Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix Presented by Acura: Five Takeaways

By IMSA Wire Service

Last Sunday’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix presented by Acura saw the extension of two IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team winning streaks with Mazda Team Joest and the Porsche GT Team celebrating atop the podium once again in the Daytona Prototype international (DPi) and GT Le Mans (GTLM) classes, respectively.

In LMP2, the seesaw battle between the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA and season-long driver Matt McMurry and the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA squad of Kyle Masson and Cameron Cassels tilted back in the direction of the No. 52 team and McMurry, who was joined for the first time by Canadian Dalton Kellett.

And in GT Daytona (GTD), IMSA legend Bill Auberlen closed to within one victory of Scott Pruett’s all-time record win total of 60 with a popular victory alongside co-driver Robby Foley in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3.

Those were the headlines coming out of the weekend, but as always, there’s more where that came from.

Here are this week’s five takeaways:

Roles Reversed at Mazda Team Joest
A week after delivering Mazda Team Joest’s first WeatherTech Championship victory in a 1-2 sweep for the team in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, the No. 55 RT24-P duo of Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito came home second in the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix presented by Acura behind their race-winning teammates, Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez, in the No. 77.

And while any race driver will tell you that they’d much prefer winning to finishing anywhere else, both Bomarito and Tincknell were proud of the team’s accomplishments at CTMP, just as Nunez and Jarvis were a week earlier in finishing second at Watkins Glen. The No. 55 team led a race-high

“We’re still celebrating,” Bomarito said. “Even though we’re second, it’s still a Mazda 1-2. It’s great for Mazda Team Joest. The guys in the pits did a great job, Harry did a great job. We had a little mistake. That was our race, we pretty much dominated it, but it’s still a 1-2, so we leave here with great, great momentum.”

“It’s a fantastic result for the team,” Tincknell added. “That’s what we come here for, 1-2. It’s a perfect result and we achieved that, so I’m super happy for everyone.”

Porsche GT Team Stays Red Hot in GTLM
A battle for the 2019 WeatherTech Championship GTLM title is shaping up between teammates. Four points separate leaders Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor, who picked up their third class victory of the season in Sunday’s Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix presented by Acura in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR, from second-place Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet in the team’s No. 911 entry.

Tandy and Pilet have won twice this season and the pair of entries have won a combined five consecutive races dating back to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in March. The No. 911 duo also has finished on the podium in each of the last three races.

“It’s kind of unbelievable, really, because we come to these weekends and we have our little problems throughout the week,” Tandy said. “But it just seems that, come race day, with at least one car every time, we execute perfectly. I’m just so proud of the team, especially after today, by the fact that we have two really strong cars, we can play out different strategies and this sort of thing. It’s worked again. It’s just great teamwork overall, we have a good car, we have good experience now with the car and everybody is confident to make a risky decision and see if it works.”

Over the weekend, Porsche unveiled the next-generation 911 RSR race car that will begin competing in the WeatherTech Championship next season. But given how well the current car is performing, might it make sense to delay switching to the new car?

“In this form, maybe,” Tandy laughed. “But it’ll be nice to get a new toy out and start testing with it and be ready for Daytona, of course.”

Acuras, Acura Drivers and Teams Leading Two Different Championships
We’re just past the halfway point in the 2019 WeatherTech Championship, but if the second half goes anything like the first, it could be a banner year for Acura and its drivers and teams in both the DPi and GTD classes.

Buoyed by a pair of victories and five consecutive podium finishes, No. 6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi co-drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron sit atop the WeatherTech Championship DPi standings by three points over the 2018 WeatherTech Championship Prototype championship-winning No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R and driver Felipe Nasr, who welcomed a new co-driver in Pipo Derani this season.

After finishing third in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, Montoya said that he and Cameron needed to continue finishing on the podium throughout the remainder of the season to win the championship. They backed it up with another third-place run at CTMP, which helped them toward the ultimate goal.

“I think we had a really good strategy,” Montoya said. “On track, we were going to come out ahead of the Mazda and we were going to have a shorter stop at the end, but with traffic and everything, we couldn’t open the gap and have a shot at the win.

“It’s kind of frustrating, because we felt P2 was, for sure, ours. We even had a shot, maybe, at the win, and with the way the caution came out and everything, we had to short fill and kind of get on their strategy. But it was a solid day. It was a solid weekend again. We struggled a little bit with the balance of the car this weekend, I wasn’t that happy with it. We did good. We came out with what we needed.”

In addition to Montoya, Cameron and the No. 6 Acura Team Penske squad leading the driver and team standings, Acura has a slim, three-point lead over Cadillac in the DPi manufacturer standings, 230-227.

In the GTD class, meanwhile, No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 co-drivers Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman stretched their lead to 19 points, 151-132, over No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 co-drivers Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo with a runner-up performance in Canada. It was their third straight WeatherTech Championship GTD podium result.

“There’s a reason why the Meyer Shank Racing team is in this position,” Hindman said. “They work their [tails] off, their preparation is phenomenal, the drivers, engineers, mechanics and everybody, the leadership is great with Mike, so there’s a reason why we’re in this position.

“I think a lot of it also has to come down to the fact that we’ve been aggressive. We gamble when we feel like we can take a reasonable gamble, we get aggressive on the racetrack when we feel like we need to get aggressive, but we also know how to back it down when we need to back it down. But again, there’s a reason why we’re in this spot.”

The GTD manufacturer battle is quite a bit closer. Acura is leading Lamborghini by two points, 152-150, with Lexus just one point behind Lamborghini.

Speaking of Lexus…
No. 12 Lexus co-drivers Bell and Montecalvo were back on the WeatherTech Championship GTD podium for the second time in the season’s five races. It was their third podium of the season overall, as they also finished third in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in Detroit last month which paid points toward the seven-race WeatherTech Sprint Cup title.

The new-for-2019 competition for GTD competitors only features seven races two hours and 40 minutes in length or shorter. So, not only are Bell and Montecalvo second in the overall WeatherTech Championship GTD standings, but they are currently third in the WeatherTech Sprint Cup standings.

They currently trail their teammates Jack Hawksworth and Richard Heistand, the No. 14 Lexus co-drivers who lead Sprint Cup with 89 points, and second-place Patrick Long in the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R with 88 points. Montecalvo and Bell have 86 Sprint Cup points.

“It’s just a good, solid day for the team,” said Bell as he exited the CTMP podium. “It’s home territory for AIM. I’m really proud of the job everyone did on back-to-back race weekends with Watkins. Everybody worked super hard. We just performed. I mean, I think that’s about the most we had today. We got all of it. The restarts were good. I had Jimmy Vasser on the radio, man, there’s nobody better. All in all, it’s a good, solid day, good points, and on to the next one.”

Edwards, Krohn Enjoy Best Weekend of Season in No. 24 BMW
It was a bit of a tough first half of the 2019 WeatherTech Championship season in the GTLM class for No. 24 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE co-drivers John Edwards and Jesse Krohn, who had a best result of fourth at Sebring to show for their first five races.

If last weekend at CTMP is any indication, the second half is shaping up to be considerably better. Krohn put the No. 24 BMW on the GTLM pole in qualifying on Saturday. In Sunday’s race, the No. 24 duo led a total of 46 laps en route to a second-place result behind the winning No. 912 team.

“It’s definitely nice to be back on the podium,” Edwards said. “It’s been a while for me and Jesse [their last podium was a third-place run in the 2018 Motul Petit Le Mans season finale]. We’ve had pace sometimes, but haven’t always executed as well.

“We had some mechanical troubles at Daytona at the beginning of the year, so we started off on the wrong foot. So, it’s nice to get back on the podium and be fighting for the win. Obviously, it’s always a little bittersweet when you’re fighting for the win and come second versus coming from the back and jumping on the podium. But at the end of the day, it’s good to be competitive. I think we could have easily finished third today, so it’s nice to come away with second and maybe be punching a little bit above our weight.”

With some racetracks where the M8 performed exceptionally well in 2018 still to come, Edwards is expecting a strong second half.

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