August 1, 2021

Watkins Glen IMSA: Mazda beats Acura in thrilling Six Hours

Prototype

At the halfway mark, Felipe Nasr was leading for Action Express Racing, ahead of the Acura ARX-05s of Olivier Pla (Meyer Shank Racing) and Alexander Rossi (Wayne Taylor Racing).

The latter was under pressure from Renger van der Zande’s Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac which had made a bold restart to move from seventh to fourth in the space of three laps. Kamui Kobayashi in the second AXR Caddy lost six seconds as he fell off the road at Turn 7, but managed to stay ahead of Bomarito, who IMSA Radio reported was struggling with rear tire grip in the Mazda RT24-P.

Rossi made the WTR Acura’s fifth stop with 2hr34min to go, which triggered the other Prototypes to come in, Pla handing off to Bomarito handing off to Jarvis, Nasr handing the #31 AXR car to Mike Conway but incurring a drive-through penalty for speeding on pitlane. Van der Zande was able to pit last because he had had a top-up in the previous yellow.

Cameron pulled edged away from Rossi at the front, and replacing Rossi with Filipe Albuquerque didn’t make any difference, so that the Meyer Shank Racing driver’s lead stretched out to 13sec.

The #10 WTR Acura was left to just about stave off the #01 CGR Cadillac and Mazda, and following the next round of stops, with just over 70mins to go, both Kevin Magnussen in the DPi-V.R car and Tincknell newly installed in the RT24-P were able to jump Albuquerque and stay there.

The field was then bunched under a full course yellow with around 65mins to go, thanks to Tower Motorsports’ Gabriel Aubry getting it all wrong at Turn 1, spinning off the curbs and hitting the barrier.

All seven cars pitted, and Mazda chose to take on fuel only, allowing Tincknell to leave the pits ahead of Pla, Magnussen and Albuquerque.

The green flag flew with 37mins to go and Tincknell made a strong getaway, with Pla similarly well clear of the Magnussen vs Albuquerque battle in which the Ganassi driver prevailed.

However, this was far from over, and with 15mins to go, Albuquerque and Derani knocked Magnussen down to fifth.

At the front of the class, Tincknell got his lead out to as much as three seconds, but with eight minutes to go, Pla had cut that down to half a second, the pair of them now over six seconds clear of Albuquerque.

Hitting GTD traffic saw the gap between the two leaders concertina in and out, expanding to two seconds, then back down to half a second, but eventually passing the checkered flag 0.965sec ahead of Pla.

Albuquerque was left 9.39sec behind, but ahead of Derani while Kobayashi was pinged for drilling the rear of Magnussen’s Ganassi Cadillac as the Danish rookie sought to save fuel. The #01 car was spun deep into the gravel trap.

Mazda’s tight margin on fuel was revealed when Tincknell couldn’t even complete his slowdown lap.

Steven Thomas, Tristan Nunez and Thomas Merrill of WIN Autosport clinched LMP2, beating Mikkel Jensen, Scott Huffaker and Ben Keating of PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports by 1.1sec.

In LMP3, Scott Andrews, Felipe Fraga and Gar Robinson drove Riley Motorsports to victory just ahead of CORE autosport’s Colin Braun, Jon Bennett and George Kurtz, with the second Riley car completing the podium, well ahead of Andretti Autosport who were classified a lap down.

GT Le Mans

After the half distance restart, Tommy Milner led Jordan Taylor in a Corvette 1-2 ahead of the two BMW M8s, although the next pitstops saw Philipp Eng moving the #25 M8 to the front, with the #3 Corvette – now driven by Antonio Garcia – ahead of the #4 C8.R now piloted by Nick Tandy.

However, Tandy went a lap longer in the next pitstop sequence and jumped ahead of both the BMW and teammate Garcia to lead the class, although his advantage was erased with 65mins to go with the final long yellow.

At the final restart, Tandy couldn’t get away from Garcia, and with 28mins to go, Garcia dragged past him on the run up to the Bus Stop, and John Edwards in the #24 BMW also passed the #4 car, with Tandy reporting that the car had an issue.

Garcia then pulled away from Edwards to the tune of 3.5sec, but the reigning GTLM champ suddenly found Edwards in his mirrors as they negotiated traffic.

De Phillippi managed to depose the struggling Tandy three laps from home to claim third.

GT Daytona

Jan Heylen in the Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R and Aaron Telitz in the #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 enjoyed a great battle as the second half of the race began, separated by just a few tenths of a second.

The clean nature of their battle allowed them to draw 4.5sec ahead of Madison Snow in the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Robby Foley’s Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, Roman De Angelis’ Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and Jaden Conwright’s NTe Sport Audi R8 LMS.

Telitz was first of these GTD frontrunners to make his fifth stop, and he handed over to fulltime teammate Jack Hawksworth, while Heylen gave the Wright car to Pat Long, Snow handed over to Bryan Sellers.

Vasser Sullivan’s pitstop was a short-fill so it sent Hawksworth out 10sec ahead of Long, who whittled his deficit down as Hawksworth couldn’t find a way around the Pfaff Porsche of Robichon. Pfaff’s next stop, installing Laurens Vanthoor, was a disaster as it struggled to get the window net hooked up, dropping the #9 to ninth.

Turner Motorsport had just pitted Aidan Read from the lead in class when the yellow flew for a big LMP2 shunt with little more than an hour to go.

Heart of Racing gave its current driver, Ross Gunn, fuel only so that he emerged at the head of the line ahead of PMR’s Lambo (Sellers), Wright Porsche (Long), VSR Lexus (Hawksworth), Hardpoint EBM Porsche (Katherine Legge) and VSR Lexus (Zach Veach).

However, all were left lined up behind Bill Auberlen who was now in the Turner BMW, Daniel Morad in the Alegra Mercedes and Markus Palttala of NTe Sport Audi.

Much then shuffled around following the restart, Auberlen still leading but wih this nearest challenger being Sellers, ahead of Palttala, Gunn, Morad, Hawksworth, Legge, and Long dropping all the way down to eighth.

Long and Vanthoor deposed Legge, while in the final quarter hour, Gunn got the Aston Martin ahead of Palttala’s Audi.

Auberlen crossed the line 5.7sec ahead of Sellers who was a similar margin ahead of Gunn. Palttala claimed fourth for NTe, with Morad ahead of Hawksworth, while Vanthoor passed Long at the last gasp.

Race results:

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