The battle for the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship rages on after some combative racing at the super-fast Road America track in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. With just three races remaining the championship is still wide open and the points are tight between the top three protagonists.
Heading into the Road America weekend, Oliver Jarvis, Harry Tincknell and the entire Multimatic Motorsports team understood that perfect execution was required as a single misstep at this point of the season will put an end to their championship aspirations. Every member of the organisation did exactly what was required and the #55 Mazda finished the race in second place, securing vital points for Mazda Motorsports’ championship campaign.
Extremely bad weather plagued the weekend, affecting the abbreviated first practice session and Qualifying became a treacherous affair, taking place in decidedly damp and difficult conditions. Despite very little time to develop a set-up and match the correct tyre parameters to the changeable track surface, Oliver Jarvis was able to take a well-earned third place on the grid for the race.
When the two-hour, 40-minute race got underway, Jarvis got his elbows out and doggedly held onto third. The Englishman pushed hard to stay with the leaders until the team called him in on Lap 11 in anticipation of a Full Course Yellow (FCY), getting out just before it actually occurred. It was an excellent strategic call, but the timing of the FCY, only 15% of the way into the event, ultimately set-up another fuel consumption challenge, dictating the approach to the rest of race. A “short” yellow a few laps later slightly modified the fuel usage situation, easing the pace limitation somewhat. This then dictated that the pit stops for the DPi driver changes be made under green as everybody’s fuel cells ran to reserve some 33 laps into the race, with an estimated 43 still to run, with most cars capable of no more than 20 at a race pace stint. Quick math indicating that another FCY would be required to make up the missing three laps.
So with all of that information relayed to Tincknell, he took the wheel of the Mazda and joined the fray in fourth position, a couple of the teams having taken a splash at the end of the first FCY to get a slight advantage to the second stop, and the #60 Meyer Shank Acura stopping early to gamble on rain or a yellow. But importantly none of the protagonists were is a position to make it to the end on fuel without the help of a caution or significant saving. The #60 led the race, in a far worse situation than the rest of the DPi field having stopped three laps early, followed by Pipo Derani in the #31 Cadillac, Albuquerque in the #10 Acura, and then Tincknell.
So with all of that information relayed to Tincknell, he took the wheel of the Mazda and joined the fray in fourth position, a
“When I jumped in the track was really low grip and we were a bit out on the tyre pressures,” said Tincknell. “I could stay with the leaders but I couldn’t go on the attack at that point. I gave as much feedback as I could to the Multimatic engineers and they gave me some tools in the car and then a fresh set of Michelin tyres with adjusted pressures so the second stint was a lot better.
“I had good pace compared to the #10 Acura so I was able to get a run on him a couple of times but he chopped in front of me so I had to back out to avoid a crash. The next time I got a good run, he defended hard and then on the exit I had the cut back but he tried to cut back across my nose when I was already there and we touched. Unfortunately for him he cut his tyre so that was us back up to third place.”
As Tincknell set off after the #31 Cadillac in second place, both drivers managing their pace, the team watched and waited for the leading #60 to pit. With Tincknell and Derani busy slugging it out through the traffic, the #60 finally came in for fuel with just two laps remaining, and the #55 Mazda crossed the finish line in second place with only fumes left in the fuel tank for the third time this season.
“Another great job from the team today,” said Tincknell. “They nailed all the pit stops and the strategy was great. I had a couple of chances in traffic to fight with Pipo but he was defending hard and we have a championship to think about!”
Larry Holt, Executive Vice President – Multimatic Special Vehicle Operations, said: “These fuel economy runs appear to have become the norm rather than exception at the moment. Not really caused by anything other than the luck of the draw on the full course cautions, which force everybody off strategy. Saying that, it didn’t really take anything away from the spectacle of the race. Harry had a great fight with Albuquerque in the last 30 minutes, with Filipe aggressively defending his position, which ultimately led to contact and the Acura picking-up a flat. That was a critical turning point in our championship fight with them as they dropped to the back, but once the #60 pitted they let the #10 through to help claw back the deficit. All fair in love and war. Harry had Pipo in his sights at the end but we didn’t have the fuel to let him get it done and so settled for second.”
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will return in six weeks’ time at Laguna Seca in California.