On Sunday afternoon, the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen broke Wayne Taylor Racing’s stranglehold on Victory Lane. Action Express Racing’s Joao Barbosa took the lead away from JDC/Miller MotorSports’ Stephen Simpson in lapped traffic with 10 minutes remaining. The South African racer continued to haunt Barbosa in the closing laps, but simply could not get back to the Cadillac DPi-V.R. Barbosa held on to take the first overall victory of the year for Action Express Racing.
Afterwards, Barbosa indicated that he had a lot of fun on Sunday.
““It was pretty exciting from inside the car!,” Barbosa said during the post-race press conference. “[Stephen] Simpson was able to overtake me on the [final] restart and it took a bit for my tires to come up to temperature there at the end. But I knew if traffic could play a role in the race, I could take advantage of it. Coming into the last corner, [Simpson] had to check-up on a GT car so I got to pull a little bit of a move into turn 1. He gave me just enough room to go around, it was really a fun race. We raced really, really hard. The mentality going into every race is to get the win. We keep believing it. And now we can turn the page for the remaining half of the season and we’ll be able to be really competitive from now on.”
Simpson didn’t want to make excuses after the race.
“I simply caught traffic at the wrong time,” Simpson told Frontstretch in the paddock. “I really wanted to put this No. 85 JDC/MillerMotorSports car in Victory Lane for these guys. Fortunately, we only have seven days to wait to try again.”
The official margin of victory was 1.183 seconds for Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque over the No. 85 of Simpson, Misha Goikhberg and team co-owner Chris Miller. Mazda Motorsports’ No. 55 for Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez and Spencer Pigot finished third in class, eight seconds back. PR1/Mathaisen Motorsports’ Ligier for José Gutierrez and Olivier Pla was fourth, while Visit Florida Racing’s Marc Goossens and Renger van der Zande were fifth, two laps off the pace.
Indeed, Wayne Taylor Racing was not a factor at all. Contact in the very first turn of the race with Pla broke a steering part on the No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R. Ricky Taylor nursed the car back to the pits and the team took five laps to fix the car. Taylor ended up resuming at the back of the field, six laps down (Taylor’s first lap did not count because he skipped the Boot). A trouble-free race from there and a couple of wavearounds resulted in the Taylor brothers finishing three laps down in sixth.
Early on in the race, the class of the field was Tequila Patron ESM’s No. 2 Nissan DPi. Pipo Derani led from the start with Pla giving chase. Pla was able to get past for the lead 24 minutes in, but proceeded to lose the advantage back to Derani during the first round of pit stops. The No. 2 was still the class of the field with team owner Scott Sharp driving until Sharp was hit by the SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes of Boris Said.
Sharp was able to drive back to the pits for repairs. However, the time to repair the car, plus a couple of penalties that stemmed from the pit work put Sharp out of contention. The No. 2 Nissan DPi would eventually retire in the final hour with throttle issues.
Sharp’s issues put the No. 5 of Fittipaldi in the overall lead. From there, the race was looking to be a battle between the two Action Express Racing entries. However, the No. 31 of Eric Curran had a wheel nearly come off after a pit stop. A stay in the garage firmly took the Whelen team out of contention.
The second half of the race saw constant shuffling between the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac, the No. 22 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi, JDC/MillerMotorsports and the No. 55 Mazda.
In Prototype Challenge, Performance Tech Motorsports dominated once again, but it was not easy. On the first lap of the race, James French was overtaken by Gustavo Yacaman for the class lead. In the Esses, Yacaman had to avoid the stricken No. 10 Cadillac of Taylor and nearly spun out. French had to stomp on his brakes (he later described this as “threshold braking”) to avoid what he thought was a crash for sure. Not only did Yacaman not crash, but the lost momentum dropped French to the rear of the class.
It took a mere 25 minutes for French to get the class lead back. From there on, the team would only relinquish the advantage once during a round of pit stops.
Early on in the race, a wheel nut came off of the No. 38, resulting in some damage to the left rear corner of the car. Later in the race, the air jack broke on the car while Patricio O’Ward was in the car. As a result, Kyle Masson had to do his first stint in the car on old tires. A manual hand jack was located to allow the team to change tires afterwards.
French, Masson and O’Ward took the victory by three laps over BAR1 Motorsports’ No. 20 for Danny Burkett, Buddy Rice and Don Yount. It is the fifth victory in a row for Performance Tech Motorsports to start the season.
GT Le Mans was nothing short of a dogfight. With two hours to go, all eight cars in the class were nose-to-tail with Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin leading in the No. 4 Corvette. Then, the problems started. Dirk Werner attacked the curbs too hard in the Inner Loop and spun into the SAFER Barrier. Werner ended up cutting a tire, limping to the pits, then stalling and losing a lap. Werner and Patrick Pilet would eventually finish seventh in class.
The race ultimately came down to pit strategy. BMW Team RLL chose to pit their No. 25 for Alexander Sims with 63 minutes to go for fuel. This was a very dicey strategy as basically no car can go that far on fuel. However, the No. 86 GTD-class Acura of Jeff Segal stopped on course to cause a yellow with 37 minutes to go that allowed Sims to save fuel. That allowed the team to make to the finish.
Sims was able to hold off Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Richard Westbrook for the win. It is Sims’ first career IMSA win, the first win for the BMW M6 GTLM, and the first win for BMW Team RLL since 2015. For Sims’ teammate Bill Auberlen, it is his 56th career win in a career that dates back to the 1980s.
Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe ended up 4.4 seconds back in second, followed by the Corvette Racing No. 3 for Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen. The No. 66 Ford of Joey Hand and Dirk Müller was fourth and the No. 4 Corvette of Gavin and Tommy Milner was fifth.
In GTD, Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Andy Lally believed that perfection was necessary to win on Sunday.
“It is going to take another perfect race,” Lally told Frontstretch during the pre-race Fan Walk. “We had a perfect race at Detroit where the strategy was right [and] the drivers didn’t make any mistakes. When we go green…I’ve got to be mistake-free, Kat’s gotta be mistake-free, then I’ve got to be mistake-free when I get back in it.”
That is effectively what happened on Sunday. Lally led GTD early on with no issues before handing over to Legge. During Legge’s stint, the No. 86 Acura came to the front with Segal and Oswaldo Negri Jr. driving. The No. 86 pulled out to as much as a ten-second lead. Once Lally got back in the car, he was able to reel Segal back in and make the pass with just over an hour to go.
On the final run of the race, Lally had to hold off a pack of drivers led by Scuderia Corsa’s Alessandro Balzan. Such a scenario brought back memories of both last year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen and Detroit to Lally. However, Lally was able to hold off Balzan’s Ferrari to claim the second win in a row for himself and Legge.
Balzan, Matteo Cressoni and Christina Nielsen were second, followed by Turner Motorsport’s Jens Klingmann and Justin Marks. WeatherTech Racing’s No. 50 Mercedes for Gunnar Jeannette, Cooper MacNeil and Shane van Gisbergen were fourth, while 3GT Racing’s No. 15 Lexus for Robert Alon, Camping World Truck Series regular Austin Cindric and Jack Hawksworth was fifth.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is back in action next weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Ontario. The Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix will be Sunday, Jul. 9 at Noon. The race will air live on FOX Sports 1.