WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., July 1 – Porsche placed two cars in the top-ten of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series today at Watkins Glen International. The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen has long been a bastion of Porsche success – including a victory in the 2011 running – but the German marque was only able to place two of it’s seven entries into the top-ten at the conclusion of the this year’s event. The No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup finished sixth, the highest of the rear-engined machines, after leading late in the race. Horton Autosport’s No. 73 911 GT3 Cup took tenth. As a result of today’s race, the iconic automotive brand did hold onto three of the top-five positions in GRAND-AM’s inaugural North American Endurance Championship (NAEC). Brumos Racing rolled the dice at the end of the race playing fuel strategy pitting nine laps earlier than the other GT class leaders. The plan moved the famous No. 59 to the front of the GT class pack but it was on borrowed time knowing the Jacksonville, Fla.-headquartered team needed one more stop to make the checkered flag. Leh Keen (Charleston, S.C.) took the bit in his teeth when the green flag fell with 38-minutes remaining in the six-hour race to attempt to put a large enough gap on the rest of the field that another yellow might allow them to stop and stay close enough to challenge in the end. The yellow never came and the Keen pitted the car for fuel from the lead with 30-minutes remaining. The Brumos machine Keen shares with Andrew Davis (Bogart, Ga.) fell to seventh and would finish sixth.
“We had a good car – we were basically the fastest Porsche in the field all weekend,” said Keen. “Brumos was the fastest Porsche in the race and also the best-finishing Porsche. Today we just didn’t quite nail it on strategy and that cost us some track position at the end of the race, but the team did a great job. The pit stops were awesome and the car was fast. We were quick throughout the entire race and led a lot, but this time it just didn’t work out,” he said.
“Heading back to the site of our first victory last year we were very excited, this is a great event and a great track for Brumos Racing,” said Andrew Davis. “In the 6 Hour race you just have to survive. We knew we weren’t the quickest out there, but we are one of the better teams, so we just played our strategy and stayed out of trouble. It looked like things were coming to us, we led a lot of laps and were in contention, but we needed a yellow at the end and it went green a little bit early, so basically, it just wasn’t in the cards this time. Our pit stops today were just phenomenal, some of the best I’ve seen from the team. We gained all sorts of spots when we came in and out of the pits and that was great, but luck just wasn’t on our side this time,” he said.
Joining the No. 59 as one of the three remaining Porsches at the end of the race was the No. 73 Horton Autosport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. The team is making a name for itself in GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series racing as the “little team that could”. Joining full-season drivers Eric Foss (Dallas) and Patrick Lindsey (Santa Barbara, Calif.) this weekend was Ryan Eversley (Winder, Ga.). The operation missed two of the six practice sessions but stayed focused on the task bringing the red-and-white Porsche home tenth narrowly missing ninth after a dramatic late-race battle. Only a spin off-track and into the gravel with one-hour and 30-minutes to go ended the car’s charge for a top-five.
TRG entered the Six Hours of The Glen with three cars, high expectations and multiple event wins here under its belt. However, the Kevin Buckler-owned operation would return to California disappointed and with two of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars on the flatbed tow-truck.
The No. 64 TRG Porsche driven by open-wheel and sports car veteran Eliseo Salazar (Chile), Eduardo Costabal (Columbia) and Santiago Orjuela (Columbia) soldiered home as sole TRG Porsche to take the checkered flag. The all-South American entry ran a consistent race to lead the three-car TRG operation in the final running order, 13th.
“We didn’t come into this weekend expecting to be TRG’s top-placing team, but due to some misfortune of the other guys, it turned out that way,” said Salazar about the day’s effort. “We simply concentrated on everyone running decent times, sharing the load and weren’t really thinking about a top-ten. And now it’s on to Indy. We’ve gone from 19th at Daytona to 13th here and will try for a top-ten at Indy. Of all the places I’ve ever raced, that is my favorite track. It has fond memories – a front row start in the [Indianapolis] “500”, a third-place finish – and I’m hoping the road course creates a few more good memories.”
Within minutes of one-another, two of TRGs cars went from serious contenders to DNFs. First the No. 66 Forgeline Porsche of Damien Faulkner (Ireland), Ben Keating (Victoria, Texas) and Bryan Sellers (Braselton, Ga.) was involved in an on-track incident followed by a broken axle on the No. 67.
The No. 66, which had run as high as second in class, was caught in an accident on a restart when the cars in front of Keating slowed bunching the pack behind. Keating made hard contact first with the No. 42 Mazda and then with the walls on both sides of the track. He was uninjured. The No. 66 placed 19th in the final GT standings.
“I was concentrating on getting a good restart and the when the field checked up in front of me, I tried to miss it (No. 42 Mazda) and wasn’t able to,” recounted Keating of the incident that took the No. 66 from the running. “My left-front hit his right-rear and that stated things in motion. Neither hit [wall contact with right side of the car first, followed by left side as Keating crossed the track] was a hard one fortunately. I feel real bad the car was damaged as much as it was.”
The No. 67 shared by Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler (Germany), Spencer Pumpelly (Atlanta) and Al Carter (Greenville, Del.) followed its sister-car out of the running with less than one-hour and 20-minutes remaining. The Adobe Road Winery No. 67 came to stop under a caution period. Henzler reported an axle failure and pulled the car of course to take 16th for the day.
“I went into the turn and heard a noise and then just came to a stop all of a sudden,” revealed Henzler. “The car was running well up until then. I was able to keep it on the lead lap and we were just hoping for a little good luck to come our way at the end. Instead we got bad luck.”
Pumpelly continued the thoughts on the No. 67: “It was unfortunate that we had the axle break. We were driving hard and working our way gradually up through the pack. After last week’s crash, we really could have used a little more time to get the car ready, but the car was running pretty good up until that point. We were getting all out of it that we could, but it was tough trying to gain on some of those other manufacturers.”
The No. 17 Burtin Racing with Goldcrest Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup had set the fastest time in qualifying but fell out of the race with one hour remaining. Martin Ragginger (Austria) was in the car he shares with owner/driver Claudio Burtin (Cartersville, Ga.) when he spun on course. A small fire smoldering under the hood of the car would end the effort’s day when Ragginger and safety crews extinguished it. The No. 17 would finish 17th.
Magnus Racing entered its No. 44 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup primed for an attack. They hired Porsche factory driver Patrick Long (Belleair, Fla.) to join regular Andy Lally (Newport, N.Y.) and owner/driver John Potter (Salt Lake City, Utah) and had the lead in the NAEC. It was not to be as an electrical fire in the cockpit forced Potter to pull the car off-track 30-minutes into the race. The No. 44 would finish 21st in the GT field.
“It’s definitely disappointing to put in such an effort and have it literally go up in flames 20 minutes in, but this is racing,” said Potter. “This was a big hit to the championship, so we’ll just focus on race wins and really trying to put on a good show for the rest of the season.”
Porsche continued to hold three of the top-five positions in the North American Endurance Championship. GRAND-AM’s championship-within-championship awards team’s in the three longest Rolex Series races: the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and the three-hour Brickyard Gran Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A maximum of 20 points – ten each at the race’s midpoint and conclusion based on running position at that time – is possible at each event.
The Porsche of Magnus Racing entered the Six Hours in the lead by virtue of its Rolex 24 victory in January. Despite not reaching the race’s midpoint, the Salt Lake City-based team held onto second-place, five points behind the Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. Brumos Racing fell from second to third, six points behind, while TRG is third, eight points off the Camaro. Any of these teams could win the championship as a result of a solid finish in the Brickyard Grand Prix on July 27.
GRAND-AM’s first appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the end of the month is the next round of the championship. The Brickyard Grand Prix will be run in conjunction with NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 weekend but on “The Speedway’s” infield road course rather than the famous 2.5-mile oval. The GRAND-AM event will be Porsche’s first race at Indy since the international Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup ran there with Formula One from 2000-2006.