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Three Takeaways: Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen

Herculean Efforts, Underdogs Shine, Memorable LMP2 Winner at Watkins Glen


By David Phillips


WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – If there’s one thing we learned from the wild and wonderful Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, it’s that anything can happen when unpredictable weather pays a visit to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Sunshine, spotty rain showers, suffocating humidity, brief and lingering deluges of epic proportion; rain tires, slicks; local yellows, full-course cautions, a red flag – and subsequent restart in the final hour. If IMSA employed psychiatrists, they’d be working overtime fielding calls from teams’ race strategists today.


Here’s a few things we took away from Sunday’s wacky race.


Effort Doesn’t Always Equal Results


At least in the short term …


With all due respect to Porsche Penske Motorsport’s traditional mantra, the tangible results that accrued to BMW M Team RLL after effectively rebuilding the No. 25 BMW M Hybrid V8 chassis from scratch following an untimely crash in the final minute of Saturday morning’s practice session did not befit the team’s Herculean effort to ready the car for the race. Having trucked in a new monocoque from Indianapolis VERY late Saturday evening, the mechanics devoted the overnight hours to assembling a running mate to the team’s No. 24 BMW.


Although the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) car was forced to start the race from pit lane after the mechanics discovered (and repaired) an issue with the fuel system at the last minute, Connor De Philippi and Nick Yelloly worked their way through the multitude of GT Daytona (GTD) and Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) cars to join the battle for GTP supremacy. Although the crazy weather and resulting guesses/gambles on pit stop and tire strategy left the BMWs in P5 and P6 at the finish, the team deserves a hearty “well done” just for getting the No. 25 car in the race.


GTP Giant Killers Derailed


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Another feel-good story that didn’t quite have a feel-good ending was that of JDC-Miller MotorSports’ weekend. Saturday went just about as well as could be hoped for the independent, Minnesota-based team. Round 5 of the 2024 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge season saw Mikey Taylor and Chris Miller capture the Touring Car (TCR) class win in the No. 17 Unitronic-sponsored Audi RS3 LMS TCR – their fourth of the season. Shortly thereafter, Phil Hanson put the team’s No. 85 Porsche 963 GTP on the second row of the grid for the Sahlen’s Six Hours, outpacing the factory-backed Porsche Penske Motorsport 963s in the bargain.


If anything, Sunday’s race began on an even brighter note. Hanson picked his way through the top qualifiers to grab the lead overall by Lap 7. Along with co-drivers Tijmen van de Helm and Richard Westbrook, the team subsequently kept the bright yellow Porsche among the leaders for most of the race, stirring thoughts of a rare Michelin Pilot Challenge/WeatherTech Championship double (for a team that took the overall win in the 2018 Sahlen’s Six Hours).


However, the team’s chances were dashed when Westbrook smacked one of Michelin’s RFID (radio frequency ID) stanchions while jockeying for position exiting pit lane with the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06. The resulting penalty (stop plus five-minute hold in the pit lane penalty box) put paid to any hope of a win for the giant killers. In the final reckoning, the No. 85 Porsche was classified ninth in the GTP class.


Up-and-Down Day for Female Drivers


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Female drivers competing in the Sahlen’s Six Hours enjoyed a mixed bag of results. On the good side, France’s Lilou Wadoux teamed with Luis Perez Companc and Nicklas Nielsen to capture the LMP2 class win in the No. 88 Richard Mille AF Corse ORECA LMP2 07. In doing so, she became the first female driver to score a WeatherTech Championship win since Katherine Legge in the GTD class at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 2018.


On the bad side, Rahel Frey, Michelle Gatting and Sarah Bovy finished 15th in GTD in the No. 83 Iron Dames Lamborghini Huracán GT3 EVO2 after qualifying 10th. The car did not finish the race as the result of a heavy crash shortly past the midway point of the race. In one of the many brief showers, she lost control exiting Turn 10, speared into the tire wall on the left side of the track, shed a wheel and rebounded back across the track. Bovy spent the night at a nearby hospital for observation but was released Monday.


And Finally …


The biggest takeaway of all from the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen? Mother Nature always bats last.