The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge visited legendary Watkins Glen International for the sixth 2.5-hour race of the 2014 season on June 26-28. Series points leaders John Edwards and Trent Hindman in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 saw their advantage in the standings slashed to a handful of points after a disastrous outing at Kansas Speedway three weeks ago. Their M3’s high-revving 4.0-liter V8 lost a cylinder on the pace lap of the race, and the team was unable to diagnose the problem, forcing Edwards and Hindman to limp around the track for the entire race. Their 16th place finish meant the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche drivers Matt Plumb and Nick Longhi gained significant ground on Hindman and Edwards. A good result for either team would be important if they were to contend for the championship.
Camaro Z/28.Rs run 1-2-3 into turn one at the start of the Continental Tire 150 at Watkins Glen. The No. 15 and No. 32 Mustang BOSS 302Rs are flanked by the No. 14 Nissan, the No. 46 BMW, and the No. 13 Porsche.
As with most tracks on the 2014 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge calendar, Watkins Glen International is steeped in history. Carved into the hills above the sleepy town of Watkins Glen, New York, “The Glen” is known worldwide as hosting the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix from 1961 to 1980. Racing at Watkins Glen originally started on public roads in and around Watkins Glen until the permanent race circuit was built in 1956 a few miles southwest of Watkins Glen.
While the track hosts NASCAR’s top series on a “short” version of the course, sports cars use the full 3.4-mile, eleven-turn layout that includes “the boot”—an extended portion of the track whose layout mimics a piece of footwear.
Series veteran and former champion Scott Maxwell climbs out of “the boot” at Watkins Glen during Friday morning’s practice session at Watkins Glen in the No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R.
After the second practice session, talk in the paddock returned to the speed of the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.Rs. Three of the seven-liter machines held the top three quickest practice times of the weekend. The No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R of Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis clocked a blistering time of 2:00.970 with the Camaros of Matt Bell/Andy Lally and Eric Curran/Lawson Aschenbach close behind. However, Jade Buford and Scott Maxwell were fourth quickest in their No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R.
In qualifying, Eric Curran took the pole position with a 2:00.749-second lap—the fastest of the weekend—in his No. 01 CKS Autosport Camaro Z/28.R. Andrew Davis completed the front row with the second-fastest time in his No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Z/28.R. Trent Hindman prevented a Camaro 1-2-3 by qualifying in the third spot in his No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3. Fourth on the grid were Matt Bell and the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro Z/28.R.
Fans check out the inner workings of the No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R shared by Jade Buford and Scott Maxwell during the pre-race fan walk at Watkins Glen International.
It was apparent that the Camaros could lay down a fast lap, but their 3500-pound minimum weight (nearly 200 lbs. more than everyone else) is hard on tires over the long run. Many teams hoped, including 2013 winners Fall-Line Motorsports, that they would be able to outrun the Camaros over the course of the race.
Weather on Saturday was great for fans and racers: temperatures around 80 degrees, and a low chance of rain. After the always-popular fan walk on pit lane, drivers donned their helmets and strapped in for the pace lap. With the field in formation, the flagger dropped the green flag and the field charged into turn one…well, most of them. It appears that Ian James in the No. 158 Multimatic Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R made an optimistic overtaking move at the start, starting a chain-reaction crash that involved John Farano (No. 41 Nissan) and Al Carter (No. 7 Porsche). The incident and an ST-class multi-car crash brought out the yellow caution flag for the six laps while the crews cleaned up the mess.
Top Row: Left: The No. 158 Multimatic Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R of Ian James and Billy Johnson powers out of turn nine at Watkins Glen. Note that the car is lifting the inside front wheel—typical of a car with soft springs and a strut front suspension under maximum acceleration. Right: The Racers Edge Motorsports team cars Nos. 79 and 78 round turn nine in formation. Teammates will often do so to learn from each others’ driving “lines” and to also draft down long straightaways. Bottom Row: Left: The No. 78 Racers Edge Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R of Lucas Bize and David Levine leads its teammate during the second practice session of the weekend. Right: Jade Buford, driving the No. 15 Multimatic Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R, leads Ian James in the team’s other entry during qualifying. Buford set the 6th quickest time in the session to start the race on the outside of the front row. Co-driver Scott Maxwell finished the race also in 6th.
At the restart, Andrew Davis (No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R) took the lead entering turn one, and Matt Bell in the No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R followed through into second position. Six laps later, Eric Curran drove his No. 01 Camaro around Bell to snatch second place.
A few laps later, the race’s second full-course caution came out while an ST-class was retrieved. Since fewer than the required for drivers to score points hadn’t elapsed, most teams didn’t pit. After the restart, Tim Bell took the lead in his No. 28 Tim Bell Racing Nissan 370Z only to lose it to Robin Liddel (No. 6 Camaro Z/28.R) three laps later.
Another caution came out, giving the drivers and teams an opportunity to pit. On lap 37 (38 minutes into the race), both Stevenson Motorsports Z/28.Rs ducked into pit lane to change drivers, get fresh tires, and take on a full load of VP Racing fuel. The move handed Andrew Acquilante and his No. 35 Phoenix American Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R the lead. But Acquilante’s time at the front lasted only for one lap, as the Phoenix American team called him into the pits for routine service a lap later.
A Phoenix American Motorsports technician downloads data from the No. 35 Mustang BOSS 302R.
On the race restart, there was a bit of drama between the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 of John Edwards and the No. 9 Camaro Z/28.R of Andy Lally. Edwards recalls, “Trent [Hindman] pitted in P3 after his stint, but our Fall-Line Motorsports crew was quicker on the tire change than the leading Camaros so we got out ahead. Some people had stayed out so we restarted around P7 or so, but the restart was pretty strange.”
“The leaders accelerated but had to check up because the safety car wasn’t off yet, so I had to lift just a bit before getting back on power. I thought my run was incredible and I was going to pass four cars on the front straight, but unfortunately Robin Liddell and Andy Lally behind me hadn’t needed a lift, so they both got by me while we all passed a handful of cars into T1. I pressured Lally through the lap and he was defending a lot, which ended up giving him a bad run off of T1. He defended to the inside but I had such a run that I got fully alongside him before turn in for the esses. He squeezed me up on to the curb and then squeezed me more, but I had nowhere left to go past the curb as he turned into me. Unfortunately, my car was a lot more damaged than his and we fell down the order, circulating around just to finish. One inch of toe out in the left will make the car pretty scary through T5!”
It wasn’t all roses for Lally, either. Lally’s No. 9 Stevenson Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R broke the header collector, resulting in hot exhaust blasting at the driver’s right foot. “That was the most pain I’ve ever experienced in a race – and it was for 90 minutes,” said Lally, who used his training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu to get through his stint. “I was thinking of every horrendous hold I’ve ever been through, and that helped me get through the pain.”
After everyone cycled thorough their pit stops, Robin Liddell and his No. 6 Z/28.R were again at the front, and held the lead to the checkered flag. It was the second win for he and co-driver Andrew Davis (Sebring being the other). BJ Zacharias and Brad Jaeger came in second in their No. 14 Doran Racing Nissan 370Z, and Matt Plumb and Nick Longhi in the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche rounded out the podium.
Kurt Rezzetano qualified the No. 32 Phoenix American Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R an impressive 5th place at Watkins Glen, the highest starting position for a Mustang.
The No. 32 Phoenix American Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R of Kurt Rezzetano and Andrew Aquilante finished 5th, the best showing for a Mustang at Watkins Glen.
The season standings couldn’t be any tighter at the top: Trent Hindman (No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW) and Matt Plumb (No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche) are tied for the points lead.
The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge heads north of the border to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (formerly Mosport) for the Mobile 1 Sportscar Grand Prix Presented by Hawk Performance July 10-12.
Ian James drafts Jade Buford in the Multimatic Motorsports No. 158 Mustang BOSS 302R during qualifying. James would start the race 11th, but finish dead last (58th) after crashing at the start/finish line.
Lucas Bize in the No. 78 Racers Edge Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R is leads the No. 07 Aston Martin, the No. 00 Camaro, and the No. 97 BMW through turn one.
Andrew Acquilante (who took over driving duties from Kurt Rezzetano) chases down the No. 14 Nissan while defending from the No. 28 Nissan during the reace’s mid-point. Rezzetano and Acquilante would go on to finish the race 5th, best of the Mustangs.
Rich Golinello and Nick Galante finished the race 20th, 29 laps down after starting the race 21st.
David Levine in the No. 78 Racers Edge Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R leads the No. 07 Aston Martin (stuck behind an ST-class BMW) through Watkins Glen’s “bus stop chicane” during the closing laps of the race. Levine and co-driver Bize would finish the race 16th after starting in the same position.
Preston Calvert and John Yarosz brought their No. 35 Phoenix American Motorsports Mustang BOSS 302R home 18th after starting the race 17th.