It was a great day of racing here at Watkins Glen, with practice sessions and qualifying (partial anyway) for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the two-hour Michelin Pilot Challenge race, in which the pair of Turner Motorsport M4 GT4’s delivered a 1-2 finish.
The weather has been threatening here all weekend, but for the most part it hasn’t been as bad as predicted a few days ago. Friday was dry all day and Saturday was dry for the first half of the day, but weather was a major factor on Saturday afternoon, as WeatherTech qualifying for the GTP cars was canceled due to heavy rain and the Michelin Pilot Challenge race was delayed 45 minutes due to lightning in the area.
Once the Michelin race got underway, the Turner Motorsport M4 GT4s were in the mix after qualifying in fifth (#95) and eleventh (#96), thanks to great driving and good strategy, as the race had multiple caution periods. Robby Foley got into the lead in the #96 car that he shares with Vin Barletta in the second half of the race and held it through three caution periods in the final 30 minutes. He was followed by Cameron Lawrence in the #95 car that he shares with Robert Megennis. “It was a crazy race,” Foley said after the race. “Vin did a great job just to survive when it was very wet and get us to the middle of the race. We made some changes, anticipating this kind of weather with kind of a wet setup, and the car was really good. Great day for the team, awesome to have another 1-2, and we’ll try to keep the momentum going.”
The win was the second 1-2 finish of the season after the two cars finished in the same order at Sebring, and amazingly, it was Turner’s third straight Michelin Pilot Challenge win at Watkins Glen. “We love this place,” Foley said. “The track has always been good to us, in GTD (Grand Touring Daytona in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship) and in GS. You could say ‘horses for courses,’ and the BMWs are really good here.” The #43 Stephen Cameron Racing M4 GT4 of Sean Quinlan and Greg Liefooghe didn’t finish.
In WeatherTech qualifying, the GTD Pro and GTD class cars were able to get out on a dry track with rain clouds looming in the distance. In GTD Pro, Bill Auberlen qualified the #95 Turner Motorsport M4 GT3 in seventh, with the pole going to Daniel Serra in the #61 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3. In GTD, Madison Snow qualified the #1 Paul Miller Racing M4 GT3 in fourth, while Patrick Gallagher qualified the #96 Turner Motorsport car in ninth. The GTD pole went to the #78 Forte Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
Just after the LMP3 and LMP2 prototype class went out for qualifying, the skies opened up and rain poured down, causing a pileup of three cars that all ran into each other when they slid off the track in turn seven. The resulting cleanup and continued bad weather led to the cancelation of GTP qualifying, so the grid positions in GTP will be based on points, with the #24 M Hybrid V8 of Connor De Phillippi and Nick Yelloly starting in fifth and the #25 car of Augusto Farfus and Philipp Eng starting in seventh. It was a disappointment for BMW Team RLL, who had proven to be very fast in the morning practice sessions, clocking the second and third fastest times.
The Six Hours of The Glen gets underway at 10:40 a.m. Sunday morning and once again weather is expected to play a major role with a high probability of rain forecasted throughout the day.—David Haueter
[Photos by David Haueter]