Mazda and Team Joest are IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship winners at last after executing a nearly flawless six-hour race at Watkins Glen International that ensured their breakthrough victory was part of a sweep of the top podium positions.
- Results: 2019 Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen
The advantage of a start from the pole position for the No. 77 Mazda RT24-P grew when Team Penske noticed and swapped out a cut tire on the pre-race grid for its No. 6 Acura ARX-05, which qualified second.
Suddenly starting first and third with its strongest competition beginning the quarter-day race from the pit lane, Mazda was set up well to make the third Michelin Endurance Cup race of 2019 the site of its first WeatherTech Championship win in prototype competition. Furthermore, Cameron and the No. 6 Acura were forced to drive through pit lane during green-flag running to offset the fuel saved by skipping the formation laps.
Pure speed and calculated strategy enabled Cameron and co-driver Juan Pablo Montoya to reassert the championship-contending No. 6 Acura into race contention before too long. A final full-course caution period just before the final hour aligned the strategies for both Mazda DPis and Montoya’s Acura, which assumed the race lead for its first time when Mazda kept its cars on track before finally pitting under the yellow.
Piloted by Harry Tincknell and Oliver Jarvis at the end, the Nos. 55 and 77 Mazdas remained close behind Montoya in the early moments of the sixth hour. Just under 15 minutes in, Tincknell boldly outbraked Montoya into Turn 8, forcing both cars outside track limits, a penalty for which was avoided.
Tincknell and the No. 55 emerged with the race lead but not totally unscathed with contact during the maneuver resulting in rear wing damage. With its speed and drivability in question, Mazda called the car to pit lane for its final stop before the sister car for service that included fresh Michelin rubber and fuel but not a new wing assembly.
Montoya and Jarvis were separated by mere inches when they entered pit lane for their final time. Jarvis and the No. 77 returned to the track before the Acura but in the second position with Tincknell and the wounded No. 55 Mazda back in control.
Jarvis faced minimal attack from Montoya in the concluding 20 minutes while Tincknell nursed his prototype around the 3.4-mile Watkins Glen circuit. Settling for safe championship points, Montoya soon backed off and let the Mazdas settle top honors between themselves.
Positions stayed the same and Tincknell led Jarvis to the checkered flag by 0.353 seconds, prompting celebration from Mazda Team Joest, finally a race-winning program. Full-season driver Jonathan Bomarito plus endurance addition Olivier Pla kept the No. 55 in contention during their stints and are co-winners.
Jarvis plus Tristan Nunez and Timo Bernhard fell short of translating their start from pole into a race win but remained up front in the most successful race yet for the brand they represent.
Montoya crossed the start/finish line 11.783 seconds after the victorious Mazda in third, bringing the No. 6 Acura’s season-long points total to 177 — one more than the Whelen-branded No. 31 Cadillac DPi-V.R, which previously led the DPi standings for Action Express Racing.
Felipe Nasr finished three laps down to the leaders in seventh driving that No. 31 Cadillac DPi after a tire puncture early on sent Nasr into the sister No. 5 car and off the track, contributing to a sixth-place result for the Mustang Sampling entry.
Between Montoya in third and Mike Conway of the No. 5 in sixth, Renger van der Zande and Helio Castroneves completed the top five for Wayne Taylor Racing and Penske. Van der Zande and Jordan Taylor ensured the No. 10 Konica Minolta car was the top Cadillac while Castroneves kept the No. 7 Acura within 40 seconds of the win despite tangling with an LMP2 car at Turn 1 in the race’s second half.
CORE autosport’s Ligier Nissan DPi retired from the race when Colin Braun stopped off track with the car’s door open. Imperfect races for the Cadillacs of Juncos Racing and JDC-Miller Motorsports, including multiple heavy incidents for the Nos. 84 and 85 of the latter team, kept them well separated from the DPi frontrunners.
PR1 Wins LMP2 by 20 Laps
Starting driver Gabriel Aubry plus Matthew McMurry and Eric Lux are scored 10th out of 36 on the overall results, beating two DPis on their way to coming out on top in the two-car LMP2 division.
Completing just 10 fewer laps than the top DPi cars, the No. 52 ORECA 07 of the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports team won its second race of 2019, following their Mid-Ohio victory with a second relatively simple finish up front.
Performance Tech Motorsports’ ORECA stopped on track to bring out the last yellow late in the event and ended up 30th overall.
The Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is next for all four WeatherTech Championship classes. The trip north of the border to Bowmanville, Ontario will be made by the paddock in the next few days in the championship’s first instance of consecutive race weekends in 2019.