June 24, 2023
By John Oreovicz and Mark Robinson
IMSA Wire Service
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Robby Foley executed a series of perfect restarts down the stretch at Watkins Glen International to lead a 1-2 result in the Grand Sport (GS) class for BMW and Turner Motorsport in the Sahlen’s 120 at The Glen, the fifth round of the 2023 IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.
Foley handled the anchor stint in the No. 96 BMW M4 (G82) that was started by Vin Barletta. He maintained the lead through three full-course cautions in the final 30 minutes of the two-hour event to claim the second win of the season for the duo. It was also the second 1-2 of the year for Turner, repeating the team’s achievement in the Alan Jay 120 at Sebring International Raceway.
Saturday’s race at Watkins Glen was delayed by 48 minutes by severe weather in the Finger Lakes region. That created wet conditions for the start, but the track was completely dry by the time Foley took the checkered flag 0.680 seconds ahead of the No. 95 Turner BMW driven by Robert Megennis and Cameron Lawrence.
“It was a crazy race,” Foley remarked after he and Barletta completed 46 laps of the 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course. “Vin did a great job just to survive when it was very wet and get us to the middle of the race. We made some changes, anticipating this kind of weather with kind of a wet setup, and the car was really good.
“We could be really strong on restarts and we could make some moves,” he added. “That was the key. Once we got in front, it was about not screwing it up - just managing. Great day for the team, awesome to have another 1-2, and we’ll try to keep the momentum going.”
Barletta held his own in the opening stint, handing the car over to Foley without a scratch.
“It was a little difficult, but the track improved right away,” Barletta said. “I tried to find my pace so I wasn’t getting into trouble or losing time. The cautions fell in our direction, which doesn’t always happen. We were able to get that early pit stop in and that set Robby up.”
It was the third consecutive GS victory at Watkins Glen for the Turner team. “We love this place,” Foley said. “The track has always been good to us, in GTD (Grand Touring Daytona in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship) and in GS. You could say ‘horses for courses,’ and the BMWs are really good here.”
Ted Giovanis and Owen Trinkler finished third in the No. 64 Team TGM Aston Martin Vantage GT4 after Trinkler passed the pole winning No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT4 driven by Christian Szymczak and Kenny Murillo in the closing stages. A fifth-place result behind the No. 88 Archangel Motorsports Aston Martin Vantage GT4 shared by Todd Coleman and Billy Johnson maintained the GS class points lead for Szymczak and Murillo.
The next round of the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge is the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park 120, part of the Chevrolet Grand Prix weekend July 7-9 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park just east of greater Toronto.
Block, Lewis Deliver Alfa Romeo Birthday Present with TCR Win
Roy Block and Tim Lewis know how to give the best birthday presents. The co-drivers of the No. 5 KMW Motorsports with TMR Engineering Alfa Romeo Giulietta Veloce TCR outlasted the Touring Car (TCR) class competition in Saturday’s chaotic race to win on the 113th anniversary of when Alfa Romeo was founded in Italy.
Lewis snagged the lead with 27 minutes remaining and held off a gaggle of TCR contenders through a pair of late restarts. He and Block won by 0.576 seconds over Chris Miller and Mikey Taylor in the No. 17 Unitronic/JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi RS3 LMS TCR.
“Just great teamwork, great strategy,” Lewis said collecting his seventh career Michelin Pilot Challenge win. “Our team always nails the pit stops and puts us in a position to succeed. Roy did a great job keeping the car in one piece during some hectic opening stints and then it was just my job to bring it home and survive all the restarts.”
Block also did a great job keeping the car off the wall when he suffered a flat left-front tire but was able to negotiate back to pit lane for a replacement just as he achieved his minimum drive time and could turn the car over to Lewis.
“It was truly treacherous conditions for me at the start,” Block said. “A lot of people were being aggressive. I just kept the long view always in mind. I started to get my footing as the track dried and then my left front blew up going into the ‘toe’ (Turn 7). Luckily, I saved it, kept it together and then our race engineer called a great strategy and here we are.”
The win was the eighth for Block in the Michelin Pilot Challenge and the second for the No. 5 this season. It also tightened the unofficial TCR standings after four races. The No. 98 Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian Hyundai Elantra N TCR, with drivers Mark Wilkins and Mason Filippi, leads with 1,160 points after finishing 10th on Saturday. The No. 33 BHA Hyundai, with drivers Robert Wickens and Harry Gottsacker, finished fifth and is 10 points out of the lead.
Lewis and Block are tied with Miller and Taylor, 70 points behind the leaders.
As for the special present they delivered for their manufacturer, Lewis said, “Happy birthday, Alfa Romeo!”
And Block added, “The racing gods have spoken!”
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.