crafted the Bas-relief sterling silver face of each winner on the Borg-Warner Trophy since 1990. The “Baby Borg” presents each winner with a miniature of one of the most famous trophies in sports.

“I have to thank BorgWarner for everything that has happened since winning the Indianapolis 500, including the trip to Sweden,” said Ericsson, who took a November victory lap in his native country. “I’m very thankful for that because it’s memories that are going to be with me for the rest of my life.

“To bring the Borg-Warner Trophy to my hometown, seeing all the people there on the city square on a dark day in the middle of November. It was filled with people and that was very special.

“I’m very proud and honored to be part of Chip Ganassi Racing. To win the Indianapolis 500 with that team is quite an honor. It’s a team effort and a lot of people worked very hard to make this happen.

“Our focus now is to go back-to-back at the Indy 500.”

If Ericsson is successful in becoming the first driver to win back-to-back Indy since Helio Castroneves in 2001-02, he can collect an additional $420,000 in the Borg-Warner Rollover Bonus. With Castroneves the last driver to collect, the bonus has grown to an astronomical amount over 21 years.

Ericsson is from Kumla, Sweden, so the $420,000 would have an exchange rate of $4,447,641.67 Swedish Kronor.

“It’s a nice thing to know I could get that if I do win it again,” Ericsson told NBC Sports. “But the Indianapolis 500 with its history as the biggest and greatest race in the world, it doesn’t matter with the money, with the points, with anything. Everyone is going to go out there and do everything to win that race.

“It’s great to know that, but I will race just as hard.”

Marcus Ericsson points at the newest face on the Borg-Warner Trophy (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

A popular slogan in racing is “Chip Likes Winners.” After winning the 106th Indy 500, Ganassi must really love Ericsson.

“It doesn’t get much bigger than that, does it? I’m very thankful to be driving for Chip,” Ericsson said. “He likes winners and winning the Indianapolis 500, it doesn’t get better than that.”

When Ericsson was presented with his Baby Borg, he stood off to the side and admired it the way a child looks at a special gift on Christmas morning. The wide-eyed amazement of his career-defining moment was easy to read and met with delight by executives of BorgWarner (an automotive and technology company that has sponsored the Borg-Warner Trophy since its 1935 debut).

“I noticed that immediately and I was watching him look at it wishing I had a camera to capture that,” Collins told NBC Sports. “But maybe not because we always have our phones in front of us and it’s nice to take in that moment as it is. That is what makes the moment well worth it.”

Marcus Ericsson (Bruce Martin)

Said BorgWarner executive vice president and chief strategic officer Paul Farrell: “It’s very special to have the big trophy that has been around since 1935 and to have a piece of that. Hopefully it’s something that (Ericsson) cherishes. We think it’s special, and clearly, Marcus Ericsson thinks it is very special.”

The trophy process begins shortly after the race as the winner has the famed Borg-Warner Wreath placed around his neck, and the Borg-Warner Trophy is put on the engine cover. The next morning, the winner meets with Behrends, who has been sculpting the faces on the trophy since Arie Luyendyk’s first victory in 1990. Later in the year, the winner visits Behrends’ studio in Tryon, North Carolina, for a “Live Study.”

The process takes several more steps before the face is reduced to the size of an egg and casted in sterling silver. It is attached to the permanent Borg-Warner Trophy and unveiled at a ceremony later in the year. Ericsson’s face was unveiled last October during a ceremony in Indianapolis.

That’s when it hit Ericsson, a three-time winner in IndyCar after going winless in Formula One over 97 starts from 2014-18.

“Until then, it was strange because you are so busy with your season right after the Indy 500 you don’t really get much time to sit back and think about what you had accomplished,” Ericsson said. “It was the offseason before I really realized what I had done.”

The permanent trophy remains on display at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but has been known to travel with the winning driver on special tours, such as the Nov. 3-7 trip to Sweden.

“It’s been incredible to see the amount of interest in me and the IndyCar Series and the Indy 500,” Ericsson said. “The trophy tour with the Borg-Warner Trophy we did in November really made a huge impact in Sweden. I was on every TV show, morning TV, magazines, newspapers, everywhere. People are talking about IndyCar racing. People are talking about Marcus Ericsson. It’s been huge.

“I was back in Sweden last month for the Swedish Sports Awards and I finished third in the Sports Performance of the Year. Motorsports is usually not even nominated there, and I finished third. That says a lot about the interest and support I’ve gotten back home in Sweden.”

Ericsson continued to reap the rewards of his Indianapolis 500 victory last week at the lavish Thermal Club, about a 45-minute drive from Palm Springs, California.

Earlier in the day before the Baby Borg presentation, Ericsson, and Chip Ganassi were among the 27 car-driver combinations that completed the first day of IndyCar’s “Spring Training” on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile road course. The next day, Ericsson turned the test’s fastest lap.

The 32-year-old still seems to be riding the wave, along with his girlfriend, Iris Tritsaris Jondahl, a Greece native who also lived in Sweden and now lives with Ericsson in Indianapolis.

“Today, receiving my Baby Borg, it was another thing of making it real,” Ericsson said. “It’s not a dream. It’s reality. To get the Baby Borg and bring it home. My girlfriend, Iris, and I are house hunting, looking for a house in Indianapolis. It will definitely have a very special place in our new home.”

Marcus Ericsson and girlfriend Iris Tritsaris Jondahlc share a kiss at the Baby Borg presentation (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

Ericsson told NBC Sports his most cherished trophy before getting his Baby Borg was for his first NTT IndyCar Series win in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix in 2021.

“It was such a huge win for me and such a huge breakthrough for me and my career,” he said. “After that, it catapulted me into a top driver in IndyCar.”

The Brickyard win was another level for Ericsson, who moved to Ganassi in 2020.

“Marcus kept himself in the race all day,” Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull told NBC Sports. “Anybody that ran a race like Marcus ran, maybe you deserve the race win, but you don’t always get it. Marcus did everything that it took, and we are really, really proud of him.”

Ericsson also proved last year to be one of the best oval drivers in the series, a much different form of racing than he experienced until he came to the United States.

“Racing in Europe and around the world, I always liked high-speed corners,” he explained. “It was always my favorite. I always had this idea if I go to IndyCar and race on the ovals, it is something that would suit me and my driving style. I was always excited to try that. When I came to IndyCar and started to drive on ovals, I liked it straight away. It worked for me and my style.

“The first few attempts at Indy, I had good speed, but it was always some small mistakes that got me out of contention. I learned from them. I’m very proud I was able to pull it off, but it was a lot of hard work behind that.”

Michelle Collins of BorgWarner presented Baby Borgs to Marcus Ericsson and Chip Ganassi at a ceremony also attended by Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

The victory in the Indianapolis 500 is etched in history, as is Ericsson’s face on the trophy.

“It’s such a special thing,” the driver said. “The BorgWarner people and IndyCar and everyone at IMS, I get to experience so many cool things since winning the Indy 500. It’s a win that keeps on giving. It never ends. It still does.

“I can’t wait to get back to Indianapolis, the month of May, as the champion. I still have to pinch myself. It’s a dream, for sure.”

Ganassi doesn’t have to pinch himself — all he needs to do is look at his collection of Baby Borgs.

His first Indy 500 win — as a team co-owner with Pat Patrick — came in 1989 with Emerson Fittipaldi’s thrilling duel against Al Unser Jr.

In 1990, Ganassi formed Chip Ganassi Racing. Juan Pablo Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000, Scott Dixon in 2008, Dario Franchitti in 2010 and 2012 and Ericsson in 2022.

“It’s a feather in the team’s cap for sure just to have our representation on the Borg-Warner Trophy with five other drivers,” Ganassi said. “It’s a testament to the team, a testament to Mike Hull that runs the team in Indianapolis. I just feel really lucky to be a part of it. It’s great to work with a great team of great people.

“Just to relive that moment again and again never gets old; never goes away. I’m really lucky to be in the position I’m in. It’s an honor to represent the team with the great people that it took to bring Marcus across the finish line. He and I get to celebrate events like this, but it’s really about the people at Chip Ganassi Racing in Indianapolis that pull this all together.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500