At the end of a classic American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race Chris Dyson brought home the Mazda-powered Lola coupe of Dyson Racing to win the Mid-Ohio Sportscar Challenge, the team's first win of the season and first overall win using bio-butanol fuel. The American won by a little over half-a-second from Simon Pagenaud, the two leaders completing 119 laps of the 2.25 mile circuit.
The race saw close battles and several startling overtaking moves for the lead in everyone of the four classes on track, as has become the norm in the series, despite sometimes low grid numbers, a late race caution only serving to provide a grandstand finish to a race that everyone should have been on their feet for already.
Dyson had to fend off a late challenge from Pagenaud, aboard the championship leading Patron Highcroft HPD entry, the third and final full-course caution of the race being rescinded with a little under ten minutes of the two-hour, 45-minute race remaining. Unlike many other restarts in the multi-call series when the green flag fell on the restart the leading pair were free to fight for the win, free of immediate interference from the slower classes.
However, Dyson was able to pull a lead out on the restart, leaving Pagenaud weaving to warm his tyres both on the way to and out of, The Keyhole. The Frenchman had several half-chances to launch an overtaking attempt, many coming as he and Dyson made their way through slower traffic.
It looked like the opportunity Pagenaud needed presented itself when Dyson was cut-off on the exit of The Keyhole – the right-handed hairpin at turn 2 – by the GT class Jaguar. The brief loss of momentum should have given Pagenaud his best chance at taking the lead but Dyson was able to pull away down the backstraight, Pagenaud’s chance fizzling out until all he could do was meekly pull out of the Lola’s slipstream under braking for turn three, nevereven suggesting Dyson’s lead was under threat.
Dyson, who took over the car from Guy Smith during the first full-course caution, had taken the lead in the pits. Both he and the then leader – Intersport's Clint Field – pitted on the same lap, however, while the Dyson crew only had to refuel the car Intersport needed to make their driver change, installing Jon Field (Clint's father) in the car.
When the Intersport car returned to the track in second place it brought to an end a fantastic run by the younger field, taking the lead in the opening corners of the race, the Castrol liveried Dyson car in second place, where Field would keep it there until the first pitstops, where Highcroft took second place ahead of Chris Dyson.
After leading much of two-thirds of the race Intersport ultimately left Mid-Ohio disappointed, the aging Lola once more fast-but-fragile stopped by a mechanical malady.
The GT class was typically frantic, Jamie Melo and Gianmaria Bruni returned to winning for Risi Competizione after the disappointment of Lime Rock. Porsche, BMW, Ferrari and Corvette were all involved in a battle for the lead that occasionally involved as many as six cars.
The two Rahal-Letterman BMWs looked ready to dominate the class, the team smartly splitting its strategy at the first caution, bringing the no.92 car of Bill Auberlen and Tommy Milner before the yellow came out, a move that handed them the class lead once the green flag came out again.
Auberlen lost the lead, describing the handling of the M3 as “horrible” as he lost first Ferrari then Corvette before oversteering wider at turn three.
Problems over, the two BMWs were running first and second in class after the second caution period. Jaime Melo, however, had passed both teammates by the time the lead battle was halfway down the back straight, forcing Auberlen wide on the exit of The Keyhole, having already passed Dirk Muller.
In the closing minutes of the race it was Jan Magnussen who was the nearest challenger to Melo, though the Dane could do little more than follow the Ferrari across the finish line in an echo of the battle at the head of the field.
Despite the win, the Risi pair, were kept off the top of the class points standings by Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long, who finished fourth in class for Flying Lizard Motorsports. After starting seventh the reigning champions were able to move through the field, taking advantage of the delays and retirements that affected some of the other front runners in the class. The no.3 Corvette was forced to retire with mechanical problems, and the pole sitting Risi car of Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella delayed early on before being forced to retire late after contact with Ed Brown in the no.02 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari, the stranded Brown the cause of the final caution that set up the close finish.
Fisichella retiring the car ended a poor day for the pole sitter in the premier classes. Drayson Racing had lost the overall lead almost immediately, but Paul Drayson was also forced wide during a battle with Highcroft's David Brabham, Drayson understeering wide at the following corner, necessitating a pitstop for repairs. The Lola-Judd had just fallen from the lead lap when Drayson spun into the gravel trap after contact with a GT Challenge Porsche. The car was pulled from the gravel, but was pulled behind the wall into early retirement, a sad end to an event which Drayson and co-driver Jonny Cocker had paced all weekend.
Level 5 Motorsports' Christophe Bouchut and Chris Tucker winning the LMPC class and taking third overall, four laps behind the lead battle. Their win, in hindsight, was sealed when Gunnar Jeannette span his ORECA FLM09 into the turn 1 gravel trap having only recently taken the lead from Bouchut. The Frenchman, in turn had taken the lead in fine fashion, moving from third to first in a few corners, past Jeanette and Andy Wallace, the veteran driver running in the other Level 5 Motorsports car.
Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup champion Jeroen Bleekemolen won the GT Challenge class in the Black Swan Racing car he shares with Tim Pappas. The GMG Racing entry was second, despite being punted off the track by the RSR Jaguar, a move for which Marc Goossens was punished with a one minute penalty a blot on the team's copybook on a day when the Jaguar XKRS race relatively trouble free, completing 107 laps, only five laps from the GT class pace.