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IMSA WeatherTech: Double-Triple for Acura Team Penske, Castroneves and Taylor at Mid-Ohio

Lexington, OH, Sept 27/20 (John Oreovicz/IMSA): Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course proved to be a happy hunting ground for Acura Team Penske as Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor powered to their third consecutive race win in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship.

Driving the No. 7 Acura DPi, Taylor claimed the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, crossing the line just 0.607 seconds ahead of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi shared by Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr after two hours and 40 minutes of racing on a glorious fall afternoon. It also was the team’s third straight Mid-Ohio victory at Acura’s home track.

Ryan Briscoe and Renger Van Der Zande finished third in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi, while the No. 6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi that Dane Cameron drove to the Motul Pole Award earlier in the day had a fraught afternoon in the hands of teammate Juan Pablo Montoya to finish seventh.

Cameron led the first stint and handed over to Montoya during a full-course caution, just 40 minutes into the race. The No. 6 Acura maintained the lead, but Montoya was not able to stretch the gap to second place and he dropped to third after going off course while trying to lap a GTD class competitor.

Montoya fell to seventh after pitting to inspect the damage, but the Penske Acura again worked its way back up to third place and a potential podium finish with a little more than 10 minutes remaining. But Montoya spun in Turn 1 and ultimately finished three laps behind the winning Acura Team Penske entry in seventh place.

Castroneves qualified second fastest, but he dropped to fourth place on the opening lap. While the No. 6 car might have had more ultimate speed, the No. 7 car remained within a few seconds of the lead all afternoon, and that consistency paid off. Taylor drove the anchor stint, leading the final 30 laps. Nasr closed to within a second at the checkered flag, but Taylor judged the finish to perfection.

The Penske pair led a total of 37 laps and their latest triumph follows victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

"This is a combination of everyone at Acura Team Penske, not just Ricky and I," noted Castroneves, who said the last time he won three races in a row occurred in 2000 in Indy cars. "We all work together and share a lot of information. The No. 6 car was probably a little faster than us today, but somehow, we keep winning. But I knew to be patient at the start, and that helped put us here (as the winners) today."

"It was a great team effort all weekend," Taylor added. "Everyone learns from each other, and I think that’s why this team is so successful."

Taylor is the first driver to take three consecutive overall IMSA victories since he and his brother, Jordan, teamed up to win five consecutive events to start the 2017 season when they both drove for the Konica Minolta team owned by their father, Wayne Taylor. Jordan Taylor co-drove the winning GT Le Mans class winning Corvette C8.R Sunday at Mid-Ohio.

"We’re best friends outside the track," Ricky Taylor related. "It’s hard enough for one of us to win one of these races. So, when we are both able to share the joy of winning, it’s extra special for sure."

Briscoe and van der Zande retained the WeatherTech Championship DPi class points lead with 180 points, but the result vaulted Taylor and Castroneves from sixth to third, just five points behind the leaders. Derani is alone in second place with 177 points, Nasr having missed the July 4 race at Daytona in July after contracting COVID-19.

• Click HERE for the results of the IMSA WeatherTech race at Mid-Ohio
• Click HERE for the results of both rounds of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge at Mid-Ohio

• The WeatherTech Championship DPi season resumes Oct. 15-17 with the Motul Petit Le Mans and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. Next up for the series is a 100-minute, GT-only race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL on Saturday, Oct. 11.

Taylor, Garcia Wheel Corvette Back to Mid-Ohio Victory Lane after Eight-Year Drought

Lexington, OH, Sept 27/20 (Mark Robinson/IMSA): Perseverance and the new mid-engine model helped Corvette Racing break a Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course victory drought on Sunday.

Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia controlled the day in GT Le Mans (GTLM) competition at the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, capturing their fourth win of the season and leading a 1-2 Corvette class finish in the seventh race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.

Driving the No. 3 Corvette C8.R, Garcia crossed the finish line 1.472 seconds ahead of the No. 4 Corvette shared in the two-hour, 40-minute race by Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner. It marked the ninth Corvette victory on the 2.258-mile permanent road course in the last 20 years, but the first since 2012.

"The (No.) 3 car has been particularly strong all weekend," said Taylor, who earned his 25th career IMSA victory but first at Mid-Ohio. "We led all four sessions. I think we just had a little bit of speed on them all weekend. The balance of the car was just really strong from the get-go. It says a lot for the team, coming here for the first time with the C8.R, with no testing, just simulator time and rolling off the truck so strong. … I think it’s hard to complain about anything at this point."

After winning the GTLM pole in morning qualifying, Taylor surrendered the class lead to Gavin on the opening lap but regained the top spot from his teammate 25 minutes later and never looked back. The Corvettes held the rival BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTEs at bay all afternoon to complete their third 1-2 sweep this season.

The No. 3 Corvette has won four of the last six races in 2020. Taylor and Garcia expanded their points lead to 17 over Gavin and Milner, while Chevrolet pushed its advantage to 11 points over BMW in the manufacturer chase.

For Garcia, the result earned some satisfaction. He finished third at Mid-Ohio in 2018 and second last year, both times in the previous version Corvette C7.R. The Spaniard credited the mid-engine C8.R, which debuted in competition this season, for helping propel the victory on Sunday.

"Jordan did a fantastic job all day long, getting on pole and then getting a solid lead even if there were a ton of yellows," said Garcia, who picked up his 21st career IMSA win and also his maiden Mid-Ohio victory. "When you are in that position, you are in control of the race. The C8.R worked perfectly again today. Not only on a quick lap but the consistency through the stint was the main thing. … The C7 was good as we proved over the years, but this is definitely a step forward."

The No. 25 BMW driven by Bruno Spengler and Connor De Phillippi finished third, with the sister No. 24 BMW co-piloted by Jesse Krohn and John Edwards placing fourth. The Porsche GT Team, normally a two-car entry in GTLM, bypassed the Mid-Ohio weekend out of caution after members of its 24 Hours of Le Mans program tested positive for COVID-19. GTLM drivers Fred Makowiecki, Nick Tandy and Laurens Vanthoor all raced at Le Mans.

Hawksworth, Telitz Take Lexus to GTD Victory for Third Straight Year at Mid-Ohio

Lexus has come to own Acura’s track in WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) competition. For the third straight year, a Lexus won the class in the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio as the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 took the victory for the second consecutive year.

Jack Hawksworth has been in both AVS winning entries at Mid-Ohio, sharing the car in 2019 with Richard Heistand for the team’s first-ever IMSA triumph and this year with Aaron Telitz. It delivered the sixth career IMSA win for Hawksworth, the fourth for Telitz and allowed both to close in on points leaders Mario Farnbacher and Matt McMurry.

"We’ve been good here the best part of three years, it’s the nature of the circuit," Hawksworth said. "The fast rolling corners seem to suit us. All three of those races have been pretty similar that we were battling the Acuras. Fortunately, we’ve been able to come out on top a few times.

"I’m just delighted, I really love this track. Two in a row for the team and absolutely stellar."

The turning point for the No. 14 came with a critical strategy call late in the race. Telitz started first in GTD after winning the Motul Pole Award in morning qualifying and led until surrendering the point to McMurry in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 on the first round of stops. Telitz hounded McMurry for the next 45 minutes but couldn’t retake the lead.

When the No. 30 Team Hardpoint Audi R8 LMS stopped just off track with little more than an hour remaining, Telitz was ordered to pit before a full-course caution came out. The No. 86 lost track position when it had to pit under caution. Hawksworth led the rest of the way, edging across the finish line 0.858 seconds ahead of Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3.

"They seemed to have a bit faster car than us," Telitz admitted of the Acura. "It was going to be tough to get around them on the racetrack. Mid-Ohio is a tough track to pass at in the first place, so unless you have quite a bit more speed on the other car, I just couldn’t get it done. I was just staying behind them and the only way we were going to get back out front was a strategy call, and that’s what happened for us."

"The team did a fantastic job," added Hawksworth. "They pitted us before that yellow came out. It was a brave move to make, and ultimately was what got us the lead at the end. It was awesome really to see the team execute such a good strategy."

Farnbacher and McMurry hold just a three-point lead over Telitz and five-point edge on Hawksworth in the driver standings after six WeatherTech Championship GTD races. In the WeatherTech Sprint Cup standings that includes all non-endurance races, Telitz and Hawksworth expanded their lead to 23 points over Aschenbach and Gar Robinson.

• Click HERE for the results of the IMSA WeatherTech race at Mid-Ohio

• Both GTLM and GTD return to action Oct. 9-10 with their debut on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL.

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