Photo: IMSA

Acura Team Penske breaks through with first IMSA WeatherTech win in Mid-Ohio

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Talk about delivering return on investment to your sponsors: It was an Acura sweep in the Acura Sports Car Challenge Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Ricky Taylor and teammate Juan Pablo Montoya finished 1-2 for Acura Team Penske – the team’s first win since returning full-time to sports car racing this year — in the Prototype class.

“We come here in Acura’s for Acura’s home race and then to start the month of May with a legend (teammate Helio Castroneves), it’s just the start,” Taylor told Fox Sports 2.

Added Castroneves, in his first season in the series, “This kid (Taylor) is unbelievable. He was on it and never lost his cool. Unbelievable. I was losing my cool, it’s the hardest thing to watch.”

Taylor then predicted even more success for Castroneves, who races next in a one-off start in the Verizon IndyCar Series in the May 27th 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“He’s got more coming up in the month,” Taylor said of Castroneves on FS2.

As for runner-up Montoya, he told FS2, “You’ve got to be happy for Acura. We’ve worked so hard and we’ve been so unlucky this year. To win here on their home turf (Acura has a manufacturing shop in Marysville, Ohio, about an hour away from Mid-Ohio) and do it 1-2 is pretty cool.”

The weekend also marked the return to Mid-Ohio for the IMSA WeatherTech Championship Series after a five-year absence.

Taylor’s No. 7 Acura DPi crossed the finish line 8.464 seconds ahead of Montoya in the No. 6 Acura DPi, while Tristan Nunez, in the No. 77 Mazda DPi finished third, 18.310 seconds behind Taylor.

Teammates Filipe Albuquerque and Jordan Taylor finished fourth and fifth.

While there was some minor contact between several cars across all three classes, the entire 2 hour, 40 minute race was run completely caution-free under sunny conditions and temperatures in the 70s, a distinct improvement from Friday, when rain deluged the track.

In the GTLM class: Laurens Vanthoor, in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR, held off strong late challenges by Connor De Phillippi (by 1.673 seconds) and Jan Magnussen (by 12.295 seconds). Joey Hand (-18.696 seconds) and Richard Westbrook (-19.970 seconds) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

“It was horrible,” Vanthoor laughed to FS2. “The BMW (of De Phillippi) was chasing us with fresher tires and my tires were already destroyed with 15 laps to go, so I had to fight like crazy to stay on track and push.

“I was worried that cars were catching me. I was doing my best and tried to keep positive and finally it worked. A lot of stuff went wrong along in-between, chances that went away, but now it’s done and I hope it’s the first of many.”

In the GTD class: Dominik Baumann won the first race for Lexus Racing USA, beating Alvaro Parente to the checkered flag by a slim 0.191-second margin. Bryan Sellers finished third (-18.472 seconds), followed by Jack Hawksworth (-25.027 seconds) and Lawson Aschenbach (-28.795 seconds).

“The radio connection was not too good, so I had to manage it myself,” Baumann said to FS2. “But I pushed every lap. It was just 100 percent every lap.

“I didn’t know what the gap was, but I’m so glad we did it. The pressure’s going off and it was such a perfect weekend.”

The next IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship race will be held on the weekend of June 1-3 as part of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix on the Belle Isle street course.

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Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.