Mazda Team Joest shook the monkey off its back in convincing fashion on Sunday, battling back to beat a determined Juan Pablo Montoya as an exclamation point in a dominant 1-2 run at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
Fast but unlucky to date in 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition, the team finally notched its first victory in the series. Harry Tincknell took the checkered flag in the No. 55 RT-24P 0.353 seconds ahead of teammate Oliver Jarvis in the similar No. 77 machine.
“It was a huge team effort from everyone at Mazda Team Joest,” said Tincknell, who co-drove with Jonathan Bomarito and Olivier Pla. “It was incredible. I’m lost for words. Taking it home was a big responsibility, but we worked as a team all day and both cars were fantastic. Both cars led the race, and it was immaculately executed. It’s a dream come true. I’m so happy to win this one.
Now that we’ve got the first one, I’m sure numbers two and three will come soon.”
The storybook nearly had an unhappy ending, though: The fourth caution flag of the event with 1h25m remaining allowed Montoya to take the lead in the pits, looking for a third consecutive victory for the No. 6 Team Penske Acura ARX-05 started by Dane Cameron.
When the race went back to green with 1h7m remaining, Montoya did a yeoman job fighting off the faster Mazdas for 16 laps. But, with 43 minutes remaining, Tincknell nosed to the inside entering Turn 8 and managed to hold the position through the turn.
Montoya regained the lead for two laps following Tincknell’s final pit stop, but when two leaders pitted, Jarvis in the No. 77 beat Montoya out of the pits. With just over 30 minutes remaining, the Mazdas were 1-2, the No. 55 five seconds to the good.
From that point on, it was just a matter of which Mazda would claim the elusive first triumph. Jarvis managed to close in on Tincknell’s slightly wounded car with 12 minutes remaining, but made no serious attempt to mar a 1-2 finish.
Montoya snatched the final podium position, driving a car that encountered difficulties before the green flag even waved. Cameron was all set to start second on the grid but noticed a tire pressure warning as he strapped in. Team Penske pushed the car back to the pits for the change, but Cameron had to take the green flag on pit road, then had to serve a drive-through penalty.
A lap down in the early going, the No. 6 incredibly regained the lead lap early in the third hour.
Renger van der Zande and Jordan Taylor took fourth in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi.V-R, followed by Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura.
The start of the race saw two contenders eliminated and the DPi points leader knocked out of contention before even a single lap was in the books. Moments after the green flag, the No. 4 Corvette C7.R. of Tommy Milner spun in Turn 4 after slight side-to-side contact with the No. 912 Porsche of Lance Vanthoor in the high-speed Esses. Ben Keating (No. 33 Wynn’s Team Riley Mercedes-AMG GT3) clipped the stopped Corvette and spun, both cars out on the spot, while Ryan Hardwick in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing 1st Phorm Lamborghini Huracan GT3 and Zach Robichon in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R were forced to pit after running over debris.
Moments after the ensuing restart, the race went back to yellow when Felipe Nasr cut a tire and went straight entering Turn 8 in the points-leading No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi.V-R — nearly taking out Action Express Racing teammate Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac in the process. Nasr lost one lap struggling back to pit road, then lost another as the team had trouble replacing both the engine cover and rear wing assembly. Nasr, Pipo Derani and Eric Curran soldiered on to a seventh-place finish, one position behind Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Mike Conway. The Whelen Engineering team fell to second in the standings, one point behind Montoya/Cameron.
After the two quick yellows, the remainder of the event was slowed only by two additional cautions: 1h42m in, a charging Derani came up on John Potter in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracan entering Turn 5. Potter was stuck between Derani and Stephen Simpson in the No. 84 JDC Miller Motorsports Cadillac — who had nowhere to go.
The final caution waved at the 4h35m mark for the stopped No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA Gibson, setting up the sprint to the finish.
GTLM: Porsche tops Corvette
Both GT classes came down to the final lap. Nick Tandy won GTLM in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR, bouncing back from problems in the morning warm-up and holding off Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette Racing C7.R by 0.452s.
“I had a moment and nearly lost the car in the Esses,” Tandy’s co-driver Patrick Pilet said of the morning session. “We had a lot of doubt that we would start the race, but not on the team. The guys worked hard all weekend to set up the car, and then it was perfect in the race. It was a great team effort.”
Running without radio communications, Garcia finished second co-driving with Jan Magnussen, followed home by the two Chip Ganassi Ford entries. Richard Westbrook led the opening hour in the No. 67 Ford GT, but fell back near the end of his double stint. He and Ryan Briscoe came back to take third, though, one position ahead of Joey Hand and Dirk Muller in the No. 66 Ford.
GTD: Meyer Shank Acura bests Turner BMW
The GTD battle went back and forth throughout the event, with Mario Farnbacher, Trent Hindman and Justin Marks giving the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 its first victory of the season.
Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley and Dillon Machavern were second for Turner Motorsport, while Toni Vilander fought off Katherine Legge for the final podium position. Vilander shared the No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari with Cooper MacNeil and Jeff Westphal; Legge co-drove the No. 57 Meyer Shank/Heinricher Caterpillar Acura with Bia Figueiredo and Christina Nielsen.
“It was for sure not easy,” Farnbacher said. “I tried to push for no mistakes, but Auberlen was pushing like crazy. He closed the gap really easily and was always pushing. I tried to save it with no mistakes. I’m really happy for the team. Finally we have the win.”
Legge charged to close in on Vilander late in the race, coming up just 0.676s short.
“I’m slightly disappointed,” Legge said. “We have great handling power and are really strong, but we don’t have any pace at the end of the straights. We are fast, but it’s a struggle to pass, causing us to lose track position. We had a top-two car today, but we just couldn’t get it done. I’m looking forward to next weekend. Hopefully, we can get a better result.”
LMP2: Mathiasen reigns
PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports won in LMP2, with Matt McMurry, Gabriel Aubry and Eric Lux finishing 10th overall in the No. 52 ORECA Gibson. Aubry started the race on the pole, but fell to second in the early going as the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA Gibson of Kyle Masson, Cameron Cassels and Andrew Evans led much of the opening half of the event.
The LMP2 race was effectively decided at the 4h25m mark when the top two GTLM competitors had contact with the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA Gibson entering the Inner Loop. All three cars were able to continue, with Tom Blomqvist (No. 25 BMW) able to pass Pilet able to take the class lead following the contact. Evans pitted, losing several laps for repairs, then lost drive in Turn 7 shortly after returning, leading to the fourth caution period of the event.