With a triumphant 1-2 victory in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, Mazda has ended the long wait for its first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race win. Having led the majority of the 6-hour endurance race, #55 Mazda Team Joest RT24-P drivers Harry Tincknell, Olivier Pla and Jonathan Bomarito brought the German-American-Japanese alliance the win in the Watkins Glen 6 Hours.
While the start of the race went without incident for the prototypes, it all went awry in the GT classes when the field approached the Esses. The #4 Corvette Racing C7.R of Tommy Milner came together with the #912 Porsche GT Team 991 RSR of Laurens Vanthoor, sending the Corvette spinning in front of the oncoming GT Daytona field and collect a trio of cars including the #7 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3. Both cars were retired on the spot, while the #9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 991.2 GT3R and #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 continued on their way after a short pitstop for repairs.
The battle lines in DPi were drawn in the first hour: Harry Tincknell moved into the lead after the first round of green flag pitstops, followed closely by Oliver Jarvis in the #77 Mazda Team Joest RT24-P (Oliver Jarvis/Tristan Nunez/Timo Bernhard) sister car that had led the field during the opening stint. The #7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 of Hélio Castroneves stayed back in third, with Renger van der Zande in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R chasing in fourth and the #6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 (Juan Montoya/Dane Cameron) in fifth.
Throughout the first four hours the Mazdas challenged each other for the lead. It wasn’t until late in the fifth hour when Juan Montoya suddenly appeared in the lead behind the Safety Car. Taking advantage of a short refueling, the driver of the #6 Acura took to the head of the field after yellow-flag pitstops.
Far from admitting defeat, Harry Tincknell got to work in the #55 Mazda Team Joest RT24-P, attempting a forceful pass going into the Heel and coming out in front. Oliver Jarvis, having watched his team-mate wrestle his way past the Acura, made several moves on Montoya – the Colombian not giving a single inch. The battle for second came down to the final pitstop where the mechanics of Acura Team Penske and Mazda Team Joest – two of motorsports’ pitstop elites – went head to head. Coming into the pits nose to tail, it was Jarvis who nipped Montoya and took second place.
Alone out in front there was no stopping the two Mazdas. A loose engine cover did slow down the #55 Mazda in the closing stages, but with the team’s long-awaited maiden victory so close, no risk was taken as Tincknell and Jarvis rode to the chequered flag in formation.
Despite finishing third, Dane Cameron and Juan Montoya moved to the top of the championship standings with 177 points and a one-point lead over the #31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R drivers Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani due to a disappointing seventh place for the Brazilian duo and their endurance co-driver Eric Curran. The Action Express Racing-run Cadillac suffered several issues, including a puncture-caused run-in with the teams’ second car in the first hour.
LMP2 was a more straight forward affair for the winning #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca LMP2 of Matthew McMurry, Gabriel Aubry and Eric Lux. The squad held a lap advantage over its only other competitor in class when the #38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca LMP2 ground to a halt with an hour and a half to go, leaving PR1 to drive it to the finish and claim class victory.
Performance Tech Motorsports still leads the LMP2 championship with 131 points. McMurry, however, has closed the gap to Kyle Masson and Cameron Cassels to a single point.
Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet took a hard-fought GT Le Mans class win with the #911 Porsche 991 RSR, extending CORE Autosport’s unbeaten streak to four races.
Unable to stretch their fuel consumption all the way to the finish, the #912 Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber had to come in from the lead with 12 minutes remaining for a quick splash-and-dash followed by a puncture that dropped Bamber even further down the order. This handed the lead to Tandy in the sister Porsche.
In the finale of the race, Antonio García – pole-sitter in the #3 Corvette Racing C7.R – turned up the heat as he chased Tandy through the last laps. The Spaniard’s pressure couldn’t stress the Brit into mishap and García and co-driver Jan Magnussen settled for second.
Early race leaders Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe recovered from steering problems and a slow driver change to claim the final step on the podium for the #67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT.
With their victory, Tandy and Pilet have moved into the championship lead, claiming the top spot with 152 points, one more than both the Vanthoor-Bamber and García-Magnussen combinations.
A brave attempt by the #8 Starworks Motorsport Audi R8 LMS GT3 crew to win the GT Daytona class on strategy didn’t pay off. Trying to work a way around a car that was simply not fast enough to challenge for the win, the Ryan Dalziel-driven R8 grabbed the lead after the final round of pitstops and hoped for a late yellow flag to reach the end without a final refueling. Dalziel held on until 16 minutes to go when the #86 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 (Mario Farnbacher/Trent Hindman/Justin Marks) of Mario Farnbacher caught and passed the Audi.
Farnbacher had to contend with the unleashed Bill Auberlen in the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 (Bill Auberlen/Robby Foley/Dillon Machavern) who had come right up to his back. The German, however, stood his ground and brought the Acura NSX GT3 over the finish for its first victory in the IMSA championship.
The #63 Scuderia Corsa WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 GT3 of Cooper MacNeil, Toni Vilander and Jeff Westphal finished third.
Hindman and Farnbacher’s first win of the year solidified their championship lead. The duo now stands at 119 points, 16 points clear of AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 drivers Jack Hawksworth and Richard Heistand who finished fifth alongside co-driver Philipp Frommenwiler.
Before going on a two-week break, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championships continues its trek up north for a 2 hour 40 minutes short endurance race at Mosport in Canada.