Notes from the Watkins Glen IMSA race

Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen

I’ve been to the Watkins Glen race circuit many times, in all kinds of weather. Searing hot to serious cold and drenching rain. I survived the Bog. I love the place.

Particular enjoyment is had from the IMSA Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen weekend. However, a heat wave promised to bake everyone for part of Saturday with a potential 100˚ Sunday. Like many fans, whether to go at all was debatable due to the weather forecast. Judging by the empty camping spaces in the normally jammed camping area, many stayed home.

Of course I went. Just for Friday and until the heat came up to 95˚ on Saturday. I watched the race at home on TV in air conditioned comfort. Call me chicken. Call me Mildred. Everyone lived.

If you have not attended a race weekend beginning on Friday, you should. There is a very light crowd and the teams are very relaxed. The manufacturer promotions are walk-right-up-and-play ready. Lots of racing simulators.

Here then some notes and a few photos from the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen:


• Team principals appear everywhere on Fridays as IMSA driver and team official meetings occur. A Mazda owner and fan, I hung around their paddock stall before practice 2. Ralf Juttner of Audi fame (and now Mazda hope) came right by me. I was able to have a brief conversation with him about the Joest-Mazda hookup. He seemed pleased that an American fan knew who he was.

John Doonan came by, and I was able to chat with him about his Crossle 32F Formula Ford project. His eyes lit up, happy to talk about his car. Taking out his phone to show photos, he told me all about it. I had sold him some Crossle badges for his car and mentioned that I wasn’t going to sell him my 1/24th scale 32F model, one of just 48 made for Crossle. He showed me his custom 1/16th scale 32F model in his colors. Okay, so he has a few connections I don’t. A really nice guy and a real fan of the sport.

Reinhold Joest was out too. I did not approach him. What do you ask a legend?

reinhold joest of mazda. sahlen's six hours of the glen

More star-gazing

Helio Castro-Neves came blowing by on his scooter. Flashed him a quick thumbs up . He flashed that big smile. The Penske team easily had the nicest scooters. Lots of chrome.

mike hull, chp ganassi racing. sahlen's six hours of the glen Mike Conway relaxed in the shade, Dane Cameron hung out. Christian Fittipaldi and Castro-Neves posed for photos. Mike Hull contemplated (right), Danny Binks wrenched. Juan Montoya scowled. The fan-friendly IMSA paddocks have been the best for many, many years

The cars of the IMSA Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen weekend

• The Lamborghini Trofeo cars are spectacular. New cars this year look great and sound wonderful. I watched from the approach to the Bus Stop Chicane, where the cars are going fastest. All race cars should sound this good and go this fast.

• The Porsche GTLM cars still have the best engine wail by far. Corvette, Cadillac, AMG Mercedes and Lexus V8s tie for best ground-shaking ability. The new BMW M8 GTLM cars are only heard on downshift. The Ford GTs look great although they still sound crappy.

• The BMW M8s have massive radiators and intercoolers in the nose. They whup any Porsche 911 in this regard. See below.

More about the cars

• It’s said the DPi cars were doing 190 before the chicane. I believe it. The chicane is nothing more than two downshifts or a throttle lift for all IMSA cars. Four up-thumps over the curbs and one down-thump through the dip. Nose to tail. Wonderful.

• Note to Team Penske: the fans can’t see your LED position marker. The white bodywork makes it invisible except at night. Watkins was all daylight.

• As practice and qualifying progressed, the DPi cars were on the bottom side of timing. Seeing Core’s LMP2 #54 at the top of the scoring was incredible. The LMP2 teams got energized right there. The LMP2s finished 1-2, the Gainsco “Red Dragon” (top) winning by almost nothing from the #54 Core Autosport car. The Penske Acura was only third.

acura nsx street serial #0000 Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen• There were 4 Acura NSXs in GTD and one very pretty NSX street car in the paddock. The street car is super impressive in person. The red car on display had serial number 0000, right. It will be a red metal cube someday.

The teams of the IMSA Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen weekend

• Most teams have paddock space defined by huge canopies hung between two transporters. Chip Ganassi’s Ford GTLM Team had some glorified ez-ups and a very visible work area. It was the simplest and possibly the best. Everyone was out in the open, including the drivers. Thanks, Chip.

Team Penske Acura had the paddock and pit spaces closest to F1/WEC quality. Also, the best scooters. I said that already…

• Almost every race car has some form of vinyl wrap. Paint is now passé and heavy. The Shank Acura/Hart Acura GTDs and myriad Porsche Cup/Lambo Trofeo cars were downright arty. Colored and straight-up chrome are trending.

• I pressed one of the Mazda mechanics whether Mazda might stay with the Multimatic chassis. He was very positive about the chassis and the company.

Go see an IMSA race soon

The tracks are great, the manufacturer involvement is excellent.The drivers and teams are friendly. All of the cars are exciting in every class, including the support races. The Glen had the 3 Weathertech classes, 3 combined USA/Canada Porsche Cup races and a few Lamborghini Trofeo races. Also a 4-hour Continental race for all kinds of cars, including the new TCR category cars. All the classes are fast and identifiable by the crowd.

More good racing stuff here

A bunch of photos from the 2018 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen for your pleasure

See also the photos from last year’s race here.