With the nineth race of the Grand American ROLEX season about to take place at the fabled Watkins Glen road racing circuit in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York State, Tommy Riggins has stunned the prototypes again! With eight races ...
With the nineth race of the Grand American ROLEX season about to take place at the fabled Watkins Glen road racing circuit in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York State, Tommy Riggins has stunned the prototypes again! With eight races behind, the Heritage Motorsports no.48 GTS Mustang team is definitely on a roll, having collected today, its second straight overall pole. Let's make this clear... in front of seven (7) new Daytona Prototypes, with 27 entries total, Tommy Riggins glided the blue Mustang to a best lap of 123.798 mph and 1':11.245". The next highest GT or GTS car finalized in the sixth start spot.
Tommy Riggins knows this track fairly well, having raced here in 1984, the first year it was re-opened following an idle interlude, being the site of the very first United States Formula One Grand Prix. The team of Riggins, Scott Lagasse and Dave Machavern won the "6 Hours of the Glen" in June this year. Only Riggins and Machavern will team for this "sprint" event, 250 miles set to start at 6PM eastern tomorrow night (Friday - rain or shine), in a Watkins weekend shared with the Winston Cup regulars.
Qualifying occurred in two cycles today. First the GT and GTS category cars took to the track, at about 4:15PM. These two similar classes thrashed for about 15 minutes and then the new Daytona Prototypes took their turn, alone. Riggins finished a full 1.5 seconds ahead of the next fastest GT car, in this case the 05 Corvette GTS. Riggins, sitting on the interview podium in the media center, watched as the prototypes inched toward the mark he had set, the track announcer constantly prodding for his thoughts. In the final moments of the DP qualifying session, at about 4:45PM, the Brumos Porsch/Fabcar prototype driven by Mike Borkowski, appeared to be the only car capable of knocking Riggins down a notch. But, it was not to be. Borkowski's best time fell almost a quarter of a second short of the guantlet cast by Riggins.
In those final moments Riggins said he didn't think his pole would hold against the prototypes, however, he appeared as pleased as a kid with a new bike when it did.
The road-course for tomorrow's race is a shortened circuit, having the "boot" removed from the course layout. This makes the modified track only 2.45 miles per lap, with 11 turns, known as the "short" course here at Watkins. Compare that to the longer course with the "boot" added, a 3.4 mile course as raced in June for the 6 Hours. This weekend's layout is "faster" without the boot portion. The no.48 Mustant likes this layout!
The media is all over the Heritage team, wanting to know what Riggins and Machavern have to say about hopes for an overall WIN against the prototypes. (Remember, Heritage Motorsports finished 2nd overall at the last race in Daytona.) The team principals are steady, however, in downplaying hopes of an overall victory. This is the first race in which new fuel capacity rules come into play, the GTS and GT cars being given smaller fuel tanks than the prototypes. Still, yellow flag/caution periods "could", on an outside chance, happen at just the right time(s) to put the no.48 Mustang in a victory position.
Machavern and Riggins continue to interview prospective prototype chassis builders and work with sponsorship prospects toward a Daytona Prototype entry for the Heritage team in 2004. One such lenghty builder meeting occurred at the track after qualifying today. The championship is not yet in hand, but dominating the way the team has, and being in the lead of all three aspects of the points race does make it easy to imagine a championship possibility.
As this writing is closing, the final practice sesssion of the day has been flagged to an end and rain has started to fall, first on the back stretch, and then heavily on the entire course. The day, however, was hot and gorgeous. Forecasts for tomorrow's weather are ominous, not boding well for the Heritage Motorsports Mustang team, being a front-engined and rear-wheel-drive layout. If it rains, the rear-engined cars will have an edge.
Look for our report on the race either very late on Friday night or early Saturday, as the race will end just as the sun is to set Friday, 8 August.