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.
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?”
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.
“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.