Watkins Glen IMSA: Mazda breaks its curse, scores 1-2

Mazda Team Joest scored a brilliant 1-2 in the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of Watkins Glen, Jonathan Bomarito, Harry Tincknell and Olivier Pla’s #55 car leading the #77 of Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez and Timo Bernhard to end more than five years of heartbreaking near-misses in emphatic style.

Watkins Glen IMSA: Mazda breaks its curse, scores 1-2

Pole-winner for one of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship's most prestigious races, Jarvis led from the start in the #77 Mazda but following the first round of stops, under green flag conditions, the #55 Mazda driven by Tincknell hit the front.

Bomarito continued Tincknell’s good work in the second hour, two seconds ahead of Bernhard in the #77, and the pair almost a minute-and-a-half ahead of the lead Cadillac, the Wayne Taylor Racing entry of Renger van der Zande which had been quicker than the Acura Team Penskes in the early stages.

Under the third full-course caution which flew as the race approached its two-hour mark and was caused by an off for Stephen Simpson in the #84 JDC Miller Motorsports Cadillac, Bomarito pitted the leading Mazda but Bernhard stayed out to prevent as many of the team’s rivals from getting their lap back in a wave-around under yellow.

That same pitstop sequence saw Penske able to send the #7 Acura of Helio Castroneves out ahead of the WTR Cadillac, now driven by Jordan Taylor, to gain third place. Indeed, the #6 Acura ARX-05 of Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya was up to fourth despite having started the race from pitlane after the team spotted a cut tire on the formation lap, as Montoya managed to pass Taylor on that restart.

The Acura pair then stretched away from Taylor while battling among themselves, and were able to keep Bomarito vaguely in sight without ever closing on him.

The next round of stops, after 2h30min, saw the #6 Acura of Montoya emerge well in front of its sister car, although still behind Bomarito, while the now out-of-sequence Bernhard cycled to the front. Montoya then stayed in touch with Bomarito while their tires were fresh, the pair of them dropping Castroneves.

That battle became the battle for the lead when Bernhard again pitted the #77 Mazda off-sequence and handed over to Nunez 20mins later, and Acura appeared to split its strategy too, stopping Montoya a couple minutes later. Meanwhile, Taylor was coming back at Castroneves to try and split the Acuras.

Montoya stayed within eight seconds of the #55 Mazda after Bomarito handed over to Pla, but JPM remained on the same sequence as the #77 Mazda, pitting on the same lap at the 3hr30min mark – Nunez staying on board but Montoya handing over the #6 Acura to Cameron.

The #7 Acura fell further out of podium contention when Castroneves tangled with Matt McMurry’s LMP2 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport Oreca, just before handing over to Ricky Taylor. The latter then had to try and make up time on his brother driving the WTR Cadillac.

Joao Barbosa refusing to go two laps down in the #5 Action Express Racing Cadillac held up the leader so much that the second-placed Mazda of Pla closed onto the tail of its sister machine and when the frustrated Nunez pitted to hand back to Jarvis, Pla was able to turn some fast laps, pit, and re-emerge in front with 100minutes to go.

However, Jarvis moved into the lead five minutes later, the pair of them some 18sec clear of Cameron. A further 66sec down, Ricky Taylor was pressuring van der Zande for fourth.

Jarvis had pulled seven seconds on Pla by the time the full-course caution flew with 1h24min to go: the Performance Tech Motorsports LMP2 Oreca which had recently tangled with a couple of GTLM cars had then emerged from pitlane only to die on track and needed retrieving.

That prompted all the leaders to stop for fuel, Tincknell took over from Pla in the #55 but needed seven laps less fuel than the sister car and beat it out of the pitlane. However, Montoya now in the #6 Acura vaulted both of them and took the lead, while Castroneves stayed bottled up behind the WTR Cadillac. These top five now ran together.

Montoya held off the Mazdas at the restart but Tincknell kept up the pressure on into the final hour, trying to figure out a way around the ex-F1 and IndyCar ace. Tincknell lost time when he tried to pass Montoya around the outside of Turn 8 with 48mins to go.

Five minutes later, Tincknell dived down the inside of Turn 8 to grab the lead and although it was a hard maneuver, it was fair, and the lead was his.

Jarvis then started pressuring Montoya as the lead Mazda started pulling out an advantage – something he did rapidly, gaining a 5sec lead within three laps. A dozen seconds behind the battle for second, van der Zande continued to hold off Castroneves.

Tincknell’s final stop came with 34mins remaining, taking on a set of new Michelins too. Montoya and Jarvis pitted next time by, and the Mazda just got out ahead of the Acura.

Jarvis closed on Tincknell in the final stint, the pair of them dropping Montoya easily, and with 22mins to go, the pair were within a second of their fastest laps of the race. It was a nail-biting time – and nerves got still more frayed in the #55 camp as the bodywork over the rear engine cover appeared to have loosened on the left side, and Jarvis briefly got within a second of his teammate.

However, team orders seem to have prevailed in the final 10mins, the pair of Mazdas slowing into the 1min34s, over five seconds off the pace. The pair crossed the line 0.353sec apart, but 11.5sec clear of Montoya, while van der Zande was 13sec further back but 13sec ahead of Castroneves.

Of the significant runners with issues, Felipe Nasr suffered a puncture on the opening lap, sending the #31 Action Express Racing Cadillac into the gravel, and forcing it to limp around the 3.4 mile lap.

By the time it rejoined with new rear bodywork, it was two laps down and soon after the first hour was complete, the astonishing pace of the Mazdas put it a further lap behind and it would finish in seventh, behind its sister car.

Colin Braun brought the CORE autosport Nissan to a halt after 111 laps with no drive.

GTLM: Porsche makes it four in a row

Richard Westbrook in the #67 Ford GT led from the start but suffered a loose steering column at the end of the opening hour, causing him to lose the lead, handing the class lead to the #3 Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia.

However, it was by no means a runaway for the ‘Vette, and into the third hour, it was the RLL Racing-run BMW M8 of Tom Blomqvist that led the class ahead of the Corvette by less than a second with the second BMW of Jesse Krohn running third, less than a second behind. This trio was chased closely by the two Porsche 911 RSRs of Earl Bamber and Patrick Pilet and the two Fords.

Jan Magnussen moved the #3 back past Blomqvist after 2h30min, and Bamber closed on the other BMW. But following the next round of stops, just before the halfway mark, the #911 and #912 Porsches of Nick Tandy and Vanthoor emerged in front of Magnussen and the two BMWs.

A split strategy would see Tandy, Blomqvist and Dirk Muller in the #66 Ford leading while Ryan Briscoe in the #67 Ford, Vanthoor, Garcia and Krohn stopped. That became the lead battle with two hours to go, and soon after that, Garcia blasted by Vanthoor to take the lead in the Corvette, with Krohn running a further four seconds back.

The yellow-flag stop with 70mins to go came just after Garcia – battling with radio issues – had just made a stop. However, he returned to pitlane under yellow, so that the restart would see Tandy leading the Fords of Westbrook and Muller, Connor De Phillippi in the #25 BMW, Bamber in the #911 Porsche and then Garcia and Edwards. However, Garcia and Edwards deposed Bamber next time by and Garcia kept moving forward, passing the second BMW to grab fourth. Connor De Phillippi sadly had to pit his BMW again due to the damage sustained in a collision with the errant LMP2 car of Andrew Evans, and as they tried to tape down his hood again, the car suffered a fuel fire.

As Garcia started threatening Muller’s third place, Tandy up front was setting his fastest laps of the race, pulling almost 7sec away from Westbrook’s Ford. With 48mins to go, both Tandy and Garcia made their final scheduled stops leaving Fords running 1-2, 3.5sec apart and Bamber’s Porsche third a further 3.3sec in arrears. Next time by, the two Fords stopped, and fell behind Garcia who started inching up on Tandy, the pair of them still behind Bamber. With 20mins to go, Garcia was within 2.5sec of Tandy.

Bamber ducked in for a splash-n-dash with 12mins to go leaving Tandy leading ahead of Garcia, and in the last five minutes that gap went under one second, but they crossed the line with the 911 still half a second ahead.

The #4 Corvette of Tommy Milner clashed with Vanthoor on the opening lap in the uphill Esses, sending the American car into a spin, dum-dumming off the barriers on either side of the track and eliminating it from the race.

GTD: MSR Acura wins

Class polesitter Trent Hindman led the opening hour for Meyer Shank Racing, but pitstop sequences saw the Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 rise to prominence in the third hour ahead of Robbie Foley’s Turner Motorsports’ BMW M6 with Toni Vilander in the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488, Aaron Telitz in the AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F and the two Acura NSXs.

Turner Motorsports’ chances took a knock when the BMW, at that point driven by Bill Auberlen, was struck by an errant prototype – fortunately toward the end of the lap so he didn’t have far to limp with a bent wheel-rim.

With two hours to go Ricky Feller kept the Land Motorsport Audi just ahead of the two MSR Acuras with the two Lexus RC Fs next up chased by Pfaff’s Porsche and the Turner BMW.

The restart with 66mins to go saw the Meyer Shank Acuras out front chased by Hawksworth’s Lexus, but teammate Townsend Bell who had driven well to get up to second in the middle of the race was penalized for leaving his pits with his seatbelts not secured.

With 53mins to go the final fuel window opened and Shank pulled in both Acuras, Turner doing the same for Auberlen, and the rest of the GTD runners following suit – with the exception of the Starworks Motorsport Audi, which Peter Baron elected to keep out front with Ryan Dalziel at the wheel, while praying for a caution period.

Behind him, Farnbacher’s Meyer Shank Racing Acura ran second, with Auberlen’s BMW and Vilander’s Ferrari taking advantage of Katherine Legge stalling briefly as she departed her pitbox. Legge applied the pressure on Vilander for the final half-hour but could not find a way through.

Meanwhile up front, Dalziel had to concede the lead to Farnbacher with 15mins to go, and with 11mins to go he had to pit. Auberlen closed to within a second of Farnbacher but couldn’t find a way past.

An unsighted Ben Keating in the Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 struck the spinning Corvette of Milner on the opening lap and was eliminated on the spot.

Race results:

Cla Class Num Driver Chassis Laps Gap
1 DPi 55 United States Jonathan Bomarito
United Kingdom Harry Tincknell
France Olivier Pla
Mazda DPi 211
2 DPi 77 United Kingdom Oliver Jarvis
United States Tristan Nunez
Germany Timo Bernhard
Mazda DPi 211 0.353
3 DPi 6 Colombia Juan Pablo Montoya
United States Dane Cameron
Acura DPi 211 11.783
4 DPi 10 Netherlands Renger van der Zande
United States Jordan Taylor
Cadillac DPi 211 24.837
5 DPi 7 United States Ricky Taylor
Brazil Helio Castroneves
Acura DPi 211 38.684
6 DPi 5 Portugal Joao Barbosa
United Kingdom Mike Conway
Portugal Filipe Albuquerque
Cadillac DPi 209 2 Laps
7 DPi 31 Brazil Felipe Nasr
United States Eric Curran
Brazil Pipo Derani
Cadillac DPi 208 3 Laps
8 DPi 50 United States Will Owen
Austria Rene Binder
Cadillac DPi 206 5 Laps
9 DPi 84 Switzerland Simon Trummer
South Africa Stephen Simpson
United States Chris Miller
Cadillac DPi 204 7 Laps
10 LMP2 52 United States Matt McMurry
France Gabriel Aubry
Eric Lux
ORECA LMP2 201 10 Laps
11 DPi 85 Canada Mikhail Goikhberg
France Tristan Vautier
Colombia Juan Piedrahita
Cadillac DPi 199 12 Laps
12 GTLM 911 France Patrick Pilet
United Kingdom Nick Tandy
Porsche 911 RSR 195 16 Laps
13 GTLM 3 Denmark Jan Magnussen
Spain Antonio Garcia
Corvette C7.R 195 16 Laps
14 GTLM 67 Australia Ryan Briscoe
United Kingdom Richard Westbrook
Ford GT 194 17 Laps
15 GTLM 66 United States Joey Hand
Germany Dirk Muller
Ford GT 194 17 Laps
16 GTLM 24 Finland Jesse Krohn
United States John Edwards
BMW M8 GTE 194 17 Laps
17 GTLM 912 New Zealand Earl Bamber
Belgium Laurens Vanthoor
Porsche 911 RSR 194 17 Laps
18 GTD 86 Germany Mario Farnbacher
United States Trent Hindman
United States Justin Marks
Acura NSX GT3 188 23 Laps
19 GTD 96 United States Bill Auberlen
United States Robby Foley
United States Dillon Machavern
BMW M6 GT3 188 23 Laps
20 GTD 63 United States Cooper MacNeil
Finland Toni Vilander
United States Jeff Westphal
Ferrari 488 GT3 188 23 Laps
21 GTD 57 United Kingdom Katherine Legge
Denmark Christina Nielsen
Brazil Ana Beatriz
Acura NSX GT3 188 23 Laps
22 GTD 14 United States Richard Heistand
United Kingdom Jack Hawksworth
Switzerland Philipp Frommenwiler
Lexus RC F GT3 188 23 Laps
23 GTD 9 Canada Scott Hargrove
Canada Zacharie Robichon
Germany Lars Kern
Porsche 911 GT3 R 188 23 Laps
24 GTD 44 United States John Potter
United States Andy Lally
United States Spencer Pumpelly
Lamborghini Huracan GT3 188 23 Laps
25 GTD 29 Germany Christopher Mies
Switzerland Richard Feller
Canada Daniel Morad
Audi R8 LMS GT3 188 23 Laps
26 GTD 12 United States Frankie Montecalvo
United States Townsend Bell
United States Aaron Telitz
Lexus RC F GT3 188 23 Laps
27 GTD 540 United States Marc Miller
Germany Marco Seefried
Germany Dirk Werner
Porsche 911 GT3 R 186 25 Laps
28 GTD 47 United States Brandon Gdovic
United States Don Yount
Jacob Eidson
Lamborghini Huracan GT3 185 26 Laps
29 GTD 8 United States Parker Chase
United Kingdom Ryan Dalziel
United States Mike Skeen
Audi R8 LMS GT3 185 26 Laps
30 LMP2 38 Canada Cameron Cassels
United States Andrew Evans
United States Kyle Masson
ORECA LMP2 181 30 Laps
31 GTLM 25 United Kingdom Tom Blomqvist
United States Connor de Phillippi
BMW M8 GTE 159 52 Laps
32 DPi 54 United States Jon Bennett
United States Colin Braun
France Romain Dumas
Nissan DPi 111 100 Laps
33 GTD 73 United States Patrick Lindsey
United States Patrick Long
United States Nicholas Boulle
Porsche 911 GT3 R 86 125 Laps
34 GTD 48 United States Bryan Sellers
United States Ryan Hardwick
United States Corey Lewis
Lamborghini Huracan GT3 68 143 Laps
35 GTLM 4 United Kingdom Oliver Gavin
United States Tommy Milner
Corvette C7.R 0
36 GTD 33 United States Ben Keating
Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen
Brazil Felipe Fraga
Mercedes-AMG GT3 0
37 GTD 19 United States Andrew Davis
Spain Alex Riberas
United States Will Hardeman
Audi R8 LMS GT3 0
Watkins Glen IMSA: Jarvis lands brilliant pole for Mazda
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Bomarito on Mazda's Watkins Glen 1-2: “We just had to be perfect”
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