Photo: Courtesy IMSA

Lexus Fight Hart to First, Fourth in GT Daytona at Mid-Ohio

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

LEXINGTON, Ohio — A clean sweep was not in the cards for Acura.

Lexus managed to deny Acura a two-class victory at the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course as the No. 14 Allegeny Health Network Lexus RC F GT3 machine managed to win the GT Daytona class in the third IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship race of the 2018 season. 

While Acura won in Prototype, the pairing of Dominik Baumann and Kyle Marcelli managed to hold off the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 driven by Katherine Legge and Alvaro Parente despite Parente closing on Baumann in the final laps but Baumann was able to defend his position in the battle of the luxury brands of Toyota and Honda.

“It was crazy,” said Baumann. “I saw him coming 15 minutes to the end, I knew we had some problems with the rear tires because we used them so much at the beginning of the stint. We’ve struggled since Daytona, we’ve struggled with the rear tires and it was just crazy.

“I just thought no mistakes, defend with everything you’ve got and try to get the win for the team and for Lexus.”

This was Lexus’s first win since returning to sports cars with 3GT Racing.

“It’s a good feeling,” said Baumann. “I know everyone works hard on this program, we needed that win for the mechanics, for our engineers, for Lexus, for the team, just to put away some pressure for everyone.

“The first win is always hard to get, I hope it will be a bit easier for next time so we can do the same in some events too but it’s a good feeling seeing the checkered flag leading in our class.”

Marcelli drove in the middle part of the race after Baumann started the race.

“We knew our car was really strong on fresh tires,” said Marcelli. “We proved that in qualifying (Saturday), we had really good pace and qualified one-two and so the opening half of the stints we need to push like crazy to try to build a gap knowing that the second half of the stint we were going to struggle a little bit and I think that’s what you saw today.

“There’s a lot of pressure to get that first win, the first one’s the hardest and it’s just such an honor to deliver Lexus and 3GT racing that first win at Mid-Ohio.”

The No. 14 had qualified second to the sister No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3 and Jack Hawksworth was out to a massive lead earlier in the race. However, as the race went on that lead evaporated and David Heinemeier Hansson handed off the car to Hawksworth at the end.

“It seemed that we did everything right but then when we came back out we had lost a bunch of time that we shouldn’t have,” said Heinemeier Hansson. “Not sure how that went down but still a good race, obviously the team getting its first win is incredible and for us to finish fourth with the lineup that we had was probably as good as it was going to get.

“After 2 hours and 40 minutes of green racing to finish 25 seconds off the lead, we didn’t have more than that. Happy with that under the circumstances.”

Hawksworth started the race in the No.15 entry and had to fight late in the race.

“On that last stop we came in and lost some more time and I ended up behind (Lawson) Aschenbach,” said Hawksworth. “I was much faster but really slow to overtake him and then just spent the whole stint really trying to get past him.

“Had a bit of a kerfuffle with a lapped car who kept me behind but in the end I caught Aschenbach and passed him but it was a real shame because we had the fastest car but it was what it was, we got fourth and the team car won so it was a nice day for the team and for Lexus.”

The GTD class will next race with the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship on the Streets of Detroit at Belle Isle.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.