A lightning strike and a red flag with an hour and a half left in the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen turned the race on its head, leading to a 21-minute sprint to the finish that had more twists and turns than could have been imagined, and those twists continued after the checkered flag flew.
The race at the front had featured a race-long battle between the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura of Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor, and the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis, with the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs stalking. The WTR team had gone off sequence and before the red flag, it appeared the strategy would pay off and they would be able to do the race on one less pit stop than the the others. But with the No. 60 MSR car pitting just before the red flag and Blomqvist — who had topped the time sheets all weekend — installed in the car, that strategy appeared to put WTR on the back foot.
When the race restarted, MSR could definitely finish; WTR being able to go the end on fuel was in question. Filipe Albuquerque took the only chance he had, and using the advantage of less weight from less fuel, swept the WTR Acura past Blomqvist heading into the bus stop. Despite having to save fuel and fight through traffic in an intense battle, he held on to win. Speculation ran high that WTR couldn’t make it to the end, and the car sputtered on the cool-down lap. Had the green flown with a few more minutes left on the clock, the outcome would likely have been different.
“We knew we had enough to get to the end,” said team principal Wayne Taylor. “Everybody thought we were close, but we were just playing.”
Sebastien Bourdais was hot on the Acuras’ heels and could close on Blomqvist in traffic, but never make a move and had to settle for third in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac he shared with Renger van der Zande.
Drive time violations determined the winners in both GTD PRO and GTD, and for the first time, a GTD car finished in front. Another first was that the same team won both GTD and PRO, once the two Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantages were promoted to victory.
The No. 25 BMW Team RLL M4 GT3 appeared to take the GTD PRO victory after several cars in front had to make stops for fuel in the final minutes. But although the minimum drive time was reduced from 1h30m to 1h17m because of the hour-plus-long red flag, the team of Connor De Phillippi, Augusto Farfus and John Edwards fell afoul of the rule, and the erstwhile second-place No. 23 Heart of Racing car of Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas was handed the victory.
They were able to celebrate with teammates Roman De Angelis, Maxime Martin and Ian James in the No. 27, who were promoted to first with the disqualification of the No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG squad of Russell Ward, Philip Ellis and Marvin Dienst.
LMP2 polesitters Ben Keating, Mikkel Jensen and Scott Huffaker in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA looked like they didn’t have much chance with two hours left, but kept receiving gifts until they were back at the front. The first came when Fabio Scherer in the No. 20 High Class Racing ORECA bounced off the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland ORECA in the hands of Dylan Murry while battling for second in LMP2. Scherer then went the other direction and hit the No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Lamborghini Huracan, sending it into the barrier and ripping the front off the car. That brought out a yellow, that became a red with the lightning strike. Both cars would pit for repairs when the race resumed.
The next gift came after the restart when the now-leading No. 81 DragonSpeed USA car had to pit to remove Juan Pablo Montoya from the car and put in Sebastian Montoya in order to meet drive time requirements. They also received a drive-through for a pit violation that occurred before the red.
That left Huffaker to defend from an assault by Louis Delatraz in the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA Delatraz was driving with John Farano and Rui Pinto de Andrade. He did, barely – the margin of victory was 0.107s.
Calamity befell many of the LMP3 runners, giving Gar Robinson, Felipe Fraga and Kay van Berlo in the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier a one-lap victory over the No. 54 CORE Autosport Ligier of Jon Bennett, George Kurtz and Colin Braun.
More details to follow.