By Mark Robinson
Drivers love Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course because, as they almost all say, it’s "very technical." It demands, they typically add, full attention to every detail throughout the twists, turns, ups and downs of the 2.258-mile road circuit.
That’s why getting it all right on a consistent basis will be critical this weekend at the Acura Sports Car Challenge, the next event on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship calendar. Combine that with the fact that three classes – Daytona Prototype international (DPi), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) – will be competing in Sunday’s two-hour, 40-minute race and it makes for a true test of technical prowess underscored by tempered aggression while battling through traffic on a course with limited passing opportunities.
"Mid-Ohio’s a great track," said Jonathan Bomarito, co-driver of the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports DPi along with Harry Tincknell. "It’s tough racing, it’s a hard, multi-class race. The twisty stuff on the last part of the lap, you can lose or gain a lot of time on track.
"People start getting desperate, make poor decisions. You just have to keep calm in the car, be smart. But it is a tough track for multi-class racing, for sure."
Jordan Taylor agrees, even though the Floridian has yet to win at Mid-Ohio in an otherwise stellar career. This weekend will be his first race at the track in a GT car since 2012, having spent the past seven seasons in prototypes. Still, the co-driver of the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R that leads the GTLM standings knows the drill.
"It’s a tough track to pass; that’s the big one," said Taylor, who shares the No. 3 with Antonio Garcia. "It’s been a while since I raced there in a GT car but traffic’s always a big part of it, especially when you get on the back side of the track. … Strategy-wise, to keep you out front is going to be a big part of it."
The difficulty in passing places a premium on the driver being smooth and consistent, not making tiny mistakes – or limiting them as much as possible – on each lap. It’s the age-old risk versus reward proposal, according to Oliver Jarvis, co-driver of the No. 77 Mazda DPi with Tristan Nunez.
"It’s been a great track for us in the past, certainly one I enjoy," Jarvis said. "It’s one of those tracks where, certainly in qualifying I feel like the driver can make the difference.
"In the past few years, you could just keep pushing. The more risk you took, the more time you found, and it was about finding that balance between taking enough risk and finding lap time, and not sticking it in the wall."
Last season at Mid-Ohio, Jack Hawksworth delivered the first win for the new AIM Vasser Sullivan team in its GTD class Lexus RC F GT3, teaming then with Richard Heistand. Hawksworth is paired this weekend with Aaron Telitz in the No. 14 Lexus that bears signage from Rice Lake Weighing Systems, Telitz’s longtime personal sponsor from his Wisconsin hometown.
Hawksworth will enjoy returning as the defending GTD race champion, at a Mid-Ohio track that he enjoys for its purity.
"I look forward to going to that track regardless because it’s quite technical," Hawksworth said, repeating the refrain. "It’s an old-school road course that’s quite fun to drive anyway. Coming off last year, it was just a special weekend there, with my first win of the season. It was my first win in the Lexus, it was Richard’s first win in IMSA and the team’s first win, so a lot of good memories."
The Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio begins with WeatherTech Championship practices at 6:10 p.m. ET Friday and 10:55 a.m. Saturday. Qualifying takes place at 8 a.m. Sunday, ahead of the race beginning at 2:05 p.m. that afternoon. The race streams live on the NBC Sports App, NBCSports.com and TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold. NBCSN television coverage airs at 11 p.m. ET Sunday.