Six full course yellows kept the 32 car field dicing in close quarters for the two hour and 40-minute Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix which marked Round 6 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
Looking to find the best set up to generate speed during Friday’s practice sessions leading up to the Saturday afternoon qualifying run, the team worked through a wide range of approaches to find the pace that is needed in the ultra competitive GTD class. But with the current IMSA regulations, the session ended with the team having to settle with a sixth (No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3) and 10th (No. 93 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3) place qualifying result.
At the drop of the green, Alvaro Parente ran a lengthy 35 lap stint in the No. 86 before pitting for fuel and tires – the longest stint by any GTD driver. Looking to utilize strategy to overcome the pace of the front-runners, the longer first run gave the team the opportunity to follow a two pit stop strategy while other teams pitted three times.
After a lap 75 exchange, Katherine Legge took over driving duties and returned on track with a full tank of fuel, four Continental Tires and quick change to the suspension. Struggling with a car that lacked optimal balance, Legge pushed through, fighting off her charging competitors in several multi-lap battles. Ultimately, the weekend ended with a top five result, provisionally keeping the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 second in the championship.
“It was a tough race for us and I really tried everything I could,” said Legge. “I tried to hold Andy (Lally) off but just came up short. I wish we could have drove to another podium this weekend, but we will take a top five result.”
Parente, who won at CTMP earlier this year in World Challenge competition, was proud of the team effort.
“The first stint was really hard with a lot of understeer,” said Parente. “It was hard to keep guys behind. We were still running fourth so I started focusing on the small details like saving fuel where we could. We did improve the car for the second stint with a small change during the pit stop which gave us more speed. We tried to get ahead using strategy but on the out lap Kat (Legge) got bumped and it put us behind.”
The sister No. 93 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 piloted by Lawson Aschenbach and Justin Marks had an equally trying weekend as the team sought a stronger balance of the car. Despite starting 10th in the order, Aschenbach brought his red, white and blue Acura NSX up to a high of second place twice over the course of 107 laps with the team running 1-2 on lap 53.
As the checkered flew, Aschenbach crossed the line sixth in the order, right on the tail of the sister No. 86 car.
“It was a tough weekend for us, we had been up and down on the set up,” said Aschenbach. “We just couldn’t quite figure out what we needed for the race. I’m proud of the guys and they did such a great job as always. We will regroup and come back to Lime Rock and hopefully have a run back up front.”
Marks reflected on a frustrating weekend but was content with the forward progress from the weekend.
“We were just making the most of the situation,” said Marks. “We were just off on the handling and I was personally off this weekend. We can’t always be the car to beat so we have to make the most out of what we can and try and get as many points as possible. We did a good job of that today with a top five and sixth place finish. It could have been better but it could have been worse since we walked away without a mark on the car and took advantage of some good opportunities.”
“Unfortunately the cars weren’t as balanced as we would have liked,” said Mike Shank. “We struggled with both cars with similar problems. On top of that we are fighting with a poor BOP right now. We only lost one point in the championship and feel lucky that’s all we lost since we worked so hard to find pace with the cars. We will go back to the shop and make sure they are ok. We will go to Lime Rock and see what we can do.”
The team will head back to its Pataskala, Ohio headquarters to regroup before heading to Round 7 at Lime Rock Park for the Northeast Grand Prix on July 20th – 21st.
Source. Sunday Group