Joey Hand races Ford GT at Watkins Glen
Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller put Chip Ganassi Racing's No. 66 Ford GT on top in a multi-marque battle un upstate New York. | Photo: Jake Galstad / IMSA

The GT Le Mans grid may have been lined up by manufacturer at the start of the six-hour race at Watkins Glen International but hard racing shuffled the order throughout the race, putting Dirk Mueller in position to deliver the victory for Chip Ganassi Racing and Ford Performance.

While it was the No. 67 Ford GT that led each practice session, sat on pole and led the opening two hours of the race, it was the No. 66 that Mueller shares with Joey Hand that fought for the win in the closing stages of a race punctuated by four caution periods that filled 15 laps.

Patrick Pilet in Porsche GT Team GTLM car at Watkins Glen bus stop
Patrick Pilet and his Porsche GT Team teammates challenged Corvette and Ford at Watkins Glen. | Photo: Michael L. Levitt / IMSA

While the pair of Fords ran 1-2 early, the Porsche 911 RSRs led the class at the end of the third hour before giving way to Corvette Racing’s surging C7.Rs. The No. 4 machine led the fourth hour while the No. 3 topping the running order at the end of the fifth.

During pit stops under the fourth yellow flag for debris from a GT Daytona competitor’s cut tire, Mueller vaulted to the class lead ahead of race’s final restart with 36 minutes remaining on the clock.

During the final stint, Mueller’s Ford was chased by Antonio Garcia’s Corvette. With 12 minutes remaining, the two American marques were separated by 3.5 seconds with the red, white and blue Ford maintaining its lead over its bright yellow crosstown rival.

At the checkered flag, Mueller completed six hours of hard racing with a 1.592-second advantage over Garcia, who held on for second place.

The mixed-up order for the domestic manufacturers did not extend to the Germans with the pair of Porsches crossing the finish line third and fourth with Patrick Pilet ahead of Laurens Vanthoor. While Pilet was a mere 0.7 seconds behind Garcia, Vanthoor was a further 6.5 seconds back.

Finishing one lap down to the top four were Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette and Richard Westbrook in the pole-sitting Ford.

BMW Team RLL, which occupied the bottom of the timesheet through practice and qualifying, performed similarly in the race. The No. 25 BMW M8 GTE, driven at the finish by Alexander Sims, finished seventh in class, 45 seconds behind Westbrook. The sister No. 24 car ended the race 27 laps out of the class lead after an earlier trip behind the wall for repairs.

Turner Surprises With GTD Win

On a weekend that focused primarily on championship hopefuls Paul Miller Racing and Meyer Shank Racing, Turner Motorsport’s BMW M6 GT3 reached the GTD lead in the closing hour to take the class victory.

The opening hour belonged to pole sitter Jack Hawksworth and his No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3. Proving that GTD is as competitive as any other class, a different car led the race at the end of each hour.

An earlier fuel issue that dropped Montaplast by Land-Motorsport’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 down the GTD running order didn’t keep it from leading the fifth hour. However, a 60-second stop-and-hold penalty for taking work in a closed pit that went unserved led to a further drive-through penalty. When driver Sheldon van der Linde finally acquiesced to series officials, the Audi’s day was done.

Markus Palttala wins GTD with Turner Motorsport at Watkins Glen six hours
Turner Motorsport qualified 13th but finished first in GTD. | Photo: Jake Galstad / IMSA

Land’s misfortune was Turner’s gain, with Markus Palttala’s pass of Alvaro Parente in the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 for second putting him in position to claim the class lead with 12 minutes to go.

Palttala held off Parente over the final laps to take the checkered flag with a 1.295-second advantage, relegating the Acura to a second-place finish.

Bryan Sellers brought Paul Miller’s Lamborghini Huracan GT3 to the finish in third after running strong for six hours with a two-driver lineup in the sweltering heat. Pole winner Hawksworth, behind the wheel of his Lexus at the six-hour mark, finished fourth ahead of Jeroen Bleekemolen in the Riley Mercedes-AMG.

Next up for all three classes of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix, scheduled for July 8 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

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