Weather Woes, Title Battle and Nonstop Action Make It a Weekend to Remember
By John Oreovicz
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – In golf, they call an accidental and unpredictable outside interference the “rub of the green.” The gist: If something happens that a competitor cannot control, they should grin and bear it.
BMW M Team RLL and Winward Racing must be feeling the rub of the green after losing IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD PRO and GTD class victories, respectively, in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen to drive time violations. Those penalties were the indirect result of an unpredictable outside interference – a brief storm that produced lightning in the region of Watkins Glen International – that caused the race to be red-flagged with just over 90 minutes remaining.
During the one-hour race stoppage, the six-hour race time clock frozen with 35 minutes remaining. And while the rules didn’t change, they were adapted to the circumstances. A minimum one-hour, 30-minute drive time for each driver in every class but Daytona Prototype international (DPi) over six hours of racing adjusted to one hour, 17 minutes over what became five-plus hours. It destroyed the carefully crafted pit stop strategy for several teams that would have fulfilled that requirement in normal circumstances.
Unfortunately, the timing of the inclement weather on Sunday put the two aforementioned teams – as well as the Andretti Autosport team that crossed the finish line third in Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) – into a situation they couldn’t overcome.
Call it the first takeaway from the Watkins Glen weekend: Sometimes, it ain’t over until even well after it’s over.
Here are two more:
The DPi Battle Is Going to Rage: The raw emotion was palpable after the hard-fought battle for DPi and overall honors in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen between the Acuras of Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque (No. 10 Konica Minolta) and Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian).
Blomqvist and Jarvis set the pace in every practice session and claimed the Motul Pole Award with a track-record lap, but their white and pink Acura ARX-05 once again came up short against the identical black and blue one fielded by Wayne Taylor Racing.
When the race was restarted after the one-hour delay, Albuquerque snatched the lead from Blomqvist with an aggressive move in Watkins Glen’s “inner loop” sequence similar to the one Bill Auberlen used on his way to winning the Tioga Downs Casino Resort 120 in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge the day before.
“I knew it was my one and only shot to overtake Blomqvist,” related Albuquerque. “I just put my foot down, we ended up side-by-side, and I just sent the car into the corner. It went over the curb, but it ended up working.”
The No. 60 won the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, but Blomqvist and Jarvis have been stymied since with four straight second-place finishes. Three of those bridesmaid results have seen the No. 10 Acura finish on the top step of the podium. The frustration of coming home second again to the No. 10 showed at Watkins Glen.
“It’s just a tough way to finish, especially after we were so strong all weekend,” Blomqvist said. “They were running less wing than we were, so they were quick there and it just meant we were vulnerable on restarts. Thankfully, not long until the next race.”
The DPi championship lead changed hands once again at The Glen, from a 13-point advantage for the No. 60 to a 17-point cushion for the No. 10.
This is one class championship that is going to go down to the final lap of the season-closing Motul Petit Le Mans in October.
The Action Never Stops: The Sahlen’s Six Hours weekend featured five distinct IMSA-sanctioned racing series encompassing 15 classes of competition. There was nonstop on-track action from 9 a.m. Thursday until 5 p.m. Sunday.
And the racing was compelling, through the single-make series featuring Mazda, Porsche and Lamborghini, the Michelin Pilot Challenge and, of course, the flagship WeatherTech Championship.
It’s no wonder that almost every acre of Watkins Glen’s expansive 3.4-mile layout was packed with campers – race fans who arrived before the first Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires car hit the track to spark the proceedings and partied long into Sunday night, reticent to pull up stakes after a (mostly) sun-splashed weekend.
While the Porsche Carrera Cup North America Presented by the Cayman Islands and Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America series provided signature moments during the weekend, the most significant memories came in Saturday’s two-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race.
Auberlen backed up his IMSA legend status with a fifth-to-first victory charge during the closing laps of the race in Grand Sport (GS), while Robert Wickens celebrated a landmark moment in his inspirational comeback from severe spinal cord injuries by co-driving with Mark Wilkins to the Touring Car (TCR) class win.
After all that goodness, the marquee six-hour WeatherTech Championship race was just an added bonus.