WeatherTech Championship Cars race around Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

What to Watch For: Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – All four IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship classes. Two hours and 40 minutes of hard-fought racing.
That’s what’s on tap for Sunday’s Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio, the fourth round of the 12-race 2019 WeatherTech Championship season. The series is visiting the 2.258-mile, 13-turn circuit in Lexington, Ohio for the second consecutive season following last year’s return to the popular road course after a five-year absence.
Whether you will be one of the many loyal race fans at the track this weekend, watching NBCSN’s live telecast beginning Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET, or following the action throughout the weekend through IMSA Radio’s coverage on, and SiriusXM Radio Channel 202 (Streaming 972), here are a few things to keep an eye on:
Championship Battles Taking Shape
It’s still early – after all, this is only the fourth round of the season – but the time is now for teams in all four classes to position themselves for a championship run heading into the summer. And it’s really anybody’s race in all four classes.
In the lead Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class, four points are separating the top four teams in the standings. Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts winners Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani lead the way in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R with 92 points, but defending Mid-Ohio winners Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor are hot on their heels in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi, just two points behind.
Filipe Albuquerque and Joao Barbosa – winners in last month’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach – are third in the standings in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi with 89 points, while 2019 Rolex 24 At Daytona winners Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande are fourth in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi with 88 points.
In the LMP2 class, seven points separate current leaders Cameron Cassels and Kyle Masson in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA LMP2 machine from No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports driver Matt McMurry – who welcomes a new co-driver this weekend in Eric Lux.
In GT Le Mans (GTLM), defending Mid-Ohio winners Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor are carrying both the points lead and the momentum of their victory last month at Long Beach in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR back to Buckeye State.
But not by much. They’re only four points (91-87) ahead of a tie between their teammates in the No. 911 Porsche, Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet, who won at Sebring, and the GTLM season champions for the past two years, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.
Also within 10 points of the GTLM lead is No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT driver Dirk Mueller with 84 points, and 2019 Daytona GTLM winner Connor De Phillippi with 83 points in the No. 25 BMW Team RLL M8 GTE.
The GT Daytona (GTD) standings are deceptive. Right now, the No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán team of Mirko Bortolotti, Rik Breukers and Rolf Ineichen have a 16-point lead in the standings by virtue of their victories at both Daytona and Sebring.
But they’re an IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup-only program in 2019 and will not be racing at Mid-Ohio. So that means the WeatherTech Championship GTD race is wide open. No. 12 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 co-drivers Townsend Bell and Frankie Montecalvo are the effective leaders coming into the weekend with 53 points, just one ahead of No. 44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini co-drivers Andy Lally and John Potter.
With 52 points, No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 co-drivers Trent Hindman and Mario Farnbacher are just one point behind the No. 44 squad and two behind the No. 12 duo. Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen – co-drivers of the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports GT3 – currently have 51 points.
And No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R driver Patrick Long is currently sixth in the GTD standings with 49 points. That’s five different teams with five different manufacturers separated by just five points. Wow.
Speaking of Championships…
This weekend will mark the debut of the new, seven-race WeatherTech Sprint Cup competition for the GTD class. It will use the same points-scoring format as the overall WeatherTech Championship, but will recognize the top performers in the seven GTD races that are two-hours and 40-minutes in length or shorter.
The launch of the WeatherTech Sprint Cup brings with it two teams and one manufacturer that are debuting this weekend. McLaren will make its first-ever appearance as a GTD manufacturer with Compass Racing and co-drivers Paul Holton and Matt Plumb sharing the No. 76 McLaren 720S GT3.
The Karl Thomson-led Compass Racing team is a longtime competitor in the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge, but the team is making its first WeatherTech Championship GTD appearance since a race at Circuit of The Americas in late 2015.
Lone Star Racing, meanwhile, is returning to GTD competition for the first time since the 2017 event at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. The team will field the No. 74 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Gar Robinson and Lawson Aschenbach.
Mid-Ohio is Unique
At every other WeatherTech Championship event, the race starts and finishes from the same location – commonly known as the start/finish line.
That’s not the case at Mid-Ohio. The straightaway that includes pit lane at Mid-Ohio is a short one, so to allow the field to properly “pack up” for the start of the race, a separate starting line is used along the much longer backstretch. So, the first turn of the race actually is considered “Turn 4” on the circuit.
But the initial start of the race is the only time the backstretch starter’s stand is used. For the remainder of the race, the “main” starter’s stand and finish line on the pit straight is the place where all full-course cautions, restarts, white flags and checkered flags are displayed.
Passing Zones
Mid-Ohio is a classic permanent road course, with a park-like setting that allows fans to roam throughout the facility and take in the action from different vantage points. If you’re going to be there this weekend, and especially if this is your first time, we encourage you to do just that.
Of course, Mid-Ohio has generations of fans that have been flocking to the circuit for decades, and all have their own favorite locations to watch from.
If you’re looking for passing spots, Turn 4 is a good one. It’s the right-hander at the end of the long backstretch and feeds into Mid-Ohio’s famed “Esses” sequence of turns. There’s a reason you see a lot of fans on the hillside at drivers’ right through the Esses.
Turn 1 is fast, but it’s another place where passes happen, especially on restarts or in traffic. And if there’s a signature turn at Mid-Ohio, it’s probably Turn 2, otherwise known as “The Keyhole.” It’s a double-apex right-hander that’s almost a hairpin but not quite.
It’s also at the end of a straightaway, which is inviting to late brakers. There’s a huge viewing mound overlooking The Keyhole, but you’re going to want to get there early, because it fills up fast.