Hard work, impeccable strategy, flawless pit stops, outstanding driving and a fast race car were still not enough to earn Multimatic Motorsports its first win of the 2021 season. A full course yellow (FCY), just as the race entered its final hour with the #55 Mazda enjoying a commanding lead, dictated that the entire DPi field pit for fuel, even though it was ten minutes shy of any of them being able to make the end on a full tank.
As the race restarted all six cars were at least five laps short on fuel, and the computers started to work overtime, consumption targets being fed to the drivers. What had, up to that point, been a fast paced dog fight, with GT and LMP3 traffic playing a significant factor in the gain and loss of the lead margin, became a speed managed economy run in an attempt to reach the finish without having to stop for a splash of fuel. Although dominant at full attack, the #55 Mazda couldn’t maintain the economy run pace of Taylor’s Acura and Nasr’s Cadillac, ultimately finishing third; disappointing considering the outstanding pace that the car had displayed in its first three race stints.
The weekend got off to a slow start when the Mazda was off the pace in the two practice sessions. Undeterred, the team dug deep and “threw everything at it” so they could provide Harry Tincknell with the car he needed for Qualifying.
The changes proved effective and Tincknell duly took pole position, smashing the DPi lap record by almost 0.7 seconds and mirroring the times set by the best cars from the LMP1 era. It was an incredible lap from the Englishman, who was so focused on his driving that he couldn’t provide any feedback to the Engineers afterwards as he had been fully “in the zone”!
When the race got underway, Tincknell immediately bolted to attempt to break from the chasing pack. Both drivers found that it took a number of laps to get the tyres up to temperature at the notoriously low grip circuit but Tincknell stayed out front, moved cleanly through the traffic and built up a healthy lead. The first pit stop was text book and he set off to rebuild his lead, stretching it to 20 seconds at one stage. At the halfway point of the race, he pitted to hand over to Jarvis.
“My focus for the race was to get through the first few corners in the lead,” said Tincknell. “After that I knew I could get my head down, just drive, don’t look in the mirrors, put in fast lap times and show no mercy through the traffic. I got out of the car knowing I couldn’t have done anymore. We have the best team in the business where every individual’s goal is to do the best they can for the team so that’s what we do.”
With an hour to go, Jarvis enjoyed a solid 10-second lead with the team ticking down the laps to the final pit stop, and then came the FCY. With the #55 Mazda having to take on slightly more fuel than the #10 Acura and #31 Cadillac, Jarvis left the pit lane in third place with a monumental task of making-up a five lap fuel deficit to avoid another visit.
Once back to green the team fed the Englishman constant fuel consumption targets calculated by converting the remaining race time into the number of laps left, and then matching it to the remaining fuel in the tank. The car continuing to slow as another stop for fuel would have destroyed any hope of finishing amongst those that were able to make it.
Twenty minutes from the end, Van der Zande drove past Jarvis but soon relinquished the spot as the Ganassi car had to pit for fuel in the dying moments of the race, as did the Acura of Oliver Pla. Jarvis crossed the line in third, with no pressure from behind but no hope of catching the two cars in front, running out of fuel on the cooling-off lap.
“It’s disappointing to come away with third after dominating so much of the race,” said Jarvis. “Harry had a fantastic start and handed me the car in the lead. I had just got my tyres up to temperature and had started to increase our lead when a safety car was called. Unfortunately the timing meant we were unable to pit before it and take advantage like the #31 car did and during the pit stop the #10 jumped us as they had a shorter fuel stop. We decided to keep the used tyres on and once the race restarted it became a fuel fight to the finish. There are so many positives as the team did an amazing job to give us such a competitive car after struggling in practice but I can’t help but feel this was one that slipped away and was out of our control. Still, another podium and the important thing is we keep grinding out the results.”
“I’m really proud of the team for the work they all put in this week,” added Tincknell. “While it is disappointing not to win, it is now our fifth podium in a row so we have consistency and reliability. Yes, it’s not a win but it’s good, solid points towards the championship and we are in by far the strongest position we have ever been at this point of the season. We will go to Detroit with even more confidence.”
Larry Holt, Executive Vice President – Multimatic Special Vehicle Operations, said: “I hate to bring-up bad luck again but that was just cruel. We wrestled a recalcitrant race car into something really special, with hard work and great engineering, and Harry gave us an incredible effort and blew the lap record into the weeds. We went into the race knowing that the Mazda was the car to win and it looked pretty much in hand well into the third of our four planned stints. But then it all fell apart when the full course yellow came out with an hour to go. I knew we were in trouble at that point because it reset the race, and in a really bad way because of the timing. Our lead advantage was immediately wiped out and the car’s superior race pace was no longer a factor. We had to nurse it home at a managed pace, which isn’t really even racing, it became reminiscent of the 1983 SAE Supermilage competition that I competed in as a University student, it was boring and disappointing then, we finished second, and it was boring and disappointing at Mid-Ohio. But we’re still firmly in the championship hunt and our drivers are good in a street fight, so roll on Detroit.”