Battling leg cramps, Christian Fittipaldi kept the Action Express Racing Corvette SP in front for his and Joao Barbosa’s second consecutive Grand-Am Rolex Series win. Stevenson Motorsports won the GT class.
Watkins Glen, N. Y. – After six hours of excitement, the Action Express Racing Corvette DP team came home the victor in a race full of hard driving, ever-changing strategies, lead changes, spins and a brief shower. Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa were the driving stars for the accomplished team. The race marked the 32nd running of the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, the seventh race of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season. It was also the second event in the three-race series for the North American Endurance Championship.
As always, the race was run on the 3.4-mile road course at the iconic Watkins Glen International facility, and the largest crowd ever to watch the sports cars in action here. The crowd also had to brave the volatile weather that, at times, put a damper on the action but not the enthusiasm of the fans.
With Fittipaldi behind the wheel as the race wound down, the team had planned to change drivers but with the competition breathing down their necks, they left the Brazilian in the car, even though he was battling leg cramps.
Michael Valiante, driving the runner-up 8 Star Motorsports Corvette DP, closed the gap in the waning laps and while he gave it a valiant effort on the final lap, he came up .265 seconds short for the second closest finish at the Glen track.
His co-drivers were Stephane Sarazin and Enzo Potolicchio.
Winner Fittipaldi had to be assisted from the car and after sitting on the ground for a spell, medical personnel took him to the infield care center where he was medicated for dehydration.
The Action Express team took its second victory in a row and second consecutive at Watkins Glen. Barbosa won it a year ago with Darren Law the co-driver.
Said Barbosa, “It was a tough race; no six-hour race is ever easy. We had a little set-back when we fell back to third place, so we had to get back into contention. We did have a tremendous run at the end to get the car back into first place.” He also admitted that the team’s strategy focused on leading at the halfway mark, which it did.
Barbosa watched the finish from the pits, which he found to be un-nerving. “I said to myself, ‘I can’t watch this from the outside, as I am usually the one to finish the race.’ I counted the minutes down as we neared the finish line. I am very, very pleased with the outcome and our strategy played out just perfectly, although we made Christian suffer a bit.”
Said Fittipaldi from the medical center, “It’s a great feeling to win two in a row. Today, we didn’t have the quickest car, but the team did an outstanding job capitalizing on the opportunities and getting the checkered flag. Today was a great day toward the championship.”
Regarding the winning pass, he added, “I managed to get by Ryan Dalziel in the first corner and managed to pull a very decent gap.”
In winning, Action Express took the lead in the run for the North American Endurance Championship with the Chip Ganassi Racing team holding down second place.
Third place went to the Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley of Scott Mayer, Brendon Hartley and Pierre Kaffer.
Hard-luck teams were the Chip Ganassi Racing, the Wayne Taylor Racing and the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing organizations.
After moving up on the leaders, Scott Pruett pulled away from pits with the fuel hose still attached. A fuel spill and a penalty ensued, and the team dropped to seventh at the finish.
The Taylor team suffered a mechanical problem on the opening lap, losing six laps in the process, and then other misfortunes befell them. They ended up 10th in class.
The GAINSCO team fared worse, first going off the course with a mechanical break and then sliding off the course in the rain. The duo of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty ended up 12 laps behind, 14th place in class.
In the hotly contested GT class, the Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R of Robin Liddell and John Edwards finished four seconds ahead of the AIM Autosport Team FXDD with Ferrari driven by Emil Assentato, Leh Keen and Anthony Lazzaro.
The victory was the second straight for the driving duo and the 22nd win for Liddell and the eighth for Edwards. In winning, the Stevenson team took the point lead.
Said Edwards, “We are close in the championship, but would like to be closer. The six-hour is never an easy race in the dry, but due to conditions today, it was a handful. But I learned from yesterday’s race to take it conservatively. And today speaks how well this team can perform.”
Liddell added, “It was a tough race, even though it was my third victory here. You are seeing the GT class more competitive in this championship than it has ever been. One of the reasons we have been successful this year is that John and I are fairly experienced and professional drivers while some of the teams put guys in that are not as experienced. There were probably five or six cars that could have won this race, and the result we got is because everyone on this team played key parts.”
The GX victors were the Visit Florida Racing/Speedsource Mazda 6 GX of Joel Miller, Tristan Nunez and Yojiro Terada,