Cadillac to the fore… again
It was another great IMSA Sahlen’s 6 Hour race at Watkins Glen this past weekend. While the weather toyed with the competitors and spectators alike, being sunny and fine mixed with black clouds and a little rain, in the end the weather played nice. The main takeaway from the weekend was this: Wayne Taylor Racing’s Cadillac did not win, BMW led from the get-go and won, and the Acura NSX continues to show great pace (and won).
IMSA may finally have hit the sweet spot with Balance of Performance equality in the Prototype classes, the P2 cars leading at some point and all three finishing in the top 5, while the Cadillacs continued their domination– just. The WTR Caddy was taken off at the first corner, the Patron Nissan was on pole and were strong until misfortune hit both, the Whelen car lost a wheel right after a pitstop (but was towed in and got going laps behind) and the #55 Mazda was almost in the fight (finishing third) but never in with a chance at the win. The Mustang Ranch was the only healthy Caddy at the end, but still won. The P2 cars are coming on, fast. The Gibson V8 P2 engines sound great with an unexpectedly high scream. Fun fact: the P2/DPi cars reportedly hit 179mph at the speed trap.
All of the GTLM cars took a turn at the front during the race, but like last year, the BMWs were at the front the most, and took the win this time. The Ford GT of Briscoe/Westbrook was close at the finish, but were not dominant like last year. The Porsches and Corvettes made glorious noise (high-pitched for the 911s, gutteral rumble from the Vettes), but just couldn’t close the deal. The Fords still sound terrible.
GTD looked like an Acura NSX show from the off, the cars running 1-2 for quite a while. Only one would finish though, the car of Andy Lally and Katherine Legge nailing it. This car has showed more speed every race, and has now taken two races in a row. The car has shown greater speed in the Pirelli World Challenge as well, and all look like solid contenders now. The Lexus cars are near the front as well, so look for a possible win before the end of the season.
But for my money, the most fun races of the weekend were in the Lamborghini Trofeo races. The cars are super quick, and make wonderful sounds while at speed, with great downshift noises. Pippa Mann was guesting in this race and Richard Antinucci (former British Formula 3 driver) took a win in race one. Watching the cars at the speed trap was a treat, screaming past and then braking/downshifting loudly a few times into the chicane.
The Porsche Cup support races featured pretty strung-out racing, with an almighty crash scene taking out 10 cars in race one in the esses. Fortunately, the only damage for the most part was to the cars.
New for this year are P3 cars in the new Prototype Challenge class (as opposed to the Oreca Prototype Challenge cars in their last year). Combined with the Mazda Prototype Lites cars (in their last year of competition), the P3 cars look like 7/8th scale P2 cars. The cockpits are really narrow and seem claustrophobic. The Nissan V8s in all P3 cars sound like Corvette V8s. Next year should see many more P3s; two were delivered at the race, and a few more were just not ready
to race, but present.
I paid a trip to the International Motor Racing Research Center in the town of Watkins Glen. Fantastic collection of books and magazines for reference use, some very nice model cars, and a McLaren M23 in the center of it all. I had on a Mazda racing shirt, with pix of both of last year’s cars on it. A gentleman comes up to me and says “My son drives that car”, pointing to the #55 car. He was Spencer Pigot’s dad. A wonderful conversation ensued about the Mazda effort, both agreeing that a bigger engine might help things. But his comment about the car having terrible aero (from the Riley/Multimatic side of things) was interesting. I wonder if his tune changed after the car finished third, just 10.5 seconds back at the finish.
For the second year, the Fourth of July weekend brought out many patriotic decorations on the cars. I would say paint schemes, but all are now wraps of some kind. See the gallery below.
The 2018 Sahlen’s race here