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Lightning strikes for WTR at Watkins Glen

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They say lightning never strikes in the same place twice, but once was enough to turn the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s Glen de Sahlen Six Hours on its head and call all strategies 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. lurking in the background.

Albuquerque had taken the lead at the start in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura by taking a ton of speed up the hill to the bus stop and passing Blomqvist. Blomqvist would take the lead again after the first round of pit stops, but during the third of several yellows, when all DPi teams except WTR pitted, it was clear the race was going to evolve into a pit stop strategy. .

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As the race wound down, it looked as though WTR’s tactics might pay off, and they would reach the end with one less trip to pit lane. With an hour and a half to go, MSR brought in Oliver Jarvis and the No. 60 a little early to put Blomqvist on the back and take him out in front of the WTR Acura. It was a solid play for track position, but it could have been overkill on fuel if events hadn’t overtaken the 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 as he battled for second place 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 of the car off. That brought a yellow which then turned to red with a nearby lightning strike as the weather moved on and changed the face of the race.

With the race stopped and the time counting down, but the weather had turned and the track was drying out, the call was made to restart the race with 35 minutes on the clock, which would have taken it past 4:40. pm Eastern time. Fast laps and wave rounds ate up a big chunk of that, so by the time the green flag dropped, the clock was showing 21 minutes. Blomqvist had more than enough fuel to make it to the finish. The duration of the fuel load of the No. 10 was in doubt.

Aided by a lighter load and less weight, Albuquerque immediately went on the attack, pulling off a move toward the bus stop that was very reminiscent of the one he made earlier to get the lead. Blomqvist moved inside to defend, but Albuquerque swept outside and drove into the corner.

Blomqvist collected himself and went back on the attack, closing in on Albuquerque as they began to move through GT traffic. The final 15 minutes were filled with heart-stopping moments as each took calculated risks to lose nothing. Blomqvist had to watch his mirrors, which were full of Sebastien Bourdais No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac every time he was stopped.

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 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 a little shaken… he backed off like, ‘What the hell? [heck] just happened here? I looked to the left and the mirror was gone. The car was bent and the steering wheel was going to the left and turning was a bit of fun, but somehow the car was still fine afterwards.

For every bit Blomqvist gained in traffic, he lost it later and was never able to put together a solid run at Albuquerque. Indeed, Blomqvist nearly fell into Bourdais’ clutches. While Bourdais was able to get a run, he couldn’t make the pass.

Albuquerque claimed the third win of the season and the championship lead for WTR, and once again Jarvis and Blomqvist had to settle for second place with Bourdais and Renger van der Zande third.

“I was trying, but it’s very difficult to get through,” Blomqvist said. “He had a call super close to the hill. He had contact with another car. That could have been unpleasant, it could have gone completely wrong for him, he was taking too much risk. He was obviously hoping that something wouldn’t go his way, but there’s just no chance. It’s hard to follow these cars around here. Hurts. It hurts a lot, this one. Hopefully we can find a way to get through it quickly and, you know, get back to focusing on next week.”

#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 didn’t seem to have much of a chance with two hours remaining, but they continued to receive gifts until they were back in front. The first giveaway came in contact between Scherer and Murry as they battled for second just before the race stoppage. Both cars would pit for repairs when racing resumed.

The next treat came after the restart when the now-leading No. 81 DragonSpeed ​​USA car had to pit to get Juan Pablo Montoya out of the car and into Sebastian Montoya to meet driving time requirements. They also received a drive-through for a pit violation that occurred before red.

That left the No. 52 in front, with Huffaker in the car instead of Jensen, who was originally planned to finish. It would not be an easy race; Huffaker had to fend off an assault from Louis Delatraz in the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA Delatraz was driving with John Farano and Rui Pinto de Andrade. He did it, just barely: the margin of victory was 0.107 s.

“The LMP2s are so dependent on that frontal air that it was impossible to follow them,” said Keating. “So we stayed behind. Ironically, the No. 8 car for, like, two hours, you know, just following us the whole time and we couldn’t do anything; we couldn’t get through. The way it all worked out, the red flag totally saved us. In fact, if they had done a final yellow flag lap [before the red]We would have been in trouble.”

Many of the LMP3 riders suffered calamities and were responsible for several of the yellow flags that marked the first half of the race. Notable among them was Anthony Mantella’s first caution spinning into the tire barriers in the No. 7 Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine avoiding Gar Robinson, who spun the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier into Turn 1. Others went to the No. 6 Muehlner Motorsports America Ligier exploding 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 free run to a one-lap win over the No. 54 CORE Autosport Ligier of Jon Bennett. , George Kurtz and Colin Braun.

RESULTS

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