June 24, 2023
By John Oreovicz and David Phillips
IMSA Wire Service
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Mother Nature played a key role in determining pole position for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
Steady rain arrived Saturday afternoon at Watkins Glen International during a chaotic qualifying session for the Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) and Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) classes, forcing abandonment of that session and the one to follow for the top Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class due to extreme track conditions. Per IMSA regulations, the starting order for the GTP, LMP2 and LMP3 classes for Sunday’s six-hour race was determined by WeatherTech Championship entrant point standings.
As a result, Nick Tandy will lead the 57-car field (including nine GTPs) to the green flag in the class-leading No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 he shares with co-driver Mathieu Jaminet. The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac Racing V-Series.R driven by Pipo Derani, Alexander Sims and Jack Aitken will start from the outside of the front row.
Because qualifying was not completed, championship points and the Motul Pole Award were not awarded for the classes. Qualifying was completed for the GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes before the inclement weather moved in.
“Everybody wants to run in qualifying, but in a six-hour race especially, it’s not the most important part of the weekend,” said Tandy, who along with Jaminet will be seeking their second win of the season. “But honestly, when I saw the cars going off in the LMP2 session before and saw the forecast that was likely coming – and has come – I wasn’t excited to go out there because the level of risk for something going wrong is massive.
“It’s a very treacherous set of conditions, and it’s obviously a shame that the people here didn’t get to see the cars run flat out,” he continued. “But I’m proud enough to be (the pole sitter), because up to now, we’ve done the work to be able to lead the championship. This is another pat on the back to the team.”
The rain washed away anticipation for what was expected to be a hotly contested battle for pole, after all four participating GTP marques lapped within 0.778 seconds in Saturday morning’s practice, led by Colin Braun in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06.
BMW M Team RLL’s BMW M Hybrid V8s were the stars of the session, with the Nos. 25 and 24 cars running second and third in the hands of Connor De Phillippi and Augusto Farfus, respectively. De Phillippi lapped just 0.004 seconds off Braun’s 1-minute, 32.311-second (132.595 mph) best in the Meyer Shank Acura.
Tandy, who had the fifth-best time in the morning practice, expects tight competition again in Sunday’s race.
“We weren’t the fastest, but we’re optimistic for tomorrow,” Tandy said. “If it’s wet tomorrow, we don’t know our relative pace to the competition. The cars actually look pretty even. They’re all pretty close.”
Derani was disappointed he didn’t get the chance to stretch the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac’s legs in qualifying.
“I was looking forward to getting out there and qualifying even though it’s raining,” he said. “It will be a long fight tomorrow, but it looks like the car is good either on the rain or on the dry. We’ve had both in practice, so looking forward to the race and hopefully get a clean six-hour race.”
Flag-to-flag coverage of the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen is available on Peacock starting at 10:30 a.m. ET Sunday. USA Network joins the race in progress at 2 p.m. through the finish.
LMP2, LMP3 Cars Slip, Slide Away before Session Halted
Even though the LMP2 and LMP3 qualifying session was eventually abandoned, it still proved dramatic. An instant after the two classes were green-flagged for what had been declared a dry session, a deluge swept across portions of the Watkins Glen circuit. Not surprisingly, chaos ensued.
First, Ari Balogh in the No. 30 Jr III Racing Ligier JS P320 pirouetted downhill into the Turn 7 tire wall. Ben Keating in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 soon followed suit and slid into the Jr III Ligier, only to be clobbered a few moments later by a rotating Anthony Mantella in the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08.
Fortunately, none of the drivers were injured, but officials had no choice but to red-flag and eventually abandon the session. With the starting grid set by team championship points, the No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA and No. 74 Riley Ligier will start from pole in LMP2 and LMP3, respectively.
While conceding his possible bias in favor of a ruling that put his car at the head of the 10-car LMP3 field, Gar Robinson supported IMSA’s decision.
“I think it was a fine idea. Not saying that me being on the pole has anything to do with it,” he grinned. “It was definitely treacherous and conditions were deteriorating. (IMSA) absolutely made the right call. What’s the point of tearing up a bunch of race cars for qualifying when you have six hours to determine where you’re going to finish anyway?”
LMP2 pole sitter Steve Thomas said he learned a great deal during the brief session when he tiptoed the No. 11 around for a couple laps.
“I think I learned where the rivers can be ‘cause I did go pretty slow,” he said. “You don’t often do that on a racetrack, but you can really see where the water was puddling, where the water was running down on the track. So that was helpful.
“If it is wet, as long as it’s not rivers, the track is pretty drivable. It’s a fun track in the rain. But when there are rivers like we saw out there, it’s gonna catch people out, there’s no way around it.”
And what about Robinson?
“I learned you should put an outboard motor on your car when you go into The Boot (Turns 6 through 9),” he said. “Or maybe water skis.”
Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen caps off the race weekend at 10:40 a.m., featuring the 57-car field tackling the 3.4-mile road course in a six-hour battle to the checkered flag.
For more details about Watkins Glen International, including schedules and ticketing information for the upcoming IMSA race weekend, call 1-866-461-RACE or visit TheGlen.com.