2024 06 07 Levitt Mido 06 24 009464

Smooth Operator: Morad Puts No. 57 Mercedes atop Mid-Ohio Practice Sheet

Repaved Track Is Fast but Remains Low in Grip for Michelin Pilot Challenge Drivers


By Mark Robinson


Practice 1 Results


LEXINGTON, Ohio – Smooth is fast at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – but it’s not easy.


That’s the way Daniel Morad summed it up Friday after leading the opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge practice for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts Four Hours of Mid-Ohio. The 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course has been repaved since the series last raced here in 2022, helping Morad turn a best lap of 1 minute, 26.987 seconds (93.448 mph) in the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4.


That’s within 0.07 seconds of Nate Stacy’s track record set in 2020, leading to expectations that the standard will be lowered in qualifying on Saturday.


“It’s the smoothest track I’ve ever been on in my life and just a different feeling compared to anything,” Morad said following the 60-minute session. “A little bit of learning to do but at least we’re starting off on the right foot. The car seems to suit the track well; there’s not a lot of long straights so just going to try and play on our strengths here and see what we can do.”


Morad added that, while the new surface is smooth, there’s still not much grip. That could make things treacherous for all competitors in the four-hour enduro on Sunday.


The No. 57 Mercedes is the only car to register two Grand Sport (GS) class podiums in the first three races this season, but Morad and co-driver Bryce Ward sit sixth in the standings – 120 points from the lead – due to a 22nd-place finish at Sebring in March. Morad said the team is prioritizing staying out of trouble and registering consistent finishes to climb back into the title hunt.


“Anytime in the past two years – 2023 and this year so far – that we’ve gotten through the pit stop sequence, we’ve been on the podium or fighting for podium,” he said. “That’s just the nature of the Michelin Pilot Challenge. It’s such an attrition race and you have to just make it through the midpoint in the race to score points. This is the type of championship where wins and podiums don’t even matter that much; it’s just consistent top-seven finishes.”


The No. 17 Unitronic/JDC-Miller MotorSports Audi RS3 LMS TCR, winner of the first three Touring Car (TCR) races this season, topped the class in Friday’s practice. Chris Miller, who shares the car with Mikey Taylor, turned a best lap of 1:28.350 (92.006 mph) that was nearly a half-second quicker than the TCR lap record, though track records may only be set in qualifying or the race.


A second 60-minute practice is scheduled for 11:55 a.m. ET Saturday, with qualifying to set the 40-car starting grid at 4:30 p.m. The four-hour race airs live starting at 12:40 p.m. Sunday on Peacock (in the U.S.), IMSA.tv (outside the U.S.) and IMSA Radio.


The Michelin Pilot Challenge is one of four IMSA-sanctioned series on the Mid-Ohio docket this weekend. The other series conducted two practice sessions apiece ahead of doubleheader race weekends for each.


VP Racing SportsCar Challenge


Practice 1 Results | Practice 2 Results


This season’s race winners set the pace in Friday’s practices. Jagger Jones (No. 87 FastMD Racing with Remstar Duqueine D08) was quickest in the second session and overall with a lap of 1:18.331 (103.774 mph), coming on the heels of his sweep of wins at St. Petersburg in March.


Le Mans Prototype 3 (P3) points leader Steven Aghakhani (No. 6 MLT Motorsports Ligier JS P320) paced the opening practice and was second to Jones in the second session at 1:18.866 (103.070 mph). Aghakhani leads Miguel Villagomez (No. 23 Escuderia ABRO Ligier) and Brian Thienes (No. 77 Forte Racing Ligier) by 190 points heading into the weekend.


In the GSX class for GT4 specification cars, Luca Mars and Jesse Lazare – each with two wins thus far in 2024 – swapped sessions at the front. Mars topped the first practice in the No. 59 KohR Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4, with Lazare right behind. Lazare led the second practice and was fastest for the day in GSX at 1:27.269 (93.146 mph) in the No. 21 Motorsports In Action McLaren Artura GT4, with Mars checking in at 1:27.638 (92.754 mph).


Qualifying is set for 9:15 a.m. Saturday. Race 1 starts at 1:15 p.m. Saturday and Race 2 at 9:40 a.m. Sunday. Both races stream live on Peacock in the U.S. and IMSA.tv outside the U.S.


Mustang Challenge


Practice 1 Results | Practice 2 Results


The new single-make series turned its first competitive laps with the two practice sessions, both led by Robert Noaker (No. 13 Robert Noaker Racing Ford Mustang Dark Horse R). Noaker’s best lap came in the afternoon session at 1:30.810 (89.514 mph). Alex Bachoura (No. 33 Spark Performance Mustang) topped the Dark Horse Legends class at 1:31.941 (88.413 mph).


Qualifying takes place at 10:05 a.m. Saturday. The first 45-minute race starts at 2:20 p.m. Saturday and the second at 8:30 a.m. Sunday. Both races stream live on Peacock and IMSA.tv.


Whelen Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by Michelin


Practice 1 Results | Practice 2 Results


Gresham Wagner and Aaron Jeansonne each took a turn as a practice leader, with Wagner (No. 5 McCumbee McAleer Racing Mazda MX-5) going fastest overall in the second session (1:35.668, 84.968 mph) and Jeansonne (No. 24 JTR Motorsports Engineering Mazda) next best (1:35.884, 84.777 mph).


MX-5 Cup qualifying begins at 10:35 a.m. Saturday, with Race 1 later in the day at 3:25 p.m. The second race takes the green flag at 10:45 a.m. Sunday. Both races stream live on IMSA.tv.