Joe Jennings, Grand-Am Correspondent
Joao Barbosa and Darren Law powered into the lead minutes before the checkered flag dropped to win the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International on a very hot Sunday afternoon. Catching leader Alex Gurney in traffic on the 172nd lap, Barbosa dove underneath him in turn 7 to take the lead and gain the eventual victory.
Barbosa and Law scored their second Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series victory of the year for the Action Express Racing Corvette DP team. They led 33 of the 182 laps around the picturesque 3.4-mile road course.
I just pushing and pushing as hard as I could, and I used traffic to my advantage...
In winning, Barbosa and Law took the lead in the battle for the new North American Endurance Championship, a contest that will be settled at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway later this month. Barbosa and Law lead Starworks Motorsport drivers Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio by two points. The latter two finished third today.
“Our Corvette was awesome, and it was a very competitive car the team gave me,” Barbosa stated. “The car was good the whole six hours, and it was still good at the end.”
Regarding the winning pass, Barbosa said, “I just pushing and pushing as hard as I could, and I used traffic to my advantage, which was enough to get me close enough to make a move for the lead. That was as close as I had gotten to the No. 99, and I just had to go for it. It is such a competitive series, and you have to take advantage of every opportunity.”
Added Law, “We had a great run, and we have the team to thank for that. From the first session (practice), we knew we had a fast car and that we would be competitive this weekend. But we have had a pretty good car most weekends, so it is good to be back up here. We have had a lot of tough breaks. And I want to thank Alex (Gurney) for racing us clean. I know everyone is driving hard, and I think the championship is still open. There are several races to go, and we are looking forward to pushing ahead.”
Second place went to Jon Fogarty and co-driver Gurney in the GAINSCO/Auto Insurance Corvette DP.
When the car experienced power-steering problems midway through the race, the team de-tuned the unit, which helped minimized an overheating issue that pertained to it. Dropping back in the standings while repairs were being made, Fogarty and Gurney fought back and regained the lead, opening up 15-second advantages at times. However, three caution flags in the late-going wiped out their margin.
Even though the team missed out on the victory, they were pleased as they have had to endure a season filled with a succession of problems.
“We are happy to be back up here,” Fogarty said. “We have worked hard all year, but we have had a lot of things not go our way. Obviously, we came up a little bit short but after the season we have had, it is a step in the right direction. It was a pretty exciting race and pretty exciting at the end. All in all we had a pretty good day. You have to be almost perfect to win one of these things, and we were for the most part.”
Gurney noted, “We are disappointed not to win, as our car was obviously capable. We were in good shape most of the day and had worked our way to the front. Other than the problem with the power steering, everything went well. At the end, I caught a GT (car) in the worst place on the track for me. Joao (Barbosa) made a good run and got by me.”
The Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley team with Sebastien Bourdais, Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio earned third place, leading 24 laps with Dalziel driving. They were competitive throughout and the presence of Bourdais made them even more competitive.
Bourdais said, “It was my first time with Starworks and the first time at the Glen, and I had a very nice weekend. These guys are crazy and I had a lot of fun. I fit right in with this team, and it was good racing. To come out of here with a podium finish was great.”
“We weren’t sure what to expect today,” Dalziel said. “It is always difficult preparing for a six-hour race, and we just came up a bit short. But Sebastien (Bourdais) really helped us out a lot.”
Potolicchio wasn’t as enthusiastic, “We just don’t have the right package to be competitive.”
Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas bounced back after losing a lap to finish fourth. They were in the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley. Pruett started from the pole and led twice for 43 laps, but their race went awry when they had to replace a radiator, losing a lap in the process. During that stop, they also botched a tire change, which was uncharacteristic of them.
Regardless, Pruett and Rojas rebounded and caught the leaders, but couldn’t advance beyond fourth place at the end.
Fifth place went to the Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP team of Antonio Garcia, Richard Westbrook and Oliver Gavin.
In GT action, Robin Liddell and John Edwards pushed their Stevenson Motorsports Camaro to victory, finishing with a half of gallon of fuel to spare. It was the first win of the season for them, and the 11th overall for the Stevenson team.
“It was a pretty rough race, and this is our best track,” Liddell said. “Our car was strong and it had good balance. We had two blowouts on Friday and we made some adjustments, so to keep the tires under us. I did the opening bit and raced with Jordan (Taylor), who got a jump on me. Unfortunately on a restart, we got a stop-and-go penalty, which I thought was unfortunate, as I had seen a wreck going on. I was pretty hacked off about that, but we did manage to fight our way back up there.”
Said Edwards, who had to overcome a broken air conditioner in his helmet, “It was a tough race run in brutal heat. I did three fuel runs, and it was the first time I have seen a Grand-Am race go 2 hours and 15 minutes without a caution, which made it tough physically. We brought the car in with the lead and we knew we were going to be close on fuel, but Robin (Liddell) brought it home with half a gallon of fuel left.”
The Stevenson team leads the GT class in NAEC points.
Trailing the pair were the BMW of Bill Auberlen, Paul Dalla Lana and Billy Johnson and the AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 of Emil Assentato, Jeff Segal and Anthony Lazzaro.
Six caution flags slowed the race for 25 laps.
In the DP point standings, Rojas and Pruett lead with 233 points with Dalziel and Potolicchio second with 230. Law trails the leaders by seven.
On the GT side, Segal and Assentato retained the lead with a third-place finish with Liddell 16 behind them..
The Rolex Series races next at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27.