By John Oreovicz
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Weather conditions varied throughout the IMSA Fastlane SportsCar Weekend at Road America. But the GTD PRO class of the two-hour, 40-minute race Sunday featured one constant – domination by the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3 driven by Jack Hawksworth and Ben Barnicoat.
The pair of British drivers teamed up to lead 51 of the 62 laps completed of the classic 4.048-mile Wisconsin road course to claim their first victory together of the 2022 season. They won by 0.760 second over GTD PRO championship leaders Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R, with Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor taking third place in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R.
Hawksworth earned the Motul Pole Award Saturday at a track where the Lexus has traditionally excelled. He led the opening stint of the race, handing off to Barnicoat after 40 minutes when the first of four full course cautions flew.
Switching to Michelin rain tires from slicks, Barnicoat briefly lost the lead to Jaminet in the Pfaff Porsche. But the shower was brief, requiring a switch back to dry tires at the next round of yellow flag pit stops.
Barnicoat took the lead soon after the subsequent restart, with one hour and eight minutes remaining in the timed race. Jaminet was able to keep the Lexus within a second, but never seriously challenged as Barnicoat scored his second career IMSA win, and his first in GTD PRO.
Hawksworth now owns eight career WeatherTech Championship race wins.
“That was definitely I’d say the toughest race I’ve ever done,” said Barnicoat. “I’d never really done a lot of driving in this car in the wet before, and I made a mistake and the No. 9 got past me. I was really determined not to let that get that better of us.
“The fuel number I had to hit for the strategy was just crazy,” he added. “We knew it was going to be an extreme challenge, and to keep him behind while doing that was the toughest thing I’ve ever done. The yellow at the end fell for us and I was able to hold him off.”
Jaminet said he was disappointed to see the caution fly with less than 10 minutes remaining, but he admitted that he was unlikely to be able to pass Barnicoat unless the Lexus ran into a problem.
“It seemed like they found the right switch at the end to get some extra top speed they didn’t have at the beginning,” Jaminet commented. “We’ve been sometimes lucky this year and today was maybe a bit against us.
“All in all, it was a good race, and P2 is quite good for our championship with only two rounds to go.”
With the Road America victory, Barnicoat, who ranks second in the GTD PRO standings to Campbell and Jaminet, closed the gap slightly. But the Porsche duo still hold a comfortable 227-point cushion as the season winds down.
Ward, Ellis Seal the Deal for No. 57 Mercedes Team in GTD
Russell Ward and Philip Ellis played the stealth game to nab the GTD class victory at Road America in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT3.
Ward ran the first 40 minutes of the two-hour, 40-minute WeatherTech Championship clash before handing the car off to Ellis. But the team elected to keep Ellis on slick tires at a time when the track was damp and most of his competitors were on Michelin rain tires.
Ellis completed a treacherous stint without making an unplanned pit stop to change tires, assisted by a timely full course caution.
“That’s when it started to turn for us,” Ward remarked. “We still had to overtake a couple cars and jump guys in pit lane, so it wasn’t an easy battle. The strategy was good, and the pit stops were great.”
Ellis took the lead on the 46th of the 60 laps the GTD class completed and was comfortably in front when a late accident caused the race to end under yellow.
Robert Megennis and Jeff Westphal finished second in the No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, while Frankie Montecalvo and Aaron Telitz capped a great day for Lexus by taking the final podium finish in the No. 12 RC F GT3.
“We were still on slicks when everybody else was on rain tires and immediately fell to the back of the field,” said Ellis. “I just tried to stay alive on slicks, so we didn’t have to make an extra pit stop. Then we gambled for the second full course yellow, and that kind of saved us at the end.”
“Philip was the star,” added Ward. “This has been coming, and it feels good.”
GTD points leader Steven McAleer finished eighth in the No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes, immediately behind his closest pursuers, Ryan Hardwick and Jan Heylen in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche. McAleer has a 36-point advantage with two races remaining in the 2022 campaign; three other teams remain within 100 points.
IMSA’s GTD PRO and GTD classes headline the Michelin GT Challenge at VIRginia International Raceway, August 26-28. The 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship wraps up with the Motul Petit Le Mans, Sept. 28-Oct. 1 at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.