Watkins Glen Friday Notebook
Friday, June 29, 2018

Dumas Leads Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen Practice in CORE autosport LMP2 Car

For the first time since the morning warm up for the 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans, an LMP2 car topped the time charts at the end of the first day of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.

Romain Dumas did the honors in the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA LMP2 machine, clocking a best lap of one minute, 33.481 seconds (130.935 mph) around the 3.4-mile Watkins Glen International circuit. Even more impressively, it was Dumas’ first time at Watkins Glen in 10 years.

“First of all, for sure the car is very good,” said Dumas, who is sharing the No. 54 with co-drivers Colin Braun and Jon Bennett. “The balance is right. I didn’t drive for 10 years here, so I just had to do some laps and improve myself more than the car. It’s a good sign for the race. It’s nice to be back here in this championship and in this car. So far, all looks great, so we have to continue.”

It’s been a good week for Dumas. Last Sunday, the Frenchman shattered the track record at the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, navigating the 12.42-mile course in seven minutes, 57.148 seconds in an electric Volkswagen race car.

Dane Cameron posted the day’s second-fastest time, which led the morning practice session at 1:33.562 (130.822 mph) in the No. 6 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05 DPi machine he shares with co-driver Juan Pablo Montoya. Conicidentally, it was Montoya who last led a WeatherTech Championship practice in an LMP2 machine, when he paced the morning warm-up session prior to the 2017 WeatherTech Championship season finale at Road Atlanta.

Richard Westbrook, a winner at Watkins Glen in 2014, 2015 and 2016, led both GT Le Mans (GTLM) sessions on Friday, with his best time of 1:42.886 (118.966 mph) coming in the afternoon session aboard the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT he shares with Ryan Briscoe.

Sheldon van der Linde was quickest on the day in the GT Daytona (GTD) class in the No. 29 Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS. His best time, which also came in the afternoon session, was a 1:45.142 (116.413 mph). Van der Linde, co-driver Christopher Mies and the Land team is competing in its first WeatherTech Championship race since the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.

The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen will be televised live on FS1 beginning at 9:30 a.m. ET on Sunday. Live IMSA Radio coverage also is available on IMSA.com, RadioLeMans.com and SiriusXM Radio.

WeatherTech Basking in Afterglow of Strong 24 Hours of Le Mans Performances

WeatherTech was well represented in the GTE Am class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with a pair of Ferraris carrying the familiar logo.

The No. 84 JMW Motorsport Ferrari 488 GTE shared by Cooper MacNeil, Jeff Segal and Liam Griffin sported a white WeatherTech livery similar to what the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari team uses in the WeatherTech Championship GTD class. In addition, the red No. 85 Keating Motorsports Ferrari shared by Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Luca Stolz also carried the logo.

WeatherTech got considerable screen time during the race telecast, as both cars ran among the leaders through much of the race. In the end, the No. 85 team finished on the podium in third, with the No. 84 fifth.

“Having two Ferrari 488s at Le Mans with the WeatherTech livery was very cool,” said MacNeil. “I think WeatherTech had the most presence/identity of any two cars in the race. The combination of bringing our brand to Europe as well as supporting IMSA with our [WeatherTech Championship-branded] coaster giveaway at the parade to get both logos in front of the enthusiastic Le Mans fans.

“Both cars were well received and to have one on the podium and the other finish in the top five made for a very successful week in France.”

A year after MacNeil stood on the Le Mans podium for the first time, Keating got the same experience this year with his third-place performance.

“This was my fourth Le Mans ever, and my first podium,” Keating said. “This year and last year, I have been with WeatherTech. We were stablemates with WeatherTech in IMSA last year, and that fostered a great relationship with those guys. They’ve been a great partner for being able to go over there and pull off a run at Le Mans.

“It was just a really special experience. It was the first time in that race where I really felt like, ‘We’ve got a shot’ and that’s a nice feeling to have when you’re making the huge investment of time and money, and just blood, sweat and tears to make it over there for that race."

CJ Wilson Racing Returns to WeatherTech Championship Competition at Watkins Glen

The No. 36 CJ Wilson Acura NSX GT3 is back in action at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen with co-drivers Marc Miller and Till Bechtolsheimer. It is the team’s second WeatherTech Championship race ever and its first since the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in March.

“We’re just trying to shake off the cobwebs a little bit,” said team owner C.J. Wilson, the former Major League Baseball pitcher. “I think a lot of the other teams have had a chance to get to know their cars a little bit better and we’re still maybe a step behind. We made good progress today.

“We got to the point where we introduced different things by trying to push the setup and Till and Marc both had a lot of really good laps. We got a lot of time in, so now we just have to kind of dial in the car a little bit.”

Wilson and Bechtolsheimer also were at the Pikes Peak Hillclimb last weekend driving Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport race cars up the mountain, though not quite as quickly as Dumas. Nevertheless, Wilson thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

“I had a chance to run Pikes Peak with Porsche and it was really super sketchy hilarious,” Wilson said. “I was thinking how great it would be if I was racing here (at Watkins Glen), because there’s no cliffs to fall off. People say, ‘Man, the guardrails are really close at Watkins Glen,’ but they’re there. They’re there to catch you if you push a little too far.

“It was a little bit uncomfortable, because on the actual race day, it snowed, it sleeted, it was windy, it was foggy, it was a little bit of everything that you wouldn’t want to necessarily drive in, but it just sort of adds to the adventure. I’d love to go back and do it again if possible.”

Sandberg Lays Down Last-Minute Flyer for First Continental Tire Challenge Pole

In what was a dramatic qualifying session for the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Grand Sport (GS) class, Brett Sandberg wound up atop the leaderboard for Saturday’s Continental Tire 240 at Watkins Glen International with a last-lap flyer in the No. 80 AWA Ford Mustang GT4.

The 15-minute qualifying session was put under a red flag due to an incident with the No. 4 Team TGM Mercedes-AMG GT4 before all but two cars were able to record qualifying laps. The session restarted with five minutes remaining, giving drivers two last chances at the Motul Pole Award.

At the end, Sandberg bested the field with a time of one minute, 56.454 (105.105 mph) for his first Continental Tire Challenge pole.

“Those are tricky conditions with only getting two laps,” said Sandberg, who co-drives the No. 80 Ford with Martin Barkey. “I knew the car had a mid-56 in it, so I really just tried my best to be consistent and not let that red flag play with my mind too much. The guys did an amazing job, the car was flawless. I couldn’t have asked for a better car.”

Leading the TCR class to the green for Saturday’s race will be Pierre Kleinubing in the No. 75 Compass Racing Audi RS3 LMS. While Compass Racing has taken each Motul Pole Award to date in the class this year, this is the first for the No. 75 and Kleinubing, who co-drives with Roy Block.

“How many hours our guys work on this thing, it’s an unbelievable effort,” said Kleinubing, whose lap time was 1:58.028 (103.704 mph). “My job is easy, I show up with the helmet and I get to drive it and complain about it. They’ve got to go back and do a lot of development and a lot of work. We tested here about a month ago and at Mosport, so we’ve been putting a lot of effort into it and it shows.”

Kleinubing’s last Continental Tire Challenge pole coincidentally came in another four-hour race, last year at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. The No. 75 went on to win that race and Kleinubing hopes his pole today is a good omen for a repeat performance.

“I think the car is good and if we have a little luck going our way, that’s what we need to win one of these,” Kleinubing said.

In the Street Tuner (ST) class, it was Devin Jones in the No. 81 BimmerWorld Racing BMW 328i posting the fastest lap with a time of 2:06.883 (96.466 mph). This was Jones’ second pole of the season and BimmerWorld’s third, as Jones’ co-driver Nick Galante led the ST field to green at Mid-Ohio.

“This BMW is hooked up this weekend,” said Jones, who has also competed at Watkins Glen in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. “The BimmerWorld guys are the best in the business. This car all season has been an honor to drive. It’s been fast everywhere we went. We’ve had a little bit of bad luck here and there, but we’re hoping that’s behind us. Nick has been running really strong and the crew guys are doing great.”

The four-hour Continental Tire 240 goes green at 1:55 p.m. and will be streamed live on IMSA.tv and can be heard via IMSA Radio coverage on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com.