Just as the colour of the skies above Mid-Ohio changed from blue to grey so to did the running order of cars up and down the classification.
Mother Nature left the teams guessing as to whether slick or rain tyres would be the better option when the skies began to darken at the race’s halfway point. Making the right strategic call and taking home the win in GS was the #7 Park Place Motorsports Porsche Cayman of Trent Hindman and Alan Brynjolfsson.
At the race’s final stop, teams in GS split their decisions as to which tyre would be optimal for the final dash to the finish. The rain was falling, though, not heavy enough to make the decision an easy one.
The #7 Porsche opted for slick tyres and at first, that decision seemed to be the wrong one but as the pace of the rain dropped off the cards soon moved back into the favour of the Park Place crew. Hindman — with cars behind him on well-worn rain tyres— was able to defend his lead on the two late-race restarts.
Dylan Murray and James Cox in the #35 Riley Motorsports came home in second after Murray’s efforts to get passed Hindman came up short. A fourth-place finish at Sebring and a second place finish here at Mid-Ohio mean that the team has begun to move into the championship conversation.
Another early championship contender is the #39 Carbahn Motorsports Audi R8 of Jeff Westphal and Tyler McQuarrie. They follow up a win at Sebring with a podium finish at Mid-Ohio that moves them into third in the standings. Westphal did well on late restarts to move that car into third, and to make it three manufacturers in as many positions.
Jesse Lazare and Corey Fergus in the #69 Motorsports In Action McLaren GT4, who finished in ninth, still hold onto a one-point lead in the championship after three rounds. Their podium finishes at Daytona and Sebring earlier on in the year have kept them on top.
The TCR battle went all the way to the wire with the #98 Bryan Herta Autosport Hyundai Veloster N TCR and the #81 Mark Motors Racing Audi RS3 LMS exchanging the lead of the class four times in the race’s final ten minutes.
In the end, it was the #98 Hyundai of Mark Wilkins and Michael Lewis who came out on top, giving Hyundai their first win with the new Veloster machinery.
“This one feels really good, this Veloster N TCR is just awesome,” said Wilkins.
“We had all the mixed and variable conditions you could imagine but this car was the class of the field today. A massive thank you to Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai for the chance to showcase this fantastic car!”
Lewis was able to get the best of slower GS traffic in the race’s waning moments and re-take the lead on the penultimate lap of the race.
The battle between the #98 Hyundai and the #81 Audi left the door open for the #61 Roadshagger Racing Audi RS3 LMS to join the fray though. Coming into Turn 12 on the final lap of the race there was contact between the #81 Audi and #61 Audi that sent the #81 Audi spinning into the grass.
Race control looked at the incident and ruled no further action needed to be taken.
This resulted in Gavin Ernstone and Jon Morley coming home second in their #61 Audi. Remo Ruscitti, who was able to get the #81 Audi moving without losing further spots, salvaged a fourth for himself and teammate Marco Cirone, while the #12 ROWE Audi took the final podium spot.
Next up for the Michelin Pilot Challenge contenders is Watkins Glen on June 27-30.
Photos courtesy of IMSA