By Mark Robinson
The MLT Motorsports drivers executed flawlessly in Saturday’s IMSA Prototype Challenge race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, to collect their first win of 2020.
Dom Cicero kept the No. 54 Ligier JS P3 within earshot of the lead in the opening stint before turning the car over to Dakota Dickerson. It didn’t take long for the pro from San Diego to make a daring pass for the lead, and Dickerson pulled away to a comfortable victory by a margin of 6.672 seconds.
Dickerson’s second straight win at Mid-Ohio kept his flickering season championship hopes alive. Points leaders Naveen Rao and Matthew Bell finished second Saturday in the No. 64 K2R Motorsports Norma M30, allowing Dickerson to close within six points of the leaders with only the season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta remaining next month.
"It’s really awesome getting back-to-back wins (at Mid-Ohio)," Dickerson said. "It feels great for the team. The MLT Motorsports guys have been looking for this win. They’ve gotten so close this year, so to get that for them and Ligier is fantastic."
Starting the race in the second position, Cicero fell back early before closing on pole sitter David Grant in the No. 40 Forty7 Motorsports Norma when they encountered lapped traffic. The frontrunners avoided calamity when both made light contact with Joel Janco while trying to lap the No. 47 Forty7 Motorsports Norma in Turn 2.
Cicero backed off at that point, dropping five seconds off the pace before making the pit stop that put Dickerson behind the wheel. When David Grant made his stop five minutes later, brother Keith Grant still held a four-second advantage in the No. 40. It didn’t last long.
"I just wanted to keep the car good for Dakota," said Cicero, paired with Dickerson for the fourth straight race. "That lapped traffic did not make that easy, though, especially when we went three wide in Turn 2. My heart dropped and I was like, ‘What do you do?’ But Ligier and MLT, it was such a good little car, a good package that they’ve been giving us every time."
Dickerson quickly narrowed the deficit to Grant and made a bold outside pass exiting the Turn 12 Carousel that gave him the inside line into Turn 13. He completed the race-deciding pass on the front straight with 39 minutes remaining in the one-hour, 45-minute race.
"Dom did a great job getting us to the front, so from there it was really just one car that we had to get around," Dickerson said. "I saw an opportunity with lapped traffic around the Carousel and thought I might as well make it stick."
From there, it was smooth sailing for Dickerson. Dan Goldburg and Rasmus Lindh rounded out the podium with a third-place finish in the No. 6 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier.
A late full-course caution bunched the field and jeopardized the Grant brothers’ bid for a podium finish in the No. 40. Keith Grant battled hard with the more experienced drivers after the restart, but eventually dropped to fifth overall. Still, the Grants were the Bronze Cup winners.
"It went really well with David in the car for the first session," Keith Grant said. "He had the lead until I got in and I had the lead going into the second stint. I was really happy with that. Really wish the caution had never come out; it really hurt us. We probably would’ve finished second or third today."
The Prototype Challenge season finale comes on Motul Petit Le Mans weekend, Oct. 15-17 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. The race runs three hours instead of the typical one hour, 45 minutes.