Podium of Thoughts on 2019 Six Hours of The Glen
1. Finally: Finally, Mazda wins. Finally.
This is a lesson in persistence. When DPi started, they tried to run with a small engine they were straining to the breaking point with a team that was not quite ready to move up from the GT level to the prototypes.
Instead of throwing in the towel, Mazda doubled down, hiring the mighty Joest outfit to turn things around and bring the winning tradition they created at Audi to Mazda.
The turnaround wasn't easy. They had to redesign the chassis with Multimatic. AER had to revamp the engine to last. They had to initiate new processes and execution to cut down on human errors.
Initially, reliability issues still plagued them. Silly mistakes like not putting on wheels correctly during pit stops still haunted them. Even driver errors occasionally brought them down.
Slowly the speed started getting there. Even slower, the reliability followed. It looked like it was finally going to happen at Laguna Seca last year. But a boneheaded mistake trying to pass a lapped car driven by someone who everyone knows is capable of taking you out if you are within three miles, ended their hopes.
Perhaps all that history makes it even more surprising this maiden win occurred in a six hour race. They were fast at the Glen, like last year. It was just a matter of which hour the Mazdas would fail. Or, so everyone thought.
An hour went by. Two. Three. Four. Five. They were still running strong. Then came the sixth hour, and it almost unravelled. Bad timing on a full course yellow caused pit stop timing to put the Acura in front with always difficult to pass Juan Pablo Montoya in it.
On top of that, Harry Tincknell was in the Mazda, he the aforementioned driver who failed to pass the lapped car at Laguna Seca. He was just as aggressive this time, but was able to (barely) safely make the pass on Montoya.
But it couldn't be that easy. Suddenly, the right rear engine cover started coming loose, causing the engine to start overheating and losing power.
Granted, there was another Mazda in second, but at this point, a 1-2 would be a perfect curse buster. Team orders told the drivers to hold station and nurse the cars home. They did.
What was once the laughingstock of the DPi paddock was laughing in victory lane. Finally.
2. Racing's Wicked Fortunes: Everybody who participates in racing knows the old adage -- racing gives you the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. The lows outnumber highs, but the few highs overcome all the lows.
Ben Keating has experienced that in the month of June to the extreme.
The owner/driver experienced what he initially thought was the high of all highs -- winning Le Mans in the GTE-Am class in the only privately run Ford GT. Keating himself put in a stellar drive near the end to maintain the lead under great pressure. Only to have it cruelly taken away the next day because of .4 seconds and 100 milliliters.
Two weeks later, he comes to Watkins Glen with a Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GTD class. Keating himself starts the race. He didn't last four turns. Through no fault of his own, he had nowhere to go when cars began playing pinball through the esses, and he plowed into them. The front end damage was too much to fix even in six hours.
Keating needs a really, really huge high. Because he has a lot of really, really low lows to overcome.
3. DPi 2.0: More meetings took place the week leading up to the Six Hours on the next generation rules package for DPi. We won't go into the details nor discuss the merits of going to hybrid systems. Other sites have covered that in much greater detail than we can.
Instead, we will state the obvious -- IMSA absolutely, positively has to get this right. Not because IMSA or the class is in trouble (like LMP1 is for the WEC). Quite the contrary.
Though it can always be better, IMSA and DPi are pretty darn healthy right now. By a lot of measuring points, IMSA is on the rise. The reason they need to get this right is to maintain this momentum and grow even further. If they get DPi 2.0 right, there are even more manufacturers who could jump on board. And wouldn't that be great?!
Then, IMSA will have to worry about the next challenge down the road -- what to do with the next set of GT rules...
Lobotomy of the Race Award: Idiocy prevailed on the first lap. It's mind-mind-boggling that this keeps happening in an endurance race, especially one that lasts six hours.
We won't even bother naming names this time. Just look for those drivers (hint, hint, they drive for Corvette and Porsche) walking around the paddock lobotomized.
Special Mention: Sahlen's hot dogs.
Sahlen Packing Company out of Buffalo, N.Y. is celebrating 150 years in business. The family owned business is now on it's fifth generation, which is remarkable when you look at the history of family run businesses. They are most known for their hot dogs, though they provide other meats as well.
The family is also big time racing people, running cars in various series, and sponsoring all sorts of events. They have been the naming sponsor for the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen for quite awhile.
This year, they did something even more special. They provided their hot dogs at Watkins Glen for just one dollar. All weekend (last year, this special was only for Sunday). Was it really a good idea for a fan to diet on hot dogs all weekend long? Sure, as long as you downed it with beer all weekend long.
Also, a shout out to the weather. After last year's brutally hot day, this year's race day saw the most picture perfect temperate summer day you could ever have.
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