Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud went flag-to-flag to win the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, securing their fourth consecutive overall victory in the American Le Mans Series in the process.
Team owner de Ferran qualified in pole position, and the pairing won at Mid-Ohio for the first time in their careers on the weekend that de Ferran confirmed he will stand down from his driving duties at the end of the season.
The victorious team boss crossed the finish line in the de Ferran XM Acura ARX-02a 8.358 seconds ahead of Patron Highcroft Racing's David Brabham and the Acura that he drove with LMP1 championship co-leader Scott Sharp.
The emotions of the weekend were just as challenging for de Ferran as the race itself. Team fueler Keith Jones was badly injured in a pitlane fire at Mid-Ohio last year. Winning for the first time at the circuit and on the weekend where he announced he will retire as a driver at the end of the season were tough to overcome.
“Certainly what happened here last year was a huge landmark in my life and to all of our team,” de Ferran said, trying to hold back tears. “At the end of the day, you cannot perform if you are a complete mess. You have to keep your emotions in check at all times and be 100 per cent rational. This was my mostemotional race. Mind management is very important . But crossing the finish line – I couldn't hold back.”
But it was a joyful celebration. The former two-time CART champion and Indy 500 winner watched Pagenaud drive a brilliant opening stint against Sharp. The young Frenchman drove the first 77 minutes before handing off to de Ferran, who didn't give up the lead. A quick splash late was all the Acura needed.
“We have had a good weekend,” said Pagenaud, who set the fastest race lap for the third straight event. “The crew made good decisions at the right time. It is great to have an improvement over the year. It was a fun race to drive. We managed to save a lot of fuel in my stint. “
Intersport Racing's local tandem of Jon and Clint Field drove their AER-powered Lola B06/10 to a third-place P1 finish. The father-son duo was fifth overall.
Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz won their fifth LMP2 race of the year and were third overall in the Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b. The class championship leaders won the race with a short-fill for fuel on the race's final caution period while running second to Dyson Racing's Marino Franchitti.