They say lightning never strikes the same place twice, but once was enough to overturn the Six Hours of the Glen of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and throw every strategy into question.
The race up front had featured a 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 tracks in the background.
Albuquerque had taken the lead at the start in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura carrying a ton of speed up the hill to the bus stop and past Blomqvist. Blomqvist would regain the lead after the first set of pit stops, but on the third of several yellows, when all the DPi teams ran into WTR, it was clear the race was going to evolve into a pit stop strategy.
As the race drew to a close, it looked like WTR’s gamble might pay off, and they would come to the end having made one less pit lane trip. With an hour and a half to go, MSR brought in Oliver Jarvis and the #60 a little earlier in order to set Blomqvist for last and put him out in front of the WTR Acura. It was a solid game for track position, but it could have been a stretch on fuel if events hadn’t overtaken strategy.
First, Fabio Scherer in the #20 High Class Racing ORECA bounced back from the #29 Racing Team Nederland ORECA in the hands of Dylan Murry while battling for second place in LMP2. Scherer then went the other way and hit CarBahn #39 with Peregrine Racing Lamborghini Huracan, sending it into the barrier and ripping the front of the car off. This brought out a yellow which then turned red with a nearby thunderbolt as the weather set in and changed the face of the race.
With the race stopped and time running out, but as the weather changed and the track dried up, the call was made to restart the race with 35 minutes on the clock, which would have put it past 4:40 p.m. ‘East. Rhythm laps and wave laps consumed much of it, so when the green flag dropped, the clock was showing 21 minutes. Blomqvist had more than enough fuel to go all the way. The length of No. 10’s fuel load was in question.
Aided by a lighter load and less weight, Albuquerque immediately went on the attack, pulling off a move in the bus stop that was quite reminiscent of the one he did at the start to take the lead. Blomqvist moved inside to defend, but Albuquerque swept outside and led into the corner.
Blomqvist collected himself and resumed the attack, closing in on Albuquerque as they began to move through GT traffic. The last 15 minutes were filled with jaw-dropping moments as everyone took calculated risks to lose nothing. Blomqvist had to keep an eye on his mirrors, which were filled with Sebastien Bourdais’ #01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac every time he was held up.
The risks taken by Albuquerque, who says he also had to save fuel, were almost too much.
“I made a decision to go around Turn 3, which is what we normally do, but this Lamborghini didn’t see me and [I hit the barrier, then the other car]. I did, like, ping-pong there,” Albuquerque explained. “The car was badly damaged and I think Blomqvist was just a bit shaken… he backed off like, ‘What the hell [heck] just happened here? I looked left and the mirror was gone. The car was twisted and the steering wheel turned left and turning was a bit funny, but somehow the car was still good afterwards.
For every bit Blomqvist gained in traffic, he later lost and could never get a solid run out of Albuquerque. Indeed, Blomqvist nearly fell into the clutches of Bourdais. While Bourdais could get a run, he couldn’t make the pass.
Albuquerque took the third win of the season and the championship lead for WTR, and once again Jarvis and Blomqvist had to settle for second with Bourdais and Renger van der Zande third.
“I was trying, but it’s so hard to pass,” Blomqvist said. “He had a really close call up the hill. He had contact with another car. It could have been mean, it could have gone completely wrong for him, he was taking so many risks. I was, of course, hoping that something would go wrong with him, but there’s just no opportunity. It’s hard to follow these cars around here. It hurts. It hurts so much, that one. Hopefully we can find a way to recover quickly and, you know, refocus on next week.
LMP2 polesitters Ben Keating, Mikkel Jensen and Scott Huffaker in the No.52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA looked out of luck with two hours remaining, but continued to receive goodies until they were back to the forefront. The first gift came in the contact between Scherer and Murry as they battled for second place just before the race was stopped. Both cars would be in the pits for repairs when the race resumes.
The next giveaway came after the restart when the now leading #81 DragonSpeed USA car had to pull over to remove Juan Pablo Montoya from the car and put on Sebastian Montoya in order to meet drive time requirements. They also received a drive-through for a pit violation that occurred before red.
This left the No. 52 ahead, with Huffaker in the car instead of Jensen, who was originally scheduled to finish. It would not be an easy race; Huffaker had to fend off an onslaught from Louis Delatraz in the #8 Motorsport Tour ORECA Delatraz was driving with John Farano and Rui Pinto de Andrade. He did, barely – the margin of victory was 0.107s.
“The LMP2s are so dependent on that frontal air that it was just impossible to keep up,” Keating said. “So we were stuck behind. Ironically enough, the #8 car for about two hours, you know, following each other the whole time and we couldn’t do anything; we couldn’t pass. The way it all went, the red flag completely saved us. In fact, if they had taken one last yellow flag lap [before the red]we would have been in trouble.
The calamity struck many LMP3 racers and they were responsible for several of the yellow flags that punctuated the first half of the race. Notable among these was Anthony Mantella’s first warning as he slammed into the tire barriers in the No.7 Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine avoiding Gar Robinson, who spun the No.74 Riley Motorsports Ligier into the corner. 1. Others were for the No. 6 Muehlner Motorsports America Ligier explodes in spectacular fashion with Dillon Machavern at the wheel, and for Lars Kern crushes the No. 13 AWA Racing Ligier.
Despite Robinson spun early in the race, he, Felipe Fraga and Kay van Berlo in the #74 Riley Motorsports Ligier had a relatively free ride to a one-lap win over the #54 Ligier. CORE Autosport from Jon Bennett, George Kurtz and Colin Braun.