LEXINGTON, Ohio (WCMH) – Ricky Taylor had to combine two of the hardest things done together in motorsports: save fuel but keep the lead.
Yet Taylor’s multitasking in the final 45 minutes of Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, which included a constant stout defense of his position, put his No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura DPi prototype in victory lane after 2 hours and 40 minutes of IMSA racing in the hills of Morrow County.
“I got the fuel light with three laps to go,” Taylor told reporters after the race. “I didn’t say anything on the radio because I knew they knew what was going on.”
The Mazda Motorsports DPi controlled more than half the race after Harry Tincknell broke a track record in qualifying to start on pole, but then a full-course caution closed up the field with less than an hour to go.
Taylor beat the Mazda off pit road, but he came out second behind Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac, who used the yellow flag to make up ground lost from a half-spin earlier.
“They did a good job recovering, but that little bit got me fired up,” Taylor said, “and I wanted to get them really badly.”
Taylor took the lead on the restart with a daring move down the hill past turn 5, but the restart came at the trickiest possible time.
The fuel window for DPi cars is just north of 40 minutes, and when the race restarted with 45 minutes left, teams had a tough choice: pit for a splash of fuel or stay out and try to save enough for the end.
“As soon as I got by, I’m like, ‘Man, now the work starts to stay ahead and save fuel,’” said Taylor, who won Mid-Ohio last year with Team Penske.
Despite Nasr’s multiple tries for the lead in the final laps around the narrow, 2.258-mile road course, including a shot at Taylor’s rear quarter-panel in the final turns, Taylor held him off for the win.
As Nasr was saving fuel, he was as much as two seconds behind before charging Taylor coming to the checkered flag. That forced Taylor to find the right balance of maintaining his lead and slowing down to save fuel.
“It was so stressful,” Taylor said. His unofficial winning margin was less than four-tenths of a second.
Taylor’s co-driver, Filipe Albuquerque, told reporters he was struggling for grip in the first part of the race and just trying to survive. But once Taylor took over, “Jesus Christ, he pulled off like mega stints and mega work.”
“It was unbelievable,” the Brazilian said. “From the outside, I don’t think you realize that we had on the table like, ‘OK, will we go for the win or should we secure second place (so) we will not die in the middle of the track?’”
“But Wayne and the team committed for ‘Let’s go big, let’s go for the win,’” he continued, “And that was beautiful, because I was pushing as well for that, like all or nothing.”
Sunday’s win was WTR’s first at Mid-Ohio, and it was their second in the first three races this season after winning January’s 24 Hours of Daytona. WTR leads Mazda by 50 points in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings.
Local team Meyer Shank Racing was one of two DPi cars that could not make it to the end on fuel. The Pataskala-based shop’s No. 60 Acura, driven by Dane Cameron and Olivier Pla, finished sixth, last in class.
MSR has yet to win at Mid-Ohio in 22 tries in multiple vehicle classes dating back to 2004. 2021 is MSR’s and WTR’s first year with the Acura DPi cars after taking over for Penske.
Celebrations and setbacks for locals
Two Ohio natives finished on the podium in the 13-car GTD sedan/coupe class. Stockdale native Zach Veach came across the line second in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus. And Centerville native Bryan Sellers finished third in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini.
Veach’s sister car, the No. 14 Lexus, had won the past three GTD classes at Mid-Ohio. Aaron Telitz had qualified the car on class pole, but an apparent suspension issue with the left rear tire just over an hour into the race sent the car to the garage. It finished last in class.
Finishing right above the No. 14, three laps down, was the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche GTD. Patrick Long brought out the full-course caution when he made contact in a traffic jam coming out of turn 13.
After ending up in a gravel trap, Long finished the race three laps down, ending a disappointing day for the team based east of Cincinnati in Batavia.
The No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW took first in GTD, and the No. 74 Riley Motorsports LMP3 prototype won that class from pole.
Click here for full race results.
Attendance and upcoming races
Mid-Ohio does not give out attendance estimates, but the track said it was “very happy” with Sunday’s turnout.
Track president Craig Rust told NBC4 the week before the race that he expected a little more than 24,000 attendees. The track had originally requested that figure before the Ohio Department of Health rescinded the 30% capacity limit on sporting events.
The next race weekend at Mid-Ohio is in three weeks when the ARCA Menards Series takes the track on Friday, June 4, for a 150-mile race and the NASCAR Xfinity Series races for 170 miles on Saturday, June 5.
IMSA is back in action a month from now for its fourth of 12 races: a 1-hour, 40-minute dash on Detroit’s Belle Isle street circuit, sharing the June 11-13 weekend with IndyCar. IndyCar comes to Mid-Ohio July 2-4.