Watkins Glen IMSA: Nasr leads Six Hours at halfway mark
Action Express Racing made a superb pitstop under caution to boost its Whelen Engineering Cadillac ahead of the dominant Acuras and the Mazda just before half distance, while Corvette led GTLM and Wright Motorsports dominated GTD.
Meyer Shank Racing’s Dane Cameron made a great start to slingshot around Ricky Taylor on the run from Turn 4 to the Bus Stop to wrest the lead from the polesitting Wayne Taylor Racing machine. Behind them, the Action Express Racing #48 of Kamui Kobayashi got around Renger van der Zande’s Chip Ganassi Racing entry to become best of the Cadillac DPi-V.Rs. Tristan Vautier vaulted his JDC Miller Motorsports car ahead of Pipo Derani in the fulltime AXR Caddy, with Oliver Jarvis seventh in the Mazda RT24-P. However after the first restart, Vautier lost fifth to Derani.
Cameron swiftly stretched out a 3.5sec lead over Taylor, who as they tackled GTD traffic, came under a lot of pressure from Kobayashi, with van der Zande not far behind.
On Lap 19, Vautier was held up by an out-of-control LMP3 car in the Bus Stop chicane, and while avoiding it, he was zapped by Jarvis’ Mazda.
Derani pitted on Lap 22 for fuel and tires, while Kobayashi pitted next time by, and handed over to Jimmie Johnson, and JDC-Miller serviced Vautier.
Van der Zande went a couple laps longer, with Cameron and Taylor pitting on Lap 26, the Mazda following the Acuras in, and Jarvis handing over to Harry Tincknell.
Following these first pitstops, Cameron’s lead over Taylor was 8sec, with van der Zande’s a further 4sec down, a similar distance ahead of Derani. Tincknell was into fifth, ahead of the #48 and #5 Cadillacs.
Just before their second stops, as they completed Lap 48, Taylor took the lead from Cameron as they passed LMP3 and GTD traffic, and van der Zande was now only 1.5sec from the lead. He ducked into the pits before the rest of this trio and handed over to Kevin Magnussen.
Those who had already made their second stops were both AXR cars – Derani handed over to Felipe Nasr, Johnson ceded his seat to Simon Pagenaud – and the JDC Miller car, with Loic Duval taking over from Vautier.
The two leading Acuras and the Mazda all pitted together, Taylor just getting out ahead of the Meyer Shank Racing car now driven by Olivier Pla. Tincknell was now up to fourth, just three seconds behind Magnussen and 13sec clear of Nasr. The Mazda driver kept piling on the pressure and passed Magnussen for third on Lap 64, just before the second full-course yellow flew for a spun LMP3 car.
The pitstops that followed saw MSR send Pla to the front, Jonathan Bomarito in the Mazda in second, Magnussen’s Ganassi Cadillac third and Wayne Taylor Racing only fourth, with Alexander Rossi at the wheel.
Following the restart, this order remained intact, but with just under 3hr30min to go, Goikhberg’s Lamborghini spun out of the final turn and into pitlane, his car in flames, thereby blocking pit entry.
The entire class stopped again, and it was Nasr’s AXR Cadillac that emerged in front, with the WTR Caddy of Rossi in second ahead of Pla, Bomarito, Kobayashi, Sebastien Bourdais (JDC Miller) and van der Zande who’d taken over from Magnussen.
At the drop of the green with 3hr4mins to go, Pla passed Rossi around the outside of Turn 1 to gain second place. Next time by, van der Zande jumped not only Bourdais but also Kobayashi to gain fifth place and swiftly hunted down Bomarito.
GT Le Mans
Tommy Milner made the better start of the two Corvette C8.Rs, to get ahead of his pole-winning teammate Antonio Garcia, followed by the BMWs of Connor De Phillippi and John Edwards. However, the WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR burst into flames under its left-rear wheelarch on Lap 4, possibly after grinding along the barrier at Turn 11 on Lap 3. Cooper MacNeil brought it back to the pits slowly, but was dropping oil, so Tower’s issues causing the yellow were perhaps a blessing.
Milner handed over the leading Corvette to Nick Tandy after a strong 67min stint, while Garcia waited one more lap to hand off to Jordan Taylor, and the #3 car emerged just ahead of its silver stablemate, but it couldn’t stay there, as Tandy pulled 5sec on his teammate.
However, after the yellow-flag pitstops, Milner reemerged third, behind Taylor and the #24 BMW M8 of Jesse Krohn. Then after the next round of yellow-flag stops, the #4 crew regained what they had lost, Milner now ahead of Taylor, with Augusto Farfus third in the #24 BMW ahead of the #25 BMW of Philipp Eng.
The front-row Lexus RC Fs were split at the start, Kyle Kirkwood retaining the lead in the #14 car but Wright Motorsports’ Trent Hindman inserting his Porsche 911 GT3 R ahead of the #12 of Frankie Montecalvo, and at the restart, Hindman did even better to emerge ahead of the two luminous Lexuses as they came out of Turn 1 on cold tires.
Behind this trio ran IMSA debutant Jaden Conwright’s NTe Sport Audi R8, Daniel Morad in the Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3, ahead of Robby Foley’s Turner Motorsports BMW M6, Zacharie Robichon’s Pfaff Motorsports Porsche and Misha Goikhberg in the GRT Grasser Lamborghini Huracan.
The other Lambo, the #1 of Paul Miller Racing, was brought in soon after the restart to go off-strategy and give Corey Lewis some clear air.
Conwright pitted on Lap 20 to hand off to Don Yount, but it was a slow stop.
Up front, the Lexus pair had by not let the Wright Porsche go, nor had Alegra’s Mercedes, the quartet covered by just two seconds after 45mins, but this stretched out a little as the first hour approached. Hindman was only 0.6sec ahead of Kirkwood, but Montecalvo was 2sec back and trying to hold off Morad, Foley and Robichon. Hindman almost lost the class lead to Kirkwood as the pair ran side-by-side as they lapped Yount’s NTe Audi, but the Porsche driver held strong and held on.
Following their first pitstops, Hindman maintained a lead over Kirkwood, but the second Lexus, now piloted by Robert Megennis, was sixth, having been jumped by Michael de Quesada who’d taken over the Alegra Mercedes, and Aidan Read who’d replaced Foley in the Turner BMW. All were initially behind the off-strategy PMR Lamborghini of Lewis.
Lars Kern, who had replaced Robichon in the Pfaff Porsche, was in that group initially but fell behind Tyler McQuarrie (Carbahn Peregrine Audi) and Tim Zimmermann’s Grasser Lambo.
The pitstops under yellow saw Wright Motorsports retain the lead, now with Jan Heylen at the wheel, with Aaron Telitz taking over the #14 Lexus from Kirkwood in second, Turner BMW now driven by Bill Auberlen up to third. Paul Miller Racing went back on schedule, with Madison Snow now in a genuine fourth ahead of Alegra’s de Quesada, Kern in sixth for Pfaff, ahead of the second Lexus of Megennis. However, Auberlen had to return to pitlane after a refueling issue just before the restart and tumbled to 13th in class.
Goikhberg’s aforementioned spin and the subsequent caution sent all the GTD cars to the pits. Wright Motorsports sent Heylen out still iun the lead while PMR jumped Snow ahead of Telitz’s #14 Lexus, while NTe Sport turned Conwright around in time to put him fourth, ahead of the similar Audi R8 of Carbahn Peregrine now with Richard Heistand at the wheel. In sixth lay Foley in the Turner BMW ahead of Alegra (Billy Johnson), Roman de Angelis in the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage and Robichon’s Pfaff Porsche.
At the restart just before the half-distance restart, Telitz swiftly dealt with Snow to take second.
Thomas Merrill’s WIN Autosport car currently leads the class ahead of Mikkel Jensen in the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports machine, with Wayne Boyd of United Autosports a lap down in third.
Jarett Andretti’s Andretti Autosport entry led pole-winner Austin McCusker of United Autosports at the start, chased by Dan Goldburg of Performance Tech Motorsports, Georg Kurtz (Core Autosport) and the two Riley Motorsports entries of Gar Robinson and Jim Cox. Following the first restart, Andretti lost the lead to McCusker. After their first pitstops, McCusker led Andretti by 20sec, but McCusker spun on the exit of Turn 7 while being lapped by Pla, and that brought out the second yellow.
McCusker also made contact with the barrier, necessitating repairs by the United Autosports squad, leaving the Andretti Autosport car – now piloted by Marco Andretti – at the head of the field.
However, Andretti would lose out to Scott Andrews in the Riley Motorsports #74 entry, and following the restart just before half-distance, it became a Riley 1-2 as Dylan Murry moved past both Bennett and Andretti.
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