Ryan Dalziel in the Extreme Speed Prototype fastest in practice
Watkins Glen and sports car history have gone hand-in-hand since 1948, when the first post-World War II road race was held on the public roads of the village located in the New York Finger Lakes.
A new chapter will be written this weekend, with the debut of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at the 3.4-mile circuit in Sunday’s Sahlen Six Hours of The Glen. The unified series gives teams that formerly competed in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón their first opportunity to race at the circuit, joining the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series teams that competed here since 2000.
The race also takes its place in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, following the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida. The unique competition will conclude with the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta on Sunday, Oct. 4.
“Look at all the history here,” said Patrick Dempsey, who is driving a Porsche 911 GT America in the GT Daytona (GTD) class this weekend. “This is one of the key tracks that started the whole thing. You feel the history here. That’s really satisfying, and it motivates you to do better. If we’re lucky enough to make it to the podium on Sunday, we’re part of that history.”
Dempsey and co-drivers Andrew Davis and Joe Foster will be coached for this season’s classic endurance races by Hurley Haywood. The leading winner at The Glen with nine victories, Haywood’s first career race was the 1969 Six Hours, when he won his class in a Porsche 911 co-driven by Peter Gregg. He also joined Gregg in winning the first IMSA race at The Glen in 1972.
“I love this place and it’s like home for me,” said Haywood, who retired from driving in 2012. “I love the balance of the track and I love the people here. I’ve stayed at the same hotel – in the same room – since my first visit here in 1969.”
This will be the 33rd major six-hour race at the circuit, dating back from FIA World Manufacturers Championship events from 1968 through 1981. While the circuit closed following the latter event due to financial problems, Corning Inc. and the International Speedway Corporation partnered to bring racing back to The Glen in 1984. The reopening event was a six-hour race. GRAND-AM revived the six-hour tradition with the first Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in 2000.
Friday’s practice was the first official TUDOR Championship session at The Glen for both the open-cockpit LMP2 prototypes and GT Le Mans (GTLM) teams that formerly competed in the ALMS. The newcomers quickly took to the historic circuit.
Ryan Dalziel (in photo) ran the fastest lap in opening practice for Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen in the No. 1 Tequila Patrón Honda prototype, running a lap of one minute, 39.918 seconds (122.500 mph).
While Dalziel and Extreme Speed Motorsports co-driver Scott Sharp have plenty of winning experience at The Glen, second-generation British driver Alex Brundle was second fastest in his first time driving at the circuit. The son of former Formula One and sports car driver Martin Brundle ran a lap of 1:40.457 (121.843 mph) in the No. 42 Morgan/Nissan fielded by French-based OAK Racing.
“We had a really good test here, so I’m not surprised that we rolled off the truck and went fastest in opening practice,” Dalziel said. “But you can’t read much into that. You can’t really tell the pace of everybody until we race. We’re quietly confident in our own program, and we think we can make the car quicker. It’s a good start to the weekend, but a long way to go.”
Another Glen newcomer, Andy Priaulx, led the GTLM session with a lap of 1:45.652 (115.852 mph) in a BMW Z4 GTE fielded by BMW Team RLL.
“I could tell driving into this place that it was a very special course,” said the British driver. “Like Imola, Monza and some of the other famous European circuits, you can tell it has plenty of history, and it really lives in this circuit.”
Saturday’s schedule includes TUDOR Championship qualifying beginning at 3:55 p.m. ET. Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours begins at 11:15 a.m., with live FOX Sports 1 coverage beginning at 11 a.m.
NASCAR Wire Service