Dyson Racing gave Mazda its first outright American Le Mans Series victory as Chris Dyson fended off the Highcroft HPD by just half a second in a stunning finish at Mid-Ohio.
Highcroft's Simon Pagenaud and David Brabham had appeared to lack winning pace for most of the race, but the Frenchman closed right in late on. Dyson was able to resist the pressure though, ending his team's victory drought and giving Mazda its first triumph.
“I really just tried to keep my head down and concentrate on the corners ahead,” Dyson said. “Simon is a really hard charger, and Mid-Ohio is one of the most physically demanding track we race on. I couldn't be happier for everyone on this team. We had a good car all weekend and I felt very comfortable.
"We had run with the Highcroft car during the practices all weekend. They were stronger than us on some points but we were better in other parts. I tried to work the traffic to take advantage of our strengths.”
For much of the race, both cars had trailed the Intersport Lola, which Clint Field had thrust into the lead at the start. He stayed there for nearly two hours, but the car fell back to third when Field had to hand over to his co-driving father Jon at a late yellow -- while Intersport's rivals had already made their driver swaps. The car later dropped out of third with a mechanical problem. The polesitting Drayson car was delayed by contact in traffic.
Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker of Level 5 won LMPC, hitting the front when Gunnar Jeanette spun out of the lead.
Jaime Melo and Gianmaria Bruni won an epic GT contest in the Risi Ferrari, which was slowed for a while by a fuel problem mid-race. A superb charge by Melo brought the car back into contention, and eventually into the lead, where he was able to stay despite Oliver Gavin's Corvette catching him in the final moments.
"The race wasn't easy by any means," said team principal Giuseppe Risi, "but Jaime did a fantastic job to hold off the close attentions of the Corvette for the last 18 laps and his pass on both the BMWs after his second pit stop was one of the defining moments of the race. This delight is of course balanced by the fact that the No. 61 wasn't able to finish the race. Giancarlo and Toni deserved a better result today, particularly as Giancarlo was so competitive during the race; his times were right up there with the leaders.”
There was drama in GTC, too, where the Black Swan car of Jeroen Bleekmolen and Tim Pappas came back from a first-lap spin to win.