Gottsacker Eager for Long-Awaited Defense of Mid-Ohio Victory

By Mark Robinson

IMSA Wire Service

Harry Gottsacker can’t wait to get back to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this week, and it’s no wonder why.

Gottsacker heads to the 13-turn, 2.258-mile permanent road course as the only defending race winner on the entry list for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Four Hours of Mid-Ohio on Sunday. That win came in 2022, the last time the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge raced on the central Ohio circuit. What’s more, that triumph in the Touring Car (TCR) class is the most recent of Gottsacker’s five series victories.

Gottsacker did capture the TCR championship last season with co-driver Robert Wickens without the benefit of winning a race. But the yearning to get back to the top step of the victory podium burns bright inside the 24-year-old Texan who shares the No. 33 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR with Wickens again in 2024.

“We’re extremely hungry (to win again),” Gottsacker said. We’re going to be giving it 100 percent full effort. It is weird saying that, right, that it’s been a while since we’ve been on the top step. I feel like we’ve definitely gotten robbed a couple of times, so the racing gods should be on our side. We’ve just got to be able to put the car in a position to win.”

It’s not like Gottsacker hasn’t been close to winning again since he and Parker Chase, his co-driver then, won at Mid-Ohio in 2022. They collected another podium finish before the season ended, then Gottsacker and Wickens mounted an amazingly consistent 2023 championship campaign that included six second-place finishes and one third. They already have a pair of third-place results in the first three races this season and sit fourth in the current TCR standings.

Gottsacker exudes confidence at the challenging Mid-Ohio circuit, believing the track provides the perfect opportunity to return to victory lane. He and Wickens aim to end the three-race winning streak that Chris Miller and Mikey Taylor have strung together in the No. 17 Unitronic/JDC-Miller MotorSports Audi RS3 LMS TCR to vault into the class lead.

“I think our (ability to manage tire) degradation is definitely our stronger suit compared to some of our competitors,” Gottsacker said. “We can do a really outstanding job of keeping the deg to a minimum. I think that’ll help us even more. But yeah, we’re just gonna have to fight a little harder, dig a little deeper, but it’s coming.”

Sixteen TCR cars are on the entry list for the race, the fourth of 10 on the 2024 Michelin Pilot Challenge schedule and the second and last four-hour event.

Meanwhile in the Grand Sport (GS) class, 24 cars will join the chase for victory. The first three races have yielded a different winner each time out, causing a logjam atop the GS standings with five teams separated by a mere 70 points.

Matt Plumb and the No. 46 Team TGM Aston Martin Vantage GT4 lead the GS fray. Plumb will be joined for the third time this season by co-driver Paul Horton. They’re 30 points ahead of Michael McCarthy, Riley Dickinson and the No. 91 Kellymoss with Riley Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport, winners of the season-opening four-hour race at Daytona International Speedway.

Just 20 points farther back are Jesse Lazare, Michael de Quesada and the No. 69 Motorsports In Action McLaren Artura GT4, winners of the most recent race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Rory van der Steur in the No. 19 van der Steur Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4, whose co-driver this week is Danny Formal, is equal in points with Lazare and de Quesada.

Fifth in the GS standings are Sebring International Raceway winners Frank DePew, Robin Liddell and the No. 71 Rebel Rock Racing Aston Martin AMR GT4 Evo.

Following practice and qualifying on Friday and Saturday, the O’Reilly Auto Parts Four Hours of Mid-Ohio takes the green flag at 12:40 p.m. Sunday. The race streams live on Peacock.