IMSA: GM looks to build on its winning history in Sahlen’s Six Hours
By JJ O'Malley | RACER.com editor at large
Acura Team Penske has won the two most recent IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races entering Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. Now, it’s faced with stopping General Motors’ domination of the event, having won the endurance classic six times in the last seven years.
JDC-Miller Motorsports ended the GM streak last year, with Stephen Simpson, Chris Miller and Misha Goikhberg winning in the red No. 99 GAINSCO ORECA-Gibson LMP2. For 2019, the team returns with a pair of yellow Cadillac DPi-V.Rs. Simpson and Miller are paired with Simon Trummer in the No. 84, while Goikhberg shares the No. 85 with Tristan Vautier and Juan Piedrahita.
A year ago, Simpson passed two cars in the Esses to take the lead following a restart with 35 minutes remaining, and led the rest of the way for the team’s lone triumph of the season. In 2017, the three drivers finished second, 1.183s behind the winning No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque.
JDC/Miller ORECA leads en route to last year’s win. Image by Jake Galstad/LAT
“I ask myself if there’s something about Watkins Glen that just suits me, but I don’t think so,” Simpson said. “The last two years we’ve had a good car, the team made good calls that put us in good situations towards the end of the race, and I was relieved that last year I was able to make the move stick and get the job done, unlike the year before that.”
GM products took the overall victory at Watkins Glen International from the introduction of the third-generation Corvette Daytona Prototype in 2012, with the streak continuing through Action Express Racing’s winning debut of the Cadillac DPi-V.R in 2017.
Joining the two JDC-Miller Motorsports entries at The Glen will be Action Express with a pair of Cadillacs, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling entry for Barbosa, Albuquerque and Mike Conway, plus the No. 31 Whelen Engineering car for Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Eric Curran. Wayne Taylor Racing fields the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac for Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande, with Will Owen and Rene Binder driving the No. 50 Juncos Racing Cadillac.
Barbosa also takes a personal two-race winning streak to Watkins Glen. He joined Fittipaldi in winning the 2016 event in the Mustang Sampling Cadillac DP, but sat out last year’s race due to injuries sustained in a bicycle training incident.
“Last year I was really sad to miss out on this race, and I’m really looking forward to it this year,” said Barbosa, who also won the Six Hours in 2012 with Darren Law (pictured, top) and in 2013 with Fittipaldi, both times at the wheel of the No. 5 Corvette DP. “I think our Cadillac will be competitive. It has been a good place for me and it is such an awesome track. I don’t know how to describe it but it is just a favorite of mine. It has a great flow. There is the new pavement and that gives us even more grip, so that adds to our speed. it is an old school track in that it can be really unforgiving, but it is also a really rewarding lap for the drivers. There is still the whole second half of the season to go, and we just need to get some momentum going in the championship.”
A fifth victory for Barbosa would also break a tie with Scott Pruett for most overall victories in the history of the event.
Spirit of Daytona won the event in both 2014 and 2015 in it No. 90 Corvette DP, with Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante.
1968 Watkins Glen 6 Hours. Image by LAT archive
A storied history
This year will mark the 38th running of the Six Hours, which has run under a variety of sanctions since its debut 51 years ago.
The Six Hours ran as a World Championship for Makes event from 1968 through 1981 (with SCCA Trans-Am running concurrently in 1974 through 1980; IMSA Camel GT in 1984 with a split-six hour format; IMSA Exxon World Sports Car in 1996; Professional Sports Car Racing in 1997; and USRRC in 1998. Grand-Am brought back the event for its 2000 season finale, moved it to the spring in 2001 and ran it through 2013. The Six Hours then joined the merged IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2014. Sahlen’s has been sponsoring the race since 2003.
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