The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will make its first appearance at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Sunday, May 6 to contest round four of the 2018 season. It is the first time major North American sports car racing will run at the Lexington, Ohio track since 2012. Sports car racing at Mid-Ohio dates to 1963. The Porsche GT Team will field two Porsche 911 RSR race cars in the manufacturer supported GTLM class on the storied 2.258-miles circuit. Wright Motorsports will represent the German brand in the GTD customer team class campaigning two Porsche 911 GT3 R race cars.
The winners of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, Patrick Pilet (France) and Nick Tandy (Great Britain), will contest the GTLM class sharing the cockpit of the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR. Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Earl Bamber (New Zealand) share driving duties in the second 911 RSR (No. 912) fielded by the Porsche GT Team.
The GTD class, which did not compete at Long Beach, will be back on the grid at Mid-Ohio. After opening the season with a single entry – the No. 58 Porsche Consulting/Porsche Digital 911 GT3 R for factory driver Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) and Porsche Selected Driver Christina Nielsen (Denmark) – Wright Motorsports announced a second-entry for the non-endurance races beginning with their home track this weekend. Henzler (Germany) will mark his return to the North American championship co-driving the No. 16 with Michael Schein (New York, New York). Henzler has three victories for Porsche at Mid-Ohio.
Nielsen will leave Lexington immediately following the Sports Car Challenge to travel to Italy where she will take part in a test with Ebimotors where, on May 9, the two-time WeatherTech GTD class Champion will get her first taste of the Porsche 911 RSR she will race in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The official European Le Mans Series one-day test is her debut with Ebimotors, in the most advanced 911 race car ever developed by Porsche. She will share testing duties with Le Mans teammate Fabio Babini (Italy) and a third-driver yet to be officially announced.
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with its 13 corners is one of the most beautiful and time-honored tracks in the United States. Porsche holds the record for the most sports car victories at Mid-Ohio with 17 overall wins and 22 class titles in IMSA races. The two most recent overall wins came in 2006 and 2007 with the Porsche RS Spyder. The last Porsche Mid-Ohio class victory came in 2011 with the 911 GT3 RSR customer entry driven by Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers in the American Le Mans Series.
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars.
“Sports car racing enjoys a great tradition at Mid-Ohio. We’re thrilled to have this demanding circuit back on the calendar after many years. It’s a valuable addition to the championship and a big challenge for drivers and teams. At previous races, Porsche scored many successes at Mid-Ohio, not least thanks to the RS Spyder, which clinched a sensational maiden win there in 2006 against significantly more powerful LMP1 prototypes. With the 911 RSR, we now want to continue this success story. Our strong performance at Long Beach makes us confident that we’ll succeed.”
Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsport.
“A new track presents teams and drivers with new challenges. That’s why we tested the 911 RSR in Mid-Ohio before the race. The primary goal was to work out a baseline setup for this demanding racetrack and to trial different tire specifications. With the insights we’ve gained, I’m confident that we’re well prepared for the race weekend. We’re looking forward to this new challenge.”
Sebastian Golz, Project Manager 911 GT3 R.
“Mid-Ohio is a very demanding course when it comes to setting up the vehicle. ‘The Esses’ area especially demands a very responsive setup to be able to quickly negotiate the direction changes of the five consecutive corners. With its compact wheelbase and agile handling, the 911 GT3 R will be able to demonstrate its strengths, particularly in these passages. The racetrack is not one of the fastest on the calendar, but it’s very popular with drivers as it allows many different racing lines.”
Patrick Pilet, Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“I’ve only driven at Mid-Ohio once and that was in 2008. So, it’s quite a while ago. It’s a great track, especially for GT cars like the 911 RSR. After the race on the narrow city circuit of Long Beach, this classic race track is a new challenge that we’re all looking forward to.”
Nick Tandy, Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“I’ve never been to Mid-Ohio. I’ve watched some stock car races there on television and I’ve also tried to familiarize myself with it on a simulator. It’s been a long time since I’ve driven on a new racetrack so I’m really excited about this race. It’ll definitely be an interesting experience.”
Laurens Vanthoor, Driver, No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“It’s always great for a race driver to get to know new circuits. On video, Mid-Ohio looks very interesting. It’s a classic race track with a huge tradition – something that pretty much only exists in the USA. After the Long Beach race we went straight there to do some testing. In practice we now have to substantiate the insights we gained there and turn them into the best possible race result.”
Earl Bamber, Driver, No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
“Our performance at Long Beach was good, although we ultimately weren’t able to use our chance to win. Now I’m looking forward to Mid-Ohio. This is an interesting track, somewhat tight and twisty, which should suit our 911 RSR. The main thing for us is to improve our position in the championship with a good result before the Le Mans break.”
Patrick Long, Driver, No. 58 Porsche Consulting/Porsche Digital Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“When looking for the best setup at Mid-Ohio you need a lot of experience. Overtaking isn’t easy on this classic racetrack with long straights and tight corners, so as well as a perfect setup, a good starting position is one of the keys to success.”
Christina Nielsen, Driver, No. 58 Porsche Consulting/Porsche Digital Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
“It’s going to be cool going back to Mid-Ohio, a track I haven’t raced on since my first time there in 2015. Last year, Wright earned a couple of podium finishes in the PWC series at Mid-Ohio, so they truly know how to make a Porsche go quickly around there. I am confident I’m in good hands. We have some busy times coming up. Right after the race, I fly out to Italy, where I’ll have my first run in the car I’ll race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans — Ebimotors’ Porsche 911 RSR. I’m really looking forward to this cool week of racing I have coming up!”
Porsche History. Porsche Leads All Manufacturers for Mid-Ohio Wins.
Porsche holds the all-time record for manufacturer victories at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with 17 overall wins. The German marque also holds the record for most IMSA class wins at 22 since 2000.
The first overall title came in 1972 when Bob Beasley and Michael Keyser drove a Porsche 911 S to victory lane in the Camel GT six-hour race. Porsche then swept the top-step of the podium the next four years and 15 of the next 20 races (events held between 1972 and 1988).
The most recent overall victories for Porsche came in 2006 and 2007 when Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) paired in the RS Spyder. Each year the LMP2 class car bettered the more powerful LMP1 entries to take back-to-back surprise victories on the 2.258-miles, 13-turn race course.
Legendary Porsche racer and the first president of Porsche Motorsport North America (PMNA) Al Holbert holds the record for wins by a driver at Mid-Ohio. Holbert earned the first of his six overall wins co-driving a Porsche 911 Carrera RSR in a five-hour race with Peter Gregg. He’d follow with victories in 1974 (solo in a 100-mile race driving a 911 Carrera RSR) and ’75 with the Carrera RSR co-driving with current IMSA official Elliott Forbes Robinson in a six-hour race. He would return to victory lane nearly a decade later winning three consecutive 500-mile races in a Porsche 962 (1984 – 1986) with Derek Bell.
While 1986 was Holbert’s last title as a driver, a by-product of his efforts as PMNA president came in 1989 when the Porsche-powered March factory Indy car won its only race. The Mid-Ohio win, with driver Teo Fabi, came a year after Holbert was killed in a private plane crash.