They say lightning never strikes the same place twice, but once was enough to throw the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen on its head and every strategy into question.
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 in the background.
Albuquerque had seized the lead at the start in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura by carrying a ton of speed up the hill into the Bus Stop and past Blomqvist. Blomqvist would take the lead agin after the first round of pit stops, but during the third of several yellows, when every DPi team pitted save WTR, it was clear the race was going to evolve into one of pit stop strategy.
As the race wound down, it looked like WTR’s gambit might pay off, and they would make the end having taken one less trip through pit lane. With an hour-and-a-half left, MSR brought Oliver Jarvis and the No. 60 in a bit early in order to put Blomqvist in for the end and get him out in front of the WTR Acura. It was a solid play for track position but might have been a stretch on fuel had events not overtaken strategy.
First, 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 then became a red with a nearby lightning strike as the weather moved in and changed the face of the race.
With the race stopped and time counting down, but the weather having moved on and the track drying, the call was made to restart the race with 35 minutes on the clock, which would have taken it past its 4:40 p.m. Eastern time. The pace laps and wave arounds consumed a big chunk of that, so when the green flag fell the clock showed 21 minutes. Blomqvist had more than enough fuel to make it to the end. The length of the No. 10’s fuel load was in question.
Aided by a lighter load and less weight, Albuquerque went on the attack immediately, pulling off a move into the Bus Stop quite reminiscent of the one he made at the start to take the lead. Blomqvist moved inside to defend, but Albuquerque swept to the outside and led into the corner.
Blomqvist gathered himself up and went back on the attack, closing on Albuquerque as they started to move through GT traffic. The final 15 minutes were filled with heart-stopping moments as each took calculated risks to not lose anything. Blomqvist had to keep an eye on his mirrors, which were filled with Sebastien Bourdais No. 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 took one decision to go around on Turn 3 which normally we do, but this Lamborghini didn’t see me and [I hit the barrier, then the other car]. I did, like, a ping-pong there,” Albuquerque explained. “The car was very damaged and I think Blomqvist was was just bit shaken…he backed off like, ‘What the [heck] just happened here?’ I looked left and the mirror was gone. The car was bent and the steering wheel was going to the left and turning was a bit funny, but somehow the car was still good afterwards.”
For every bit Blomqvist gained in traffic, he lost later, and could never get a solid run on Albuquerque. Indeed, Blomqvist almost fell into Bourdais’s clutches. 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 to pass,” said Blomqvist. “He had a super close call up the hill. He had contact with another car. That could have been nasty, that could have gone completely wrong for him, he was taking so much risk. I was hoping, obviously, something wouldn’t go his way but there’s just no opportunity. It’s hard to follow these cars around here. It hurts. It’s hurt so much, this one. Hopefully we can find a way to get over it quickly and, you know, re-focus on next week.”
No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports, ORECA LMP2 07, LMP2: Ben Keating, Mikkel Jensen, Scott Huffaker. Richard Dole/Lumen
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 gift came in the contact between Scherer and Murry while they battled for second just before the race stoppage. 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 the No. 52 out front, with Huffaker in the car instead of Jensen, who was originally planned to finish. It wouldn’t be an easy run; Huffaker had 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.
“The LMP2s depend so much on that frontal air that it was just impossible to follow,” said Keating. “So we were stuck behind. Ironically enough, the No. 8 car for like two hours, you know, just following each other around for the whole time and we couldn’t do anything; we couldn’t pass. The way it all worked out, the red flag completely saved us. Matter of fact, if they had done one last lap of yellow flag [before the red], we would have been in trouble.”
Calamity befell many of the LMP3 runners and they were responsible for several of the yellow flags that punctuated the first half of the race. Notable among those was the first caution for Anthony Mantella spinning into the tire barriers in the No. 7 Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine avoiding Gar Robinson, who spun the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier in Turn 1. Others were for the No. 6 Muehlner Motorsports America Ligier blowing up spectacularly with Dillon Machavern at the wheel, and for Lars Kern crashing the No. 13 AWA Racing Ligier.
Despite Robinson’s spin early in the race, he, Felipe Fraga and Kay van Berlo in the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier had a relatively unfettered run to a one-lap victory over the No. 54 CORE Autosport Ligier of Jon Bennett, George Kurtz and Colin Braun.