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Michelin IMSA Insider: A Return to Normalcy, and Mid-Ohio

A look ahead to IMSA’s return to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and

Photo: John Dagys

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship returns to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the first time since 2012 for this weekend’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio.

Following races of 24 hours, 12 hours and most recently, 100 minutes, Mid-Ohio represents the first standard length, two-hour, 40-minute race of the 2018 season.

In his successful 1920 campaign, former U.S. President Warren G. Harding, whose tomb is found just 30 miles away in Marion, Ohio, trumpeted a “return to normalcy.”

It wasn’t, but for IMSA teams the return to Mid-Ohio and a standard-length race may prove to be just that.

Photo: John Dagys

Last Time

None of the current GT cars existed when the former American Le Mans Series last ventured to the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio circuit, in August 2012.

Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin topped the GT field in their sixth generation Corvette C6.R.

They were joined on the podium by Porsche’s Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Long in a Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and BMW’s Joerg Mueller and Bill Auberlen in an E92 M3.

Gavin, Milner and Corvette Racing went on to claim the 2012 series championships.

One of the lighter moments of that race came on Lap 85 when Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s Lucas Luhr passed race leader Chris Dyson’s Lola-Mazda going into Turn 1.

Luhr broke his co-driver, Klaus Graf, and the HPD crew into laughter as he completed the pass and immediately radioed, in an exaggerated German accent, “Who’s your daddy?”

Photo: Scott LePage/IMSA

This Time

Time marches on and Milner and Gavin arrive in 2018 in the oldest car in the GTLM field, the venerable Corvette C7.R with which they just won at Long Beach, Gavin’s 50th win with Corvette.

The Ford GTs from Chip Ganassi Racing dominated the season opening Rolex 24 At Daytona where Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook, with an assist from Scott Dixon, took the victory.

Their teammates Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais claimed second, while the defending series champions Corvette’s Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller completed the podium.

The Porsche GT Team was highly impressive at Sebring where Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki took the win with teammates Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor and Gianmaria Bruni sharing the podium.

BMW’s Alexander Sims, Connor De Phillippi and Bill Auberlen split the Porsches at Sebring to complete a strong showing by the new BMW M8 GTE as De Phillippi took the class pole and fellow newcomer Jesse Krohn set the fastest race lap.

Long Beach saw Corvette’s Gavin and Milner at the front for the second consecutive year, followed by Ford’s Briscoe and Westbrook and their teammates Hand and Mueller.

Photo: IMSA

The Forecast

“It has been a very late spring in the Midwest this year. We tested in mid-April at Mid-Ohio and there was snow on the ground!” said Chris Baker, director of motorsport, Michelin North America.

“We expect the ambient temperatures to be relatively cool, most likely in the high 60s or low to mid 70s, which will help make the guys who prefer to run our soft/cool temperature range tires happy.”

A standard two-hour, 40-minute length race typically means two pit stops and GTLM teams have shown that they can stretch fuel for over one hour, which extends the options for pit strategies.

“I think the GTLM cars are all pretty evenly matched and the teams and drivers are all first rate, so everyone is in the mix and it will likely come down to tire choices, traffic, pit stops and race strategies,” said Baker.

And that may be the most normal thing of all.

The latest news, photos and video features from the trusted Sportscar365 web staff.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Bambassema Badjo

    April 30, 2018 at 10:17 am

    It was Dirk Muller and Bill Auberlen in the M3, not Jorg Muller.

    • Bambassema Badjo

      April 30, 2018 at 10:25 am

      Oops i stand corrected. It was indeed Jorg.

  2. pitstand

    April 30, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Interesting how teams have different approaches. BMW has had many different cars and drivers since then. Corvette still has the same four main drivers.

  3. Matt

    April 30, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    2012 was the last time all the major road racing series were together at Mid Ohio. Indycar, ALMS, and PWC were all there on the traditional weekend. For the past few years it has been Indycar and PWC and this year Greg Gill really started to lose his mind; Indycar will be by itself. IMSA also shoots itself in the foot by refusing to return to the traditional weekend and join up with Indycar (most likely because it’s now a Nascar-owned series). I for one won’t be making the trip out to Mid Ohio this year because there is now a lack of quality racing action on a given weekend. Spec support series are not worth the long drive.

    • vanillachinchilla

      April 30, 2018 at 9:48 pm

      The IndyCar date is probably too tight for IMSA to squeeze in given all the other races IMSA has in July & August, guessing they needed something in the May slot. Personally I’d rather see Monterrey move back to May but then its back to back races in Cali, which I suppose isn’t that weird given they start out with Daytona & Sebring, but those are pretty well established. Maybe it would make more sense though to have just 1 west coast swing, idk how much they would conflict with each other though… Speaking of Cali, isn’t there a certain open-wheel series IMSA just shared the track with in Long Beach? Scheduling is hard…;)

      • Matt

        May 1, 2018 at 1:46 am

        Yeah Long Beach and Detroit are the only races on the calendar where IMSA and Indycar still work together because the track only exists for a single weekend.

        IMSA could give Laguna Seca the current May Mid Ohio date, move Mid Ohio back to the traditional Indycar weekend doubleheader, completey move Mosport to the current Laguna Seca September date to give teams recovery time after The Glen, and move Lime Rock forward a week to create breathing room to the Mid Ohio-Road America back to back weekends. A bunch of shuffling, but I think it’d work great. The current Mosport date is too close to The Glen weekend and these changes would allow me to attend all the east coast races if I chose to 😂

        • juneracer

          May 1, 2018 at 7:55 am

          anytime IMSA combines with indycar its crap for IMSA. IMSA doesn’t need to play bridesmaid to a spec open wheel series.

  4. Paul

    May 1, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    What a bunch of whiners. Gripes. This is a fantastic race series this year with so much manufacturer involvement and race temps that should be terrific for spectators. Enjoy the weekend people and quit the bitchfest.

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