Helio Castroneves found traction with his Acura ARX-05 where others could not, as he and his Acura Team Penske co-driver Ricky Taylor prevailed in monsoon-like conditions in the final hour to win Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race at Road America.
In the GTD class, Mario Farnbacher survived an off-course excursion on the penultimate lap of the two hour, 40-minute contest to finish second with co-driver Matt McMurry in their Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evo.
Acura Team Penske
In the premier Daytona Prototype International category, the Acura Team Penske duo of Taylor and Castroneves claimed their first victory of the 2020 season in come-from-behind fashion, as Castroneves passed Renger van der Zande’s Cadillac in the final 10 minutes of the race. Once in front, Castroneves quickly opened up a half-second lead, then held on as the heavy rains returned and the race ended under caution.
The fourth race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season started under partly cloudy skies and remained dry for the first 90 minutes. Starting from the pole, Taylor had an early race lead of just over three seconds, while Dane Cameron in the #6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 battled the Mazda of Harry Tincknell for second.
Cameron and Tincknell continued to duel following the first round of pit stops, and eventually made contact, resulting in another stop for Cameron to repair damaged bodywork and a cut tire. The unscheduled stop and a drive-through penalty for contact effectively ended the victory hopes for the #6 Acura, with further damage sustained when co-driver Juan Pablo Montoya had late-race contact with an LMP2 entry in the rain, and had to stop again for repairs, leading to a disappointing eighth-place finish.
At the front of the field, Taylor continued to lead through the first hour before handing over to co-driver Castroneves. Briefly dropping to third following the driver change, Castroneves pulled off a clever inside/outside pass of both Mazda prototypes in the downhill run to Turn Five to regain the lead. With just under an hour remaining, a light rain turned into a downpour in the middle of scheduled pit stops, and officials halted the race for 21 minutes following a nearby lightning strike.
The race resumed with just under 30 minutes to go and Castroneves running second to van der Zande, both on wet-weather “rain” tires. When the latter ran wide exiting the final corner, Castroneves moved into the lead for the third and final time, as the rain returned and a multi-car GT crash resulted in the race ending under caution.
Acura NSX GT3 Evo Teams
In the always-competitive GTD category, the rains resulted in mixed fortunes for the Meyer Shank Racing and Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3 Evos, highlighted by a second-place finish for the MSR duo of Matt McMurry and Mario Farnbacher.
Running eighth as the rain started to fall on parts of the 4.0-mile Road America circuit, Farnbacher was called to the pits for a well-timed stop that include fitting rain tires to the #86 NSX GT3 Evo. The sudden heavy shower that followed – initially on only part of the circuit – unfortunately caught out the #57 MSR Acura of teammate Alvaro Parente, as he crashed heavily in Turn One, fortunately without injury, but ending the day for Parente and co-driver Misha Goikhberg.
With roughly half the 12-car GTD field on rain tires at the restart, Farnbacher quickly carved his way towards the front on the wet circuit, making a daring pass for the lead on the outside of “Canada Corner” with less than five minutes remaining in the race. On the next lap, however, Farnbacher spun while avoiding a crashing GTLM-class Porsche at the “Kink”, and slipped back to his second-place finishing position.
In the #22 Gradient Racing NSX, Marc Miller was forced to enter a “closed” pit for rain tires, dropping the Acura he shared with co-driver Till Bechtolscheimer to an 11th-place finish.
The 2020 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next heads to the eastern United States for the first of two GT class-only rounds on the schedule, the August 22 Michelin GT Challenge at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va.
Acura Motorsports social media content and video links from the IMSA Road Race Showcase at Road America will be available on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/HondaRacing_HPD). Produced by the CoForce Digital Media, the YouTube videos can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/HondaRacingHPDTV.
Helio Castroneves (#7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05) race winner: “Before the race, and knowing the forecast, we made sure our Acura was set up well for the wet. And we used the experience we gained at Daytona and other wet races we had before to learn. And this was the payoff! I was on it. When I lost the lead [to the #77 Mazda] the first time, I said ‘no way, we’ve worked too hard to let the leader go!’ so when I saw my chance [to regain the lead] I had to take it. This is fantastic!”
Ricky Taylor (#7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05) race winner: “My teammate [Castroneves] is unbelievable, that was such an exciting finish. It’s been step-by-step to get this car to where it is today, and the last ‘check in the box’ was winning a race in the rain. Three laps to go and man, he did it.”
Mario Farnbacher (#86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3) finished second in GTD: “Matt [McMurry, co-driver] had a good stint, keeping the car clean. We’d gained a bit of understeer since practice, but we were able to manage it during the race. My first stint was mega, and the team had a great pit stop which allowed us to overtake our sister car [the #57 Acura NSX GT3 Evo] in the pits. I was able to push right away, but the car has some braking issues so I just tried to survive. We came in early for rain tires [at the final pit stop] and I think that was key, so thanks to [team owner] Mike [Shank] and the guys for putting me into the right strategy – that was the reason we finished on the podium. We should have won, but that’s racing sometimes. These are good [championship] points, so on to the next one.”
|IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Road Race Showcase|
|Circuit:||Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wis.|
|Weather:||Partly cloudy, mild, 77 degrees F at start, heavy rain in final hour|