The Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen is bit of an anomaly. It’s the fourth-longest race on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule, and the shortest endurance race. The third round of the Michelin North American Endurance Cup, it’s the only race of the four rounds where some teams will opt for a two-driver lineup. And it happens at the 3.4-mile, 23-turn Watkins Glen International circuit, a high-speed track where the Armco is alarmingly close in places, leaving little room for error.
“Watkins is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the calendar,” says Oliver Jarvis, who won the race last year with Mazda and comes into this weekend’s race sharing the DPi points lead with teammate Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Meyer-Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian Acura. “I think it is probably one of everybody’s favorite tracks. You know, it’s just so enjoyable to drive, high speed, high commitment, plenty of grip. So as a driver, you can really attack.”
The flip side to that is that six hours on the circuit is tough, as Jarvis’s and Blomqvist’s closest pursuer in the championship, Ricky Taylor, notes. Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque are a mere 10 points behind, and will be working to put their No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura in front to take the points lead away.
“It’s a hard race,” Taylor says. “I think for the drivers in the cars and strategically, it’s a bit of an odd distance in that it’s not like a long, long endurance race where you just kind of settle in for the first bit and then preserve the car for the end. It’s flat out the whole way through, and the way that the traffic flows with the GT traffic and just the way that the track is inherently so fast and such a high-commitment track, mentally and physically it becomes quite grueling at the end.”
That makes the choice to have only two drivers in the lineup – DPi and GTD PRO teams have the option of doing so; LMP2, LMP3 and GTD must use three drivers – seem a bit odd. Will Stevens joined WTR at Sebring and Daytona (Alexander Rossi also in at Daytona), and the MSR crew has had three different endurance drivers among those events. But among DPi teams, only the JDC-Miller Motorsports and two Action Express Cadillacs have gone with three-driver lineups.
“It would be nice to have the third guy purely for the Endurance Championship, because it is an Endurance Championship and unfortunately Will won’t be with us this weekend,” says Taylor. “But it’s always been our philosophy for just keeping it simple. They’d rather have two just just for the fact that we get more practice time. The race weekend is pretty restricted. The amount of time you get to drive in traffic and just the simplicity of driver changes, we’re used to that direction. With how short the race is, those little details like a driver changes, and somebody getting up to speed… Watkins Glen is such a high-commitment track that when you go there, for the first practice, it takes me six or seven laps where at normal tracks, the out lap, and you’re comfortable. This one, it’s like your first five laps, it’s like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m still a second-and-a-half off, and I don’t know how to go faster.’
“If you’re jumping in the car, and you’re that third driver, and everybody else is running two, you’re going up against guys that have already done a double stint,” says Jarvis. “So as Ricky mentioned that one lap, that two laps, if they’ve stayed out, and that third driver is in, he loses a second, 1.5, 2 … that can change the dynamic of the race, because you then don’t have the seven, eight hours to get back into it.”
The drivers regularly use “high-commitment” to describe the Glen. Much of that comes from the speed of the corners and the aforementioned adjacent Armco. But with all five classes back together for the first time since Sebring, nearly 50 cars and a lot of traffic, high-commitment also refers to the decisive moves required to maintain position in that crowd.
“It’s very fast,” says Antonio Garcia, driver of the No. 3 Corvette Racing GTD PRO car with Jordan Taylor. “There is only a couple of slow-ish corners, but everything else is kind of mid- to high-speed corners. So that’s what makes it a little bit different. And then there is the actual flow on the racetrack with traffic. I mean, we’re expecting quite a big field out there. So not only the fight we will have among each other, it’s going to be the interaction of with all the other classes.”
The Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen gets underway at 10:40 a.m. Eastern. The full race will be streamed on Peacock, with the latter half live on USA Network.