Podium of Thoughts on 2021 Six Hours of The Glen
1. Three Seconds: As the leaders rounded the last turn at Watkins Glen, they had to wonder. Will they see the white flag? The flagger held the flag looking at the clock. And held it. And held it. And held it.
With the leading teams desperately saving fuel in the waning laps to extend the final stint without needing a splash and go, the pit crews and drivers held their breath as the cars came down the front straight. The flagger continued to hold the white flag.
Then, three seconds before they got to the line, the white flag waved. Those three seconds made all the difference in the finishing order.
That's because the top two DPi cars ran out of fuel on the cooldown lap, which would have been the final lap had the white flag been held for three more seconds. Which would have made the Wayne Taylor Racing Acura ARX-04 DPi driven by Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, and Alexander Rossi the winner.
Instead, they finished third. Because of those three seconds, the Mazda DPi driven by Oliver Jarvis, Harry Tincknell, and Jonathan Bomarito won their second Six Hours of the Glen in a row, as the 2020 edition was cancelled due to the pandemic.
They held off the other Acura of Meyer Shank Racing driven by Dane Cameron and Olivier Pla.
One can't say it was a well deserved win for Mazda like their victory two years ago. They were outpaced the entire weekend by practically the entire DPi field. Practice, qualifying, the race, they were essentially never in the game.
One can't say they won solely due to endurance racing strengths -- reliability, strategy, biding their time -- though there was some of that.
They won due to a bit of luck (the last full course yellow came out at just the right time), rolling the dice (not taking on tires in the final pit stop for track position), and having the other teams muck around during the safety car laps causing IMSA to waste a few more laps under FCY to sort things out which took away the need for a splash and go.
And most of all, they won on fuel mileage. It was still a mighty task to extend the final green flag period without needing a stop. The top two teams were both saving fuel while at the same time playing cat and mouse with each other to see who would blink first on pushing it too much or being too conservative. Or both. All the while dodging lapped traffic like a police chase video game.
A win is a win is a win. And Mazda will surely celebrate it just like they did two years ago. Thanks to three seconds out of six hours, allowing the white flag to come out to save them a lap they never would have finished.
2. Holiday Barbeque: It's fast approaching the 4th of July holiday time for America. And us Americans sure love to celebrate our summer holidays with barbeques. However, that doesn't mean race cars should join the conflagration.
It started just three laps into the race when WeatherTech Racing's GTLM Porsche 911 RSR - 19 started catching fire after a hit against the guardrail. Cooper MacNeil knew the damage needed to be checked out, but he apparently had no idea there was a fire.
He calmly entered pit lane, slowed it down to the speed limit, and then realized he had bigger problems than just some mechanical damage. As the flames began to engulf the car, he hit the onboard extinguisher button and quickly exited the car. Nearby crews, including the rival GTLM Corvette team, helped put the fire out.
Later, the Lamborghini Huracan GTD entry of GRT Grasser Racing Team spun in the last turn, hit the guardrail, came back across the track to wind up at the entry of pit lane. At that point, the car caught fire forcing Misha Goikhberg to repeat MacNeil's moves -- hit the onboard extinguisher button and quickly exit the car. Again, fellow pit crews helped put out the fire.
Barbeques are fun ... when celebrating a holiday while grilling some burgers and dogs. Not for race cars.
3. Perfect Timing: This seemed to be the theme of the race. For the GTD class, it was perfect timing -- by sheer luck -- by the Turner Motorsports BMW M6 GT3 to be in the pits just when the final full course yellow came out.
This meant they had track position over everybody who had to pit later after the field was gathered up. With a clear track ahead of him, Bill Auberlen easily pulled out a healthy lead to win along with his co-drivers, Robby Foley and Aidan Read.
With reliability so solid these days in endurance racing, results are coming down more and more to the luck and timing of full course yellows.
Lobotomy of the Race Award: Loic Duval, who was driving the JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi. The team pulled him in near the end of the final yellow for a quick top off in order to ensure finishing the race, hoping others would run out of fuel.
However, Duval blew through the red light signifying pit out was closed. Behind him, Kamui Kobayashi jammed on his brakes, noticing the light just in time.
For Duval, the lobotomized indiscretion caused him to serve a drive-through penalty, eventually causing him to get lapped, and obviously losing any chance at victory.
Special Mention: Doubleheader. With Canada continuing to lockdown their border to contain the pandemic, the Mosport round, which always follows Watkins Glen by a week, had to be cancelled for the second year in a row.
Ontario's loss was New York's gain. In it's place, IMSA decided to stay in the Finger Lakes region and run the two hour and 40 minute race at Watkins Glen. Which means a doubleheader at the famed track.
Even better, the race will run into the night, as it is slated to start at 6:10pm, which means car lights will be on without any overhead artificial lighting like at Daytona. Sports car night racing the way it's meant to be.
Oddly, due to an SCCA event already slated for the weekend, the race will be run Friday night, with practice and qualifying on Thursday. (Even more interesting, the current weather forecast has the race running mainly in the rain.)
Nothing like a doubleheader at a track which always produces great racing. And at night. And maybe in the rain.
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