A year ago James Davison won the Mid-Ohio Indy Lights race under bizarre circumstances in a rain storm – this season he returned to do it the conventional way, leading from pole to flag and giving Vision Racing its first-ever victory.
Briton Martin Plowman tied his best finish of the season by advancing from seventh on the grid to fifth at the flag.
The 2008 Mid-Ohio 100 featured foul weather and a late safety car, and when it came into the pits with a lap to go it was followed by the leader Jonny Reid who believed the race was over with him as winner. Davison retained the presence of mind not to follow him, staying on track to complete the final lap and inherit the victory.
This year’s race at the the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course was an altogether more civilised affair, Davison building a four second margin of victory over James Hinchcliffe and championship leader J.R. Hildebrand.
Hildebrand increased his championship lead when his closest challenger, team-mate Sebastian Saavedra, ran off track during an overtake and damaged his car, requiring 14 laps-worth of repair work before he could carry on.
For once, there was something to smile about for the British entrants, Plowman taking fifth place and Stefan Wilson advancing nine places through the field to finish 8th. A spin while jockeying for position with Ana Beatriz dumped Ali Jackson down to 16th while Pippa Mann finished a place higher after qualifying 18th.
A relieved Plowman, who along with Mann and IndyCar driver Dan Wheldon has suffered from a disappointing season at Panther Racing, said: “This fifth place feels like a small victory. We were at the back of the grid and by a long way but my engineer Al Bodey and all the guys got together and analysed what was wrong with the car and what we needed and for the couple of past races we’ve improved a lot.
“I was blown away with how the car felt after the first lap of practice, it was totally different from what we had here in the beginning of June, and it was just what we needed. They gave me a great race car today and I owe the guys for this one.”
Unfortunately what worked for Plowman missed the mark for Mann: “Last night after practice and qualifying the Panther guys changed the car all around because, although Martin’s setup worked for him, it just didn’t work for me and I couldn’t drive the car,” she said. “This morning in warm-up we made a big step forward and during the race we continued to improve our lap times.
“In the race we ran 1.5 seconds quicker than we’ve ran the whole weekend and had we started further up and had this car on the start of the weekend I’m sure that the pace would’ve been better. Today I didn’t quite have the pace but overall the boys did a very good job.”
Jackson said: “I was following Ana for many laps before I had contact with her. It was my fault. I tried to pass her and we touched. Sometimes you just have to try it, but this time it didn’t work out. That’s it.
“My car was really good. It was a shame we had to start so far back due to the penalty in qualifying – I think if we could have started further up we would have had a top-eight finish, no doubt. We needed to trim it out a little more but the balance was good. It’s just very hard to pass here. I was also at a disadvantage being a rookie and not knowing the track.”
Wilson’s strong result will help Walker Racing in its goal of building a two- or three-car programme for next season. Owner Derrick Walker said: “There is some interest out there from drivers wishing to get an early start on 2010 by doing a few more races this year before getting serious with the winter test schedule.
“We have the possibility to run two cars this year and obviously that would be our preference, but as always, it’s never about what we can or can’t do, it’s always about finding the budget.”