The Muehlner Motorsports America Driver Wins a Close One at Mid-Ohio
By Mark Robinson
LEXINGTON, Ohio – It didn’t matter that Moritz Kranz was flying solo this weekend, nor that he’d ever seen Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course before. The German driver led essentially wire-to-wire Sunday in winning the IMSA Prototype Challenge race.
Moritz led all but three of the 77 laps on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile road course in the No. 21 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine D08 after claiming the pole position in Saturday qualifying. It is his second win in three 2021 Prototype Challenge races, but this weekend marked the first time he was the lone driver in the No. 21. Kranz and Laurents Hoerr shared the car in the opening two events, including a season-opening victory at Daytona International Speedway in January.
“This is my first season racing in the States and I just love it!” Kranz said in victory lane. “It’s just awesome to see fans again at the racetrack. The tracks are all new tracks (for me) and I couldn’t be happier.
“I love Mid-Ohio,” he added. “Not only because I won but because, even though it might look a little bit not that difficult, it’s a really technical and difficult track to find the grip, which curb to take and which line. It’s a really, really challenging track and I love it.”
Kranz paced a five-car Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) pack through the first half of Sunday’s one-hour, 45-minute race, never leading David Grant in the No. 40 JDC MotorSports Duqueine by more than a couple seconds. Once the round of mandatory pit stops cycled through, however, the No. 21’s advantage swelled to 11 seconds.
With full green-flag running, second-place Rasmus Lindh (No. 6 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P320) chopped the gap to less than a second before the only full-course caution was called for the No. 74 Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine, which was stranded in Turn 9 with 28 minutes remaining.
Kranz was able to keep Lindh at bay on the restart and slowly widened the lead, until Lindh slowed suddenly with four minutes left and directed the No. 6 to the pits with a terminal mechanical issue. Mike Skeen (No. 3 Jr III Racing Ligier with co-driver Terry Olson) moved into second place and cut a four-second deficit to less than a second but ran out of time before he could attempt a pass. Kranz beat Skeen, who charged from seventh place to second on the final 22 minutes, to the finish line by 0.456 seconds.
“We came here without testing,” Kranz said, “but the team did an awesome job with no testing to get the car strong in two (practice) sessions. Perfect job by the team. In the race, at the beginning I was just managing the tires to actually see what’s going on.
“After the restart, I had quite a hard time the first couple laps to get the tires up to temperature. But for some reason people started to drop back (behind). I had no idea what happened, but I’m happy. We’ll take it.”
Josh Sarchet and Dakota Dickerson recovered from a drive-through penalty for improperly attired crew during a pit stop to finish third.
Boosted by his second win, Kranz supplanted Sarchet and Dickerson as the Prototype Challenge points leader halfway through the six-race season. Kranz has unofficially totaled 960 points to 920 for Sarchet and Dickerson. Since he is a Bronze-rated driver, Kranz was also the winner among Bronze Cup competitors.
Lance Willsey and Francesco Melandri (No. 24 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P3) won the LMP 3-2 class for previous-generation cars, with George Staikos and Danny Kok (No. 61 Conquest Racing Norma M30) second in class.
A replay of the Mid-Ohio race airs at 2 p.m. ET Tuesday, May 25 on NBCSN. The next Prototype Challenge event takes place July 1-2 at Watkins Glen International as part of the IMSA WeatherTech 240 weekend.