Podium of Thoughts on 2018 Six Hours of The Glen
1. A Scorcher: We're not talking about the action on the track (more on that later). We're talking about the temperatures.
Though it never got into the triple digits -- some forecasts predicted a high of 102 -- it came darn close. And the heat index hovered around 107.
When considering the weather, IMSA's schedule is laid out pretty nicely. The two Florida races are in the winter. Laguna Seca and Atlanta occur when autumn comes. Of course, Long Beach is in April. The northern tracks take the summer dates. The longest events are when the temperatures are potentially just right.
The only two anomalies are VIR in August, where it can get excruciatingly hot. And Mid-Ohio the first weekend in May which can always be a gamble that early in spring in Ohio, especially this year when winter seemingly refused to let go of April. (Of course, when IMSA was with Indy car in August, it made more sense from a weather perspective.)
However, despite what Southerners may think, it can get mighty hot up north in the summer. There have certainly been some hot events at Watkins Glen, Mosport, Lime Rock, and Road America. The difference, though, is while most events are 2:40 long, the Glen is six hours. It's one thing to run a few hours with maybe double stints, then it is to run six hours with potentially triple stints.
Back in 1986 when this event was 500 miles in length on July 2, a heat wave hit. It was so hot, that by the midpoint an ambulance was virtually running nonstop between the medical center and pit lane picking up drivers and crew members overcome from the heat.
After that, they changed the event to 500 kilometers and moved it to the first weekend in June. However, over time the race went back to its traditional six hours format and close to the 4th of July (though it ran a few years in August which could be even worse).
Nowadays, you really can't move the date. Detroit owns the beginning of the month, and with the need to leave the week before and after Le Mans open, you're pretty much stuck with this date. And no way do we want to see the event shortened.
This isn't a criticism, but an observation. Maybe these type of heat waves, which usually hit later in July and August, are rare enough not to worry about it too much. When they do, you learn to deal with it.
With modern day cool suits and some GT cars now having air conditioning, it is more bearable for drivers, though they still felt the effects. The workers and fans, however, struggled at times.
As Dirk Muller said, "Welcome to Sauna Day."
2. The Perfect Marriage: Last year was the first year of the DPi and LMP2 classifications and IMSA's attempt to equalize them. It took all the way till the Watkins Glen event before that effort finally worked when an LMP2 car would have won had it not been for lapped traffic enabling a Cadillac DPi to make the pass for the win.
This year, it has been even harder to get the two types of cars to be competitive with each other. It's gotten to the point where some have suggested it's time to give up and split the two classes. [For the record, we are in that camp, but not so much because the effort was failing, but because we want to see the DPi cars opened up and run at their full potential.]
However, once again, BoP and Watkins Glen were the perfect marriage. The two classes were very equal, as LMP2 cars from two different manufacturers swept the front row and Oreca took 1-2 after six hours. During the race, different LMP2 and DPi cars took turns leading the race. Only the Mazda (again!) was way off pace.
Ditto for GTLM (as long as you don't ask BMW). Many times, even with long green flag running, the top six -- the Ford GT pair, Corvette pair, and Porsche pair -- were all running nose to tail flying around the track with positions changing on the track and in the pits.
Other than having better BoP, this showed why Le Mans was such a dud. IMSA's rules are not as restrictive in terms of pit stops and stint lengths, so strategy still played a role. While at Le Mans, once someone got a gap, unless there was reliability issues, that gap was never going to go away. Fans had no idea who was going to win throughout the race at Watkins Glen in any of the classes.
This made the race a scorcher as well as the weather.
3. It's All About The Money: This is always the refrain when it comes to racing. And for Katherine Legge, she may see a potential championship disappear simply because of money. The lack thereof.
Meyer Shank Racing was only planning on doing the NAEC rounds and perhaps a few other events. Detroit was a last minute decision. With excellent results, including a second at Watkins Glen after an epic battle with eventual winner Turner Motorsports and third place finisher Paul Miller Racing, Shank's main driver, Legge, finds herself one point out of first place behind the Miller drivers, Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow. Because of that, they have managed to find enough money to go to Mosport.
But that's it. For now. Legge has no idea if she will be able to continue to fight for the title. They will run the Petit Le Mans, but missing just one race, never mind potentially four (Lime Rock, Road America, VIR, and Laguna Seca) will end her chances.
One has to wonder which is more stressful -- fighting for a championship or fighting to make the grid? Whichever it is, Legge has approached this year with calm and determination, which has earned her a slew of podiums and victory in Detroit.
What that translates to, only money will answer.
Lobotomy of the Race Award: It took us awhile and multiple video viewings to decide who to give this to. We decided Tristan Vautier of the #90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac DPi should have the "honor."
We believe he set off the chain reaction in the Esses on the first lap which essentially eliminated the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi team. The incident potentially could have eliminated half the field!
How many times do we have to say it? Why do drivers keep thinking the first lap means anything in an endurance race? Especially a six-freaking-hour endurance race. CORE autosport gave up their pole position because they wanted to strategically change up their driver order. They knew the result at the end of the first lap meant absolutely nothing.
Vautier, however, came to the starting grid lobotomized.
Special Mention: The workers. To stand out in the corners or in the pits or dressed in fire gear all day in that heat was amazing. The volunteer race workers are the real heroes in motorsports.
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