By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
The IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship heads to one of America’s most iconic natural terrain road courses in Watkins Glen International for the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen. The race is the third in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup and as such, the entry list is larger than normal.
The race also is taking place near the July 4th holiday and in classic Independence Day motorsports tradition, IMSA has asked the team to use patriotic liveries for their cars with much of the field obliging. Now, let’s go through each class.
United Autosports is back with Phil Hanson, Bruno Senna and Paul Di Resta in a Ligier LMP2 entry while many teams have a third driver joining their various efforts. Tequila Patron ESM has Olivier Pla and Nicolas Lapierre joining their Nos. 2 and 22 Nissan DPi machines respectively while both Team Penske Acura DPi lineups remains unchanged.
For Cadillac, some driver lineups have changed. Gabby Chaves joins the No. 5 Action Express Cadillac DPi and Mike Conway joins the other Action Express Cadillac DPi. Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac DPi has no third driver while the final Cadillac DPi of Spirit of Daytona has no third driver either.
Both Mazda Team Joest DPi entries have third drivers with Spencer Pigot joining the No. 55 entry and Rene Rast in the No. 77 Mazda DPi.
The other Ligier LMP2 effort of AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports will run with two drivers while Performance Tech Motorsports also will run with two drivers in their ORECA LMP2 entry. However, all other ORECA LMP2 entries have a third driver with Romain Dumas joining the No. 54 CORE Autosport entry, Nelson Panciatici joining the JDC-Miller “Banana Boat” entry while Chris Miller joins the all-silver driver rating No. 99 GAINSCO Red Dragon entry.
GT Le Mans (GTLM)
The last GTLM race was at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and the field sees no new entries with the same eight cars. Missing from the lineup is the Ferrari effort of Risi Competizione for the second year in a row. The Houston-based team will not be racing with their Ferrari 488 and currently has no plans for the rest of the season. Any extra manufacturers in GTLM are certainly a welcome occurrence and hopefully they will be back.
There will be two Corvette C7.Rs, BMW M8 GTEs, Ford GTs and Porsche 911 RSRs and unlike the many driver changes in Prototype, only one entry in GTLM has a third driver. Bill Auberlen normally drives the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 in GT Daytona but will be racing the No. 25 M8 alongside Alexander Sims and Conor De Philippi.
GT Daytona (GTD)
The largest class in the field is once again the GTD field with 18 cars from eight different manufacturers. Ten of those entries have a third driver joining the pro-am class entries and this is six more entries than the last event at Detroit.
Absent from the entry list is the Wright Motorsports No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R but added to the entry list is the No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 GT3. This is the same team that copped a five minute stop and hold penalty at the Rolex 24 for a minimum refueling time violation. Audi also will be represented by Magnus Racing with Andrew Davis joining the team as a third driver.
Points leaders Paul Miller Racing will race their Lamborghini Huracan GT3 with their normal pairing of Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow. No other Lamborghinis will race in New York which is a surprise given that Lamborghinis won at Daytona and at Sebring, the latter with Paul Miller Racing.
Acura has two more teams representing them with their NSX GT3 entries. CJ Wilson Racing will have their No. 36 entry while HART will have the No. 69 entry. This is in addition to Michael Shank Racing’s pair of NSX GT3s.
Three Ferrari 488 GT3 machines grace the grid with Scuderia Corsa having two while Squadra Corse Garage Italia has the other. There are also three Mercedes AMG-GT3s on the grid with P1 Motorsports joining the SunEnergy1 Racing and Keating Motorsports AMG-GT3s.
Two teams will race for Porsche in GT3. Wright Motorsports does have their normal No. 58 entry but Park Place Motorsports has the No. 73 911 GT3 R.
BMW still has Turner Motorsport running their M6 while Lexus has their pair of RC F GT3 machines racing with Mario Farnbacher joining the No. 15 entry.
North American Endurance Cup Outlook
Action Express Racing has won the past four NAEC championships in Prototype and currently sit 1-2 in the NAEC points with the No. 31 leading the 5. The No. 7 Acura Team Penske entry is third. The No. 5 Action Express entry has won Watkins Glen the last two seasons and with it, the NAEC while Spirit of Daytona Racing won Watkins Glen in 2014 and 2015.
In GTLM, four different manufacturers have won at Watkins Glen the last four seasons and none of them have won Watkins Glen and the NAEC in the same season. Currently the No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller lead the GTLM NAEC standings over the team No. 67 Ford GT and the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR.
In GTD, twice has a team won Watkins Glen and the NAEC with the No. 93 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper winning in 2015 in an entry that was competing primarily in the NAEC events while in 2016 Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen pulled off that double in their Ferrari 488 GT3. The Mercedes AMG of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating lead the GTD NAEC standings over the second place tie between Michael Shank Racing’s No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 and Paul Miller Racing’s No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya led the Prototype field in their No. 6 Team Penske Acura DPi with a fastest lap of 1 minute, 33.562 seconds. They were almost a full second faster than the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi who went 1 minute 34.476 seconds.
The Nos. 66 and 67 Ford GTs were top in the GTLM class with a lap of 1 minute, 43.214 seconds leading the class.The No. 911 Porsche was third ahead of both Corvettes, the remaining Porsche and both BMWs. The first BMW was 1.5 seconds behind while the second BMW was about 2.5 seconds behind the No. 66 Ford GT and was slower than the top three GTD cars.
In GTD, the No. 15 Lexus RC F GT3 entry was fastest with Jack Hawksworth turning a lap of 1 minute, 45.443 seconds while Jeff Segal set a lap time nearly two tenths of a second slower in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3. The Squadra Corse Ferrari was third in class.
Qualifying starts Saturday Morning at 11:35 a.m. EDT while the race begins on Sunday at 9:45 a.m. EDT