Chris Dyson survived a late-race challenge from Simon Pagenaud to take a 0.506-second victory in Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge in the Dyson Racing Lola B09/86 Mazda. It was the team's first American Le Mans Series victory with the new Lola-Mazda combination.
"I really just tried to keep my head down and concentrate on the corners ahead," Dyson explained. "Simon is a really hard charger. Mid-Ohio is one of the most physically demanding track we race on."
Guy Smith, who took the start for the team, slotted into second place as the race got under way, behind Clint Field in the Intersport Lola and ahead of the Highcroft HPD ARX-01c, driven by Pagenaud's teammate, David Brabham.
The Intersport Lola maintained the lead through much of the race, but just before the two-hour mark, Dyson, who had by now taken over from Smith, took the lead by the virtue of a quick pit stop.
While the Intersport team swapped all four tires and changed drivers, Dyson Racing did a lighting fuel-only stop to exit the pits ahead of their rival. Once the Highcroft HPD pitted 15 minutes later under full-course yellow, Dyson was in the overall lead.
Intersport's fortunes went downhill from there. After an attempt to cure their engine troubles through spark plug replacements, the team ended up retreating behind the pit wall for extensive repairs.
Pagenaud made up ground quickly, though, and less than 20 minutes after the pit stop, the Frenchman was shadowing Dyson. The gap was frequently less than a second, but would stretch out as the two leaders encountered lapped traffic.
As the final lap started, the difference was mere 0.380 seconds, and the spectators held their breaths as the two circulated nose-to-tail around the classic road course.
"That last lap was a long one!" said team owner Rob Dyson. "It's great to see us bring this one home first. We've had great success here over the years. Guy and Chris really put the pedal to the metal. The biggest thing for us is that they both did a great job in traffic. They didn't rub up against any cars which is a key."
For Pagenaud and Brabham, the result wasn't quite what any racer tries for, but the two could take consolation in having further extended their championship lead, as the second-placed Klaus Graf was not able to start the race after the heavy shunt of his teammate, Greg Pickett, in Thursday's test session.
Pickett, who landed the Cytosport Porsche RS Spyder upside down in the tire barriers, suffered rib and back injuries in the accident, and is expected to miss the remaining American Le Mans Series races this year. Pickett is mobile and walking, but may need to undergo further surgery.
The hopes of the pole-sitting Drayson Racing team were dashed early. Team owner Paul Drayson, starting for the team, had two off-track excursions in the early laps, dropping to fourth overall. 40 minutes later, Drayson made contact with the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup of Jerry Vento, and Drayson came out the worse in the exchange, stopping on the trackside and initiating a full-course caution.
Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker took the class victory in the LMP Challenge class, four laps off the pace of the winning Dyson Racing Lola-Mazda but a lap clear of the nearest LMP Challenge competitor.
The LM GT class saw Risi Competizione's Jaime Melo and Gianmaria Bruni overcome adversity, as the two recovered from mid-race fuel pump problems. Driving on the reserve fuel pump, Melo had to climb back up from sixth in class.
One by one he picked off his rivals, and by the time the full-course yellow came out at the two-hour mark, the Ferrari was back up to third place, behind the two BMW M3s, piloted by Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand.
As the course went green again, Melo attacked hard, and slipped by both of the BMWs, running nose to tail, in the course's famed Keyhole turn to take the class lead.
Melo looked invincible at that point, but there was another team with designs on victory: Corvette Racing's #4 Corvette ZR-1, driven by Oliver Gavin. With 20 minutes remaining on the clock, the gap between the two was less than two tenths of a second.
However, an incident between the second Risi Ferrari and a Patron Racing Ferrari brought the yellow flag out again, giving Melo another eight minutes without pressure. Eleven minutes remained as the race went green again, and there was next to nothing separating the two rivals, but Gavin was unable to find a way past. At the finish, the gap was 0.582 seconds in Melo's favor.
"I had a very consistent car and I could keep very good lap times," Melo explained. "I had some slow traffic on the last two laps and brought the No. 4 Corvette very close. I tried to stay calm and not make any mistakes. This was very hard but important for us to win here."
Behind the two class leaders, it was Auberlen and Tommy Milner in third place, less than five seconds adrift of the winning Risi entry.
Jeroen Bleekemolen and Tim Pappas took the victory in the GT Challenge class, the pair's third class victory this season.