Mid-Ohio is my home track, and one I know better than most. It is billed as "The most competitive track in the U.S.", and depending upon the day, I'd completely agree. There isn't a single section of track at Mid Ohio that is completely level, completely straight, or completely flat. The pavement of Mid-O is an odd combination of back-road-bumpy in places and billiard-table-smooth in others. To put in a good lap, you really need to be on your toes, and you really need a better than average working knowledge of the course.
The Grand American Road Racing Association event this weekend brought a cadre of cars and drivers to Mid Ohio this weekend, and among the hundreds of racers, there were only 11 cars with a Porsche crest on the front. This is likely due to a relatively uncompetitive and long in the tooth 997 chassis, combined with an upcoming 2014 season that is still a bit "up in the air". Even still, the 11 cars that showed up were split amongst 4 classes of tin-top Grand Touring racers; Rolex GT, Rolex GX, Continental GS, and Continental ST.
The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge
The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race began at 10:30AM to the brightest sunshine and bluest sky you could imagine. A dry Mid-Ohio course held up for the competitors quite well as 56 Grand Sport and Street Tuner cars filtered onto the grid. The sprint race held some very exciting racing.
Later in the day, at 4:30PM, the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series event opened on vastly darkened skies. Drizzle sent the spectators running for cover, and while it held steady for the remainder of the race, it was never enough of a factor to prevent the cars from running on slick tires. Mid Ohio is already well known for its slick pavement under braking, and with a bit of off track action bringing gravel onto the racing line, combined with a thin coating of rain, the track was dicey to say the least. A tight and tough battle was fought, and the 2 hour 45 minute event kept me captivated through the last second.
A pair of 987 Boxster represented Porsche in the Street Tuner category from Berg Racing. The pair were not particularly competitive up front, but charged from a back-of-the-grid starting position to 17th and 20th place class finishes respectively. The team, led by John Weisberg, was the only team using this platform, though last year at the same event, there were a handful of both Boxster and Cayman racers. With the advent of the 981 platform, I would expect ST to be a place for those cars to fall in the near future, and perhaps Berg will be the team to take them there.
The Grand Sport class held a higher percentage of Porsche cars, and some very familiar names piloted them for some very familiar teams. BGB Motorsports of Daytona Beach, FL brought a pair of cars, Rebel Rock Racing of Miami had their red and black machine on the grid, and Rum Bum Racing brought out their 997 Carrera to compete.
The first of the BGB competitors, the Calcium Pro car driven by Spencer Pumpelly and Dr. Jim Norman, was an unfortunate retirement for the Porsche brigade. Having completed only 49 laps, the car pulled to the side of the track with a loss of drive, and had to be towed back to the garage.
Rod Randall and Ken Wilden were outfitted in BGB's brand new MOMO livery for the Mid Ohio race. The duo managed to collaborate to produce a 20th position finish overall, the last car remaining on the lead lap. While not exactly setting lap records, they were certainly on pace with the field, clocking a best lap of 1:31.5.
Rebel Rock, a relative newcomer, having only been founded in 2011, found similar pace to the MOMO car, placing two positions ahead of them in 18th. The 08 car, as driven by D.J. Randall and Tony Rivera, fell back from a healthy 6th position on the grid during the race, falling afoul of the quicker Aston Martins, Mustangs, Camaros, and M3s.
Though three were lost, hope was not. Rum Bum Racing managed to carry their 997 Porsche to the top step of the Grand Sport podium on Saturday, bringing the blue and yellow beast into victory lane after 83 grueling laps. Having begun the race in the 9th grid position, Nick Longhi and Matt Plumb both knew that they would have a great battle ahead of them. Nick Longhi fought the first 33 laps up to 3rd place in GS, handing over to Plumb. Plumb rejoined, fought his way back through to second position, and when the yellow flag came out again on lap 52, the leader pitted and Plumb never looked back. A final caution period with 9 minutes to go in the event saw Plumb covering the lead from a defensive position just ahead of BMW competitor Bill Auberlen, eventually crossing the line half a second ahead. The victory gives Plumb, Longhi, Rum Bum, and Porsche healthy leads in the three championships (Driver's, Team's, and Manufacturer's) at the halfway period of the season.
Rolex Sports Car Series GX Class
While there were three Porsche Cayman competitors in the GX class at Daytona, the interest has evidently waned, and only one Cayman remains at the mid-point of the season. The sole BGB Cayman entered for Pumpelly and Norman, was the only competition against the factory supported Mazda6 Skyactiv Diesel freight trains. Where the Mazdas were fragile and slow in early portions of the season, they have now developed into quick and hard charging winners, preventing Porsche victory in the GX class since their first victory at Road Atlanta in April.
In this event, the Cayman soldiered on to collect 2nd place points after the 00 Mazda fell afoul and retired. The #70 Mazda took the win with a large margin over BGB's 38. I'm not sure that it's consequential, but I did notice that the Cayman was clobbering the curbs at the apex of nearly every corner, while the Mazda was staying about as far away from them as possible. When I asked a Mazda insider about why their cars were avoiding the curbs, he chuckled, shrugged his shoulders and said "I don't know, it's a long race". Call me a skeptic, but I think this has something to do with their recent success.
Rolex Sports Car Series GT Class
The GT class was represented by a quartet of Porsches this year with the two 2013 standards from Park Place Motorsports and Magnus Racing, as well as the addition of a single car from each Muehlner Motorsports and Wright Motorsports. With a huge number of GT3 Cup cars on the market, having been mooted obsolete after this year, I am surprised that there have not been more of this type of entries into Grand Am.
Following the retirement of the Brumos #59, driver Lehman Keen was left looking for a place to hang his hat, and has apparently found it in the Muehlner Motorsports car alongside similarly familiar Porsche ace Dion Von Moltke. DVM had found himself in a very good position of 6th (and highest placed Porsche) when his car suffered an engine failure and was forced to retire without Keen ever turning a wheel during the race. Muehlner claims this is the team's first DNF suffered because of failure on North American circuits.
Keen's former Brumos teammate, Andrew Davis, similarly found a place with the Ohio native team Wright Motorsports. Bringing out a car for young and quick GT3 Cup star Madison Snow, the team found Davis eager, willing, and capable to help. The pair trudged along, fighting as a four pack with the other three Porsche cars early in the race. The Wright car pitted early and ended up out of sequence with the rest of the cars, running the rest of the race relatively uneventfully to finish in 9th place in class.
Pat Long and Pat Lindsey have continued to develop the Park Place Motorsports car through the year, and have begun to produce some meaningful results. Pat Long commented that they suffered from a "rough day on pit lane", but still managed to produce a 5th place finish.
Magnus managed to string a bit of luck together to bring the car home on the second step of the podium. John Potter, as he usually does, brought the car in to hand over to Andy Lally in good shape, and in a good position. Lally proceeded to work his way to 3rd place, where he thought he would stay, as he was completely out of touch from the Marsh Racing Corvette and the Turner Motorsport M3 dicing at the front. As luck would have it, the Corvette driven by Eric Curran dove to the inside of Bill Auberlen's BMW and pushed a little too hard, shoving him wide. The stewards deemed Curran's actions to be "avoidable contact" and he was penalized post race to the tune of 83 seconds (the time it would take to serve a "stop and hold 60" penalty), dropping him from the lead to 5th. This penalty promoted Auberlen back to the lead, and Magnus to the second place.
This finish now means that Magnus, Lally, and Potter hold a 3 point lead over Alessandro Balzan and Scuderia Corsa in the standings.
11 Porsches competed, and after this weekend at Mid Ohio event, two of them lead their respective championships. I'd call that a decent result.
Race Results – GT Class
1. No. 94 Bill Auberlen/Redondo Beach, Calif.; Paul Dalla Lana/Toronto, Turner Motorsports BMW M3 – 105 laps
2. No. 44 Andy Lally/Newport, NY; John Potter/Salt Lake City, Utah, Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – 105 laps
3. No. 69 Emil Assentato/Locust Valley, NY; Anthony Lazzaro/Acworth, Ga., AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 – 105 laps
4. No. 31 Eric Curran/Holyoke, Mass.; Boris Said/Escondido, Calif., Marsh Racing Chevrolet Corvette – 105 laps
5. No. 73 Patrick Lindsey/Santa Barbara, Calif.; Patrick Long/Belleair, Fla., Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – 104 laps
6. No. 93 Billy Johnson/Mooresville, NC; Michael Marsal/New York; Gunter Schaldach/Aspen, Colo., Turner Motorsports BMW M3 – 104 laps
7. No. 63 Alessandro Balzan/Italy; Jeff Westphal/San Carlos, Calif., Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 – 104 laps
8. No. 61 Max Papis/Mooresville, NC; Jeff Segal/Miami, R.Ferri/Aim Motorsport Ferrari 458 – 104 laps
9. No. 62 Andrew Davis/Athens, Ga.; Madison Snow/Lehi, Utah, Snow Racing with Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – 104 laps
10. No. 57 John Edwards/Cincinnati, Ohio; Robin Liddell/England, Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – 103 laps
11. No. 18 Leh Keen/Charleston, S.C.; Dion von Moltke/Coral Gables, Fla., Muehlner Motorsports America Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – 31 laps
Team Point Standings – GT Class
1. No. 44 Magnus Racing – 169 points
2. No. 63 Scuderia Corsa – 166
3. No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports – 158
4. No. 94 Turner Motorsports – 157
5. No. 69 AIM Autosport – 155
6. No. 73 Park Place Motorsports – 150.
7. No. 61 R.Ferri/Aim Motorsports – 143
8. No. 31 Marsh Racing – 138
9. No. 18 Muehlner Motorsports America – 126
10. No. 93 Turner Motorsports – 125
Other Porsche Blog Posts You Will Enjoy
Porsche’s Results from the GRAND-AM Detroit 200
Celebrating the Recent Chapters of Brumos Racing History
Porsche’s Results and Video from the GRAND-AM at Road Atlanta
[Photos: Bradley C. Brownell/FLATSIXES.com]