Just five days after winning the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen with the #55 Mazda RT24-P, Multimatic Motorsports was back competing in the WeatherTech 240 at the same classic venue, travel restrictions preventing the previously scheduled annual trip to Canada for the IMSA teams. The event, which turned out to be a classic “race of two halves” saw Mazda start from fifth position and finish in fifth position, but it was by no means as simple as those results suggest.
The forecasted heavy rain arrived at Watkins Glen ahead of the single practice session before the race, so despite having perfected their set-ups for the Six Hours just a few days earlier, the teams had to hit the reset button to develop cars for wet running. Harry Tincknell took the wheel for Qualifying and was looking strong for a top spot until he went wide in the Boot, picking-up a piece of advertising board at the exit, which obstructed the cooling systems on the car and required the team to immediately abort the run.On a rapidly drying track the fast times came on the final lap, while the Mazda sat stationary, ultimately relegating Tincknell to fifth spot on the grid.
When the two hour, 40 minute race got underway, the DPi pack aggressively jockeyed for position down into the Glen’s famous Turn 1 where the #60 and #01 cars tangled and Tincknell saw his opportunity, carving trough the ensuing mayhem using the momentum to additionally get past the #31 and make a run at the leading #10 Acura of Ricky Taylor.The #55 then set a series of fastest laps which resulted in an epic dogfight between the two aggressive competitors at the front of the pack.
The two protagonists pitted for the first time on the same lap, 36 minutes into the race, and other than a driver change from Taylor to Albuquerque, the picture stayed the same with the #55 Mazda hot on the tail of the #10 Acura, mirroring the Championship standings.Ten minutes after the stop, Tincknell made a bold move in traffic and finally got past the #10, immediately pulling out a sizable gap. Pipo Derani was now leading the race in the #31 Cadillac after making his first stop earlier in the race but when he pitted ten laps later, Tincknell finally took the lead. But trouble was coming in the form of threatening black clouds looming above the circuit.
“I was really annoyed with myself after Qualifying,” said Tincknell. “I just clipped an advertising board on the exit of a corner, which got wrapped around the car and I couldn’t hear the team on the radio telling me to stop to get it off. Without that I think we should have been at least second. I was very motivated to make it up to the team and going from fifth to second at the first corner was just what the doctor ordered. I kept the pressure up on the leader right through the stint. It was tricky to overtake and I was trying to save as much fuel as I could and also use the traffic to my advantage, whilst dealing with some firm but fair defending from Taylor and then Albuquerque. I managed to make a move on the #10 around the outside into Turn 1. I got a good run along the straight, Albuquerque defended to the inside and I braked late and went through. It felt good to do that and I was able to pull away and really show the speed in the car, helped of course by the Multimatic DSSV dampers over the kerbs.”
Just before the one-hour mark, a Full Course Yellow was deployed to facilitate the retrieval of a car stranded at the Inner Loop.It looked likely to benefit the teams that had stopped early but that advantage became questionable when the clouds fully unleashed their payload and the race went red bringing all the cars down the pit lane to line-up behind the leading #55 Mazda.The weather finally blew through and race control restarted proceedings behind the pace car with the clock having run for the entire stoppage.
With just 50 minutes left in the race, and still under the full course yellow, the pits were opened and the entire DPi field headed to their boxes for full service, with Oliver Jarvis taking over from Tincknell, the team gambling that the weather would hold and installing a new set of slicks on the #55 despite the track still remaining quite damp.The Mazda exited the pits in third place, as the #5 and #31 had already completed two pit stops, only needing a splash of fuel and no need for a tyre change, advantage swinging to the alternative strategy again as everybody opted for slicks despite the damp conditions. Jarvis now had the job of getting his tyres up to temperature on a greasy track; unfortunately a slight touch of the kerb at Turn 8 was all it took to spin the Mazda around and drop it back to fifth place before the restart.
The race went green with 36 minutes to go and Jarvis immediately moved up to fourth, ahead of the Ganassi car, before another short yellow was thrown for debris to be removed from the track.The final green came with just 28 minutes of racing left and Jarvis made a strong move on the #10 for third place but as he got off the line to get by he was pushed down to fifth. He then dropped to sixth by a hard charging Dane Cameron in the #60 MSR car but just a few minutes before the chequered flag he took the place back and crossed the line in fifth.
“Harry drove great opening stints and everything was looking good until the rain arrived,” said Jarvis. “With the red flag I eventually got in the car with slick tyres on a half-wet, half-dry track. Early on the car was very difficult to drive as I struggled to get temperature into the tyres. As the track dried the car came alive and despite passing the #60 car and closing in on the #5 on the final lap we had to settle for P5 which is really disappointing as we had a fantastic car in the dry.”
Larry Holt, Executive Vice President – Multimatic Special Vehicle Operations, said: “That was a very difficult race and although we adapted well, everything came down to the difficult situation of racing on slicks in damp conditions towards the end. The first half of the race was all our way and Harry put on a strong display of the Mazda’s performance capability from the front, which forced a couple of the teams to try an alternative strategy to beat us, which considering what happened was really risky, if the yellow, and then red, had come a couple of laps earlier they would have been toast. As it was, the #31 won by rolling that dice. Harry’s average pace was the fastest of all the cars on track during his stint and had it stayed green there was no doubt we were in for the win. But once we all opted for slicks after the red it was going to be fraught, the Cadillacs have an outstanding traction control system and it was a small glitch with ours that caused Oliver to spin behind the pace car. He made a couple of very strong attempts at getting by the #10, having to go well off the drying line which ultimately set him up to get picked-off by the guys behind. He clawed back P5 from the #60 five minutes from the end, and given another lap or two he would have had the #5. So we are leaving The Glen disappointed, but confident in the performance of the car, drivers and crew, still holding second place in the drivers and team championship and looking forward to another of our favourite tracks in Elkhart Lake.”
After an intense 10 days, the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar DPi teams have some respite before this incredible championship battle resumes at Road America on 8 August