IMSA Sports Cars at Watkins Glen
WeatherTech Championship: Chevrolet DPs finish 1-2; Ford GTLMs 1-2
At Watkins Glen this weekend it was the Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen, the third round in the North American Endurance Cup (with the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta the fourth and final round). After the race had run most of its six-hour duration the result was far from obvious. With less than two hours to go, the Tequila Patron Ligier-Honda, which had won both of the two previous endurance rounds, dropped out with apparent engine problems. About the same time, Marc Goosens, spun out of the lead in his Chevrolet Daytona Prototype and retired.
The final cycle of pit stops set the finishing order. The Christian Fittipaldi/Joāo Barbosa Action Express DP emerged in the lead over the Dane Cameron/Eric Curran sister car. Meanwhile the No. 70 Mazda fell out of contention and the No. 55 sister car, which had been contesting the lead for most of the race, collided with a GTLM car and later retired.
In the end it was the Fittipaldi/Barbosa DP winning by a seven-tenths of a second margin over the Cameron/Curran DP, having completed 197 laps over the six-hour duration. The other two cars to finish on the lead lap were the John Pew/Olivier Pla/Oswald Negri Ligier-Honda and the Chevy DP of Max Angelelli and the Taylor brothers.
In the GTLM class, Richard Westbrook qualified the No. 67 Ford GT first in class but Dirk Werner was nearly as quick in the No. 25 BMW M6. At the early hours of the race, the GTLM lead was shared among Ford, BMW and Ferrari, but after the flurry of full-course yellows in the closing minutes, the Ryan Briscoe/Westbrook Ford had a slim lead over the Bill Auberlin/Werner BMW. The other Ford (Joey Hand/Dirk Müller) had dropped back several positions after sustaining a pit road penalty, but as the clock ticked down, Auberlin fell back a bit from Westbrook – while Hand, now up into third place, was reeling him in. With about 15 minutes to go, Hand caught Auberlin and battled him for position, squeezing past to take over second. The IMSA radio announcer went ballistic declaring that Hand must be penalized for going off the racing surface to make the pass. Afterwards, Hand said that Auberlin (a former teammate at BMW) had squeezed him over but, despite that, he was convinced that he had not gone too far over the rumble strips. That's the way I saw it from the trackside TV screen. In the end, despite the announcer/erstwhile race official's ad hoc ruling of a penalty, the real race officials took no action and the Hand/Müller Ford GT was scored in second place behind the winning Westbrook/Briscoe Ford GT, with Auberlin's BMW in third. The Corvettes had not been quite so competitive this weekend but the Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner Corvette pulled off a fourth place finish.
Given that this was the third win in a row for the Ford GT (IMSA Laguna Seca, WEC Le Mans. IMSA Watkins Glen), in this era of BoP (Balance of Performance) the Corvette fans were loudly crying "foul" claiming that Fords had unfairly gained a BoP advantage which accounted for their sudden dominance. Ironically, despite all the complaining, Chevrolet still leads the GTLM points standings with Porsche second and Ford third.
The next round of the IMSA Weathertech Championship is at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park on July 10th.
Continental Championship: Porsche Cayman GT4 dominant over Multimatic Mustang
If race fans are claiming that the Fords have an unfair BoP advantage in the GTLM class, it has to be the reverse in the CS class of the Continental Tire Championship. The Glen race was won by the recently-introduced Porsche Cayman GT4 with another two similar cars finishing second and third behind. Indeed it was the third race in a row won by one of these Porsche Caymans.
On Friday Toronto's Scott Maxwell (Mustang Shelby GT350R) won a qualifying duel on a drying track with Winnipeg's Danny Burkett (Porsche GT4) by a 0.084 margin.
At the start of the race, Maxwell had the lead but before long he was being run down by the Burkett/Miller Porsche. By the one-hour mark of the 2.5-hour race, the Porsche had an 11-second lead over the Mustang. Maxwell was able to hang on to second place but, when the car pitted to change over to the other driver Billy Johnson, the crew was unable to change the left front tire and after losing time trying, they sent him back out on a bad tire, now down several places. Fortunately for them they were able to take advantage of a caution and come in and fight the tire off the car. Johnson came back out well back sixth but still on the lead lap and able to make up time behind the pace car – then when the green came out he was able to charge back up to fourth.
But there was no denying the three Porsches ahead of him. The Miller/Burkett car had the lead but, with just a few laps to go, Miller encountered a very slow Mini taking an unorthodox line in the esses and he had to brake hard. This kerfuffle cost him two places, leaving it to the other two Porsches to battle for the lead. The No. 12 Cassels/Hindman Porsche passed the McQuarrie /Bechtolsheimer Porsche for the win. BTW, Cassels is from Coldstream, BC.
Next week Maxwell is at CTMP (aka Mosport), a track he knows well. It will be interesting to see how the big Multimatic Mustang fares against the rapid Porsche Caymans.
F1: Stunning last lap collision gives Hamilton the win in Austria
Once again it was Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on the front row for this week's Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring in Austria and once again we had the two crashing into each other.
The big action came on the final lap. Rosberg had held the lead over Hamilton for a long time but going into the closing laps, Hamilton was closing down on Rosberg – and on the final lap he caught and passed him on the outside going into turn two. But Rosberg must have been unable to slow the car or to turn more into the corner to avoid his teammate – and he slammed into the side of the other car. Hamilton was able to keep going seemingly undamaged while Rosberg's front wing off was knocked off and it lodged under his car. With this impediment he had to limp back around to the finish but Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) passed him to qualify for the other two podium places. When Hamilton took the podium he was booed by the Germanic crowd but, in fairness, there was no place to lay the blame for this crash but in Rosberg's lap.
Hamilton is still second in championship points to Rosberg but now the gap has been reduced by 20 points to an 11-point margin.
Obviously this is yet another on-track confrontation between the two Mercedes teammates – the third in five races – and people are starting to talk about team orders. It would be facile to suggest that the Mercedes team management should simply say "enough" and decree that the driver now leading in the points be allowed to win the championship unmolested. It seems highly unlikely that anything of the sort will happen.
At about one-third distance Vettel, (Ferrari) who was leading at the time by virtue of having not yet pitted for fresh tires, had a rear tire explode spectacularly, ending his race. Verstappen had another remarkably good finish with his second-place finish.
The next round is the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, which will run next Sunday, July 10th
NASCAR Sprint Cup: Keselowski wins at Daytona
Races at the two restrictor-plate tracks – Daytona and Talladega – are pretty much just high-speed drafting parades interspersed with wrecks – with at least one "big one' before the end of the race.
This year's July race at Daytona followed that pattern. Although there were only three incidents which bought out the yellow, the first one, which came on lap 91 of the 160-lap race was the big one. Jamie McMurray who was running up against the wall came down suddenly and tangled with Jimmie Johnson, setting off a wreck which involved 22 of the 40 cars in the race.
Brad Keselowski had been able to run up near the front for most of the race and by now he was pretty much in command. He took the lead for the last time on lap145. There were two more wrecks and cautions in the final 15 laps but Brad K was able to hold onto first place through both restarts. The final one came on lap 159, and with help from his teammate Joey Logano he shot out into a comfortable lead. Logano was not so fortunate, he was passed by the Busch brothers and Trevor Bayne on the final lap. Kurt Busch shot sideways out of the field making the finishing order Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Trevor Bayne and Logano.
This win by Keselowski was his first win at Daytona, giving him a total of five restrictor-plate wins. It also marked the 100th NASCAR Cup win for Penske Racing which is celebrating its fiftieth year in competition.
Tony Stewart had avoided the big crash earlier but he spun on his own bringing out the second-last caution. Despite being able to continue and having to settle for 29th place he gained enough points over the others in that area of the points table that he was able to move up into 30th place. He will have to maintain a 30th place or better position in the standings if he is to be able to use his race win to qualify for a position in the late season chase for the championship – but, for now, he's good
The next round of the Sprint Cup is next weekend, July 9th at Kentucky Speedway.
NASCAR Xfinity Series: Almirola celebrates his "first" Xfinity win.
Aric Almirola was an driver trying to break into the NASCAR ranks in 2007 when he was asked to start the Milwaukee Xfinity (aka Busch) series race in Denny Hamlin's car. Hamlin was also running in a Sprint Cup race that weekend and he was delayed arriving in Milwaukee. Almirola agreed and he was able to put the car into the lead and that's where it was when Hamlin arrived. Almirola didn't want to hand over the car to Hamlin but he had to. Hamlin went on the win the race but according to NASCAR's rules, the driver who starts the race is credited with the win – so Almirola was the official winner. He refused to accept the trophy or stand on the podium and he has never considered that "win" to be his – clearly he still feels (unfairly) that he was robbed of the win by Hamlin.
So, when he won the Xfinity race at Daytona on Friday night, he considered it to be his "first" Xfinity win and he said the other win had an asterix beside it and it didn't count.
Almirola had actually started the race in 23rd place but by lap 87 of the 100 lap race he was in the lead briefly before David Ragan – who was driving the Joe Gibbs Toyota for Matt Tifft who was undergoing brain surgery that day – went to the front.
Ragan was leading Almirola when the caution flew on lap 98 producing an "overtime" finish. On the restart the two were lined up side by side but Almirola had the better start and pulled ahead of Ragan, pulling Justin Allgaier up into second place behind him. Almost as soon as they took the white flag, a big crash erupted behind the leaders but NASCAR held off displaying the yellow. But the crash was too big to ignore and the finally went yellow just as Allgaier, who was making a run on Almirola, was side-by-side with the other car.
It seemed like the finish was too close to call but NASCAR, in their wisdom, declared Almirola the winner – his "first" Xfinity win.
The next round of the Xfinity Series is next weekend, July 8th at Kentucky Speedway. The Camping World Truck Series will also run at Kentucky next weekend, on Thursday, July 7th.
NASCAR Pinty's Series: Andrew Ranger's dominant win at ICAR
Andrew Ranger won the fourth round of the NASCAR Pinty's Series at the Circuit ICAR which is built on runways at the Mirabel airport. Alex Labbé out-qualified Ranger for the pole but Ranger took the lead on the second lap and never relinquished it. He took the checker 0.883 seconds ahead of Labbé. Kevin Lacroix was third, DJ Kennington fourth and Elie Arseneau, fifth.
Cayden Lapcevich, who came into this race leading in points, finished in eighth and dropped to second place in the points standings behind Ranger (162 points to Ranger's 168). Alex Labbé, who had won the third round of the series at Autodrome Chaudiere, is now third in the championship standings with 161 points.
The next race in this series is the Pinty's Grand Prix which is running Saturday, July 16th, as part of the Honda Indy weekend at Exhibition Place in Toronto.