In a weekend highlighted by changing weather and track conditions, Mustang Sampling Racing emerged from nearly three hours of racing with an eighth-place finish in the Acura Sports Car Classic at Mid-Ohio.
Coming off a victory at Long Beach in the most recent IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event, Filipe Albuquerque and Joao Barbosa fought in the top five for most of the race. A chance to take advantage of a possible yellow flag later in the event didn’t yield the hoped-for outcome with the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R. While similar moves have resulted in victory for the team in the past, the hope-for caution failed to materialize.
“It was a crazy start, but overall that was the pace we had,” said Barbosa, who started the race in the fifth position. “I lost a little bit fighting with one of the Acuras initially. We were a fourth or fifth place car today.”
Looking to make up the disadvantage on pace, the team pitted under green with one hour remaining in the two-hour, 40-minute race, as another car was stranded on track and appeared to need assistance from the IMSA emergency response team. But the stopped car found the fire and got moving again, as the pit exchange dropped Albuquerque from fifth to ninth position. The race remained under green until a late caution in the final 30 minutes – after all of the competitors had completed their pit work.
“We had a tough call there (with the final pit stop timing),” Barbosa said. “It could have worked out really well for us, but as the situation played out, it cost us a lot of places and in the end, we were too far to make it up so we will just be thinking about the next one.”
While the strategic call didn’t pan out, the team fought all the way to the finish.
“We were quite good, fighting a little bit with the Penskes when we were in traffic,” Albuquerque said. “We were P5 and closing a little bit on our teammate for P4. But then we saw an opportunity when there was a car stopped in a very dangerous place and there could be a yellow. We went for a stop but it went from an opportunity for a win to something that cost us a lot.
Having demonstrated well-executed strategy changes mid-race in the past, the team was hoping that it would deliver another new trophy on Sunday, but it didn’t play to that advantage.
“I pitted very late and we didn’t have a perfect stop and we lost a lap from the leaders,” Albuquerque said. “ I think that’s the thing about IMSA—even though we didn’t have the pace to win, we still had an opportunity to win this race. We had a shot with the strategy. If it had gone yellow, we could have won. So it is a frustrating result, but just shows how anything can happen here. We will go on to the next one!”
The “next one” will be Detroit’s Belle Isle Circuit, with the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic on Saturday, June 1.
Source. Sunday Group