The #55 Mazda RT24-P has won the 2021 Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen with a combination of outstanding team work and inspired driving. Harry Tincknell crossed the line just under a second ahead of a hard charging Olivier Pla in the #60 MSR car to take the first win of the 2021 season for Mazda Motorsports and the second consecutive victory for Mazda at Watkins Glen, the scene of the RT24-P’s breakthrough race in 2019. This victory also falls on Mazda’s celebration of the 30th anniversary of its 24 Hours of Le Mans win in 1991, with the #55 Mazda 787B.
This race was a battle fought on and off the track, which required every single member of the team to bring their A game – from Tincknell and his team mates, Oliver Jarvis and Jonathan Bomarito, to the technicians who prepared the car and performed flawless pit stops, and the strategists and engineers who crunched the numbers and made it all work in the last hour.
When the team rolled out for the first practice session they knew that they had a tough weekend ahead encountering both set-up and engine related challenges, but after methodically working through the issues the Mazda came good in Sunday’s morning warm-up, setting the fastest lap and garnering strong positive feedback from both Bomarito and Tincknell. A precautionary overnight engine change before the race meant that although Jarvis had qualified the car in sixth place, he would have to start from the back of the class.
The six-hour race got off to a stuttered start when a Full Course Yellow was thrown after just a few minutes of running. When the race finally went green Jarvis cleared the #5 Cadillac that had initially held him up with a decisive move in traffic and set off after the pack. The team then settled into a good rhythm, consecutively knocking off the competition during the pit stop cycles, first the #48 Cadillac while Jarvis was at the wheel, followed by the #31 Cadillac of Pipo Derani during Tincknell’s first stints in the car, augmented by a strong pass by the Englishman on Kevin Magnussen’s #01 Cadillac in head to head racing.
Bomarito followed, taking over in second place after another impeccable effort by the Multimatic crew in the pit lane.He spent the first of his two strong stints chasing down the leading #60 Acura of his old teammate Olivier Pla before the effort was spoiled by another caution just before the three hour mark, when all the teams chasing the half distance Endurance Cup points short filled and shuffled the #55 back in the pack.With half the race still remaining the fightback was on. Jarvis took the wheel at the next stop, the Mazda once again jumping the #31 with a superior pit stop.By the time Tincknell climbed aboard, with two stints to go, the #55 was running third after two excellent stints by Jarvis and another smoking fast stop by the crew.
With just under an hour of the race remaining, Tincknell found himself chasing Magnussen for second place with Pla over 15 seconds up the road in the lead.And then, in an almost identical situation to Mid-Ohio earlier in the year, a major crash caused a Full Course Yellow only seven laps into the penultimate stint, some seven laps shy of being able to make the finish on a full fill.It was going to be all about the fuel economy once again, but this time Multimatic Motorsports was intent on controlling the race from the front, the only way of being able to take the win.An inspired call by race engineer Leena Gade to eschew taking tyres, other than a single front right for safety, allowed the extremely short fuel fill to be the only stop time limitation.Other competitors took left side tyres which although fast still took longer than the fuel and so as the pit lane filled with accelerating DPi cars, the #55 Mazda led the field back out on to the course followed closely by the #60 and the rest of the field. First objective fully accomplished.
With the cars circulating under yellow the number crunching started, balancing the fuel remaining in the tank and real time consumption against the time remaining, or more importantly the laps left in the race.Initial results appeared dire but as the yellow stayed out, while the safety teams cleaned up the track, and the race clock ticked down, the chances of making it to the end increased. With 37 minutes to go the race went green and Tincknell embarked on the fuel-saving drive of his life. Luckily the main protagonists were all in the same boat but the #55 controlled the pace, from both fuel consumption and the number of laps left in the race perspectives.As the race entered its last two laps, Pla started to pick-up the pace, having apparently “banked” some fuel, but the #55 team had done likewise and with a final look at the calculations Leena went on the radio and told Harry to pick it up just enough, while controlling the timing of the white flag, and then go flat out on the last lap to keep the #60 behind and take the win! The Mazda ran out of fuel on the cool-off lap, proving that the math had been right on the money.
Larry Holt, Executive Vice President – Multimatic Special Vehicle Operations, said: “Harry Tincknell was absolutely spectacular, best drive he’s ever given us in my opinion. He balanced his fuel consumption against pace to keep Olivier behind by two seconds for half an hour while also heeding our warnings of not breaking out enough to cause an extra lap at the end. It was an impeccable display of controlled driving, he was sailing past us into corner one with absolutely no throttle, only losing less than a second on his lap times. The white flag flew less than three seconds before we got to the line, four seconds earlier and we would have had to do two more laps, which we wouldn’t have made.
“The number crunching going on back in Toronto and on top of the box was incredible, with triple redundancy on everything we did, the data coming off the car was perfect and we made it home with Pla right on our gearbox. Michael Shank’s guys had banked some fuel, but so had we and it was a flat out last lap to the flag. We got out in front of the #60 and #01 with some great pit strategy and execution. In fact the boys over the wall were perfect all day; we made all but a couple of our passes during the pit stops. This was a race where every single member of this team made a significant contribution, along with the three best pedallers in the series. It was a pretty emotional moment when we crossed the line having had Mid-Ohio stolen from us in the same circumstances when we had a dominant car. Harry grabbed the winner’s decal and stuck it on the car next to our tribute to John Valerio, who we tragically lost a month ago, and the win was dedicated to JV on the spot. We now have less than five days to get ready for a sprint race here at Watkins Glen on Friday, it’s a busy week but the team is fully motivated to take another win at this awesome race track.”
This result means that Tincknell and Jarvis are closing in on the leaders in the drivers’ championship, while Mazda Motorsports is doing the same in the teams’ standings. They don’t have long to wait for the next opportunity to score points as the next race, the WeatherTech 240, takes place at Watkins Glen this Friday (2 July).
“The whole weekend was a fantastic team effort from Mazda and Multimatic. I think all three of us did the job in the car but, my gosh, the mechanics and the guys and girls on the stand were just incredible. To get me out in the lead with 40 minutes to go was the key moment. I knew it was going to be very tight and I wasn’t going to be able to go flat out all the way as we had to save fuel. I could see Oli (Pla) coming at the end but I had the call on the last lap to go flat out so I knew at that point that we would be okay. I ran out of fuel at Turn 7 on the slowing down lap, which just shows we had the perfect strategy and the perfect engineering from Multimatic to get us to the line.”
“It’s an amazing feeling to win here, not least because it’s one of my favourite tracks. We’re in the championship hunt and we’ve said all along that we need to take consistent podiums but we also want the wins. To do it in this fashion where we didn’t have the quickest car – we made some big changes as we went through the sessions and found the direction for the race and that really shows the strength of this team. We had to work harder this weekend than we ever have before to get a chance of the win. To get it the team had to execute perfectly and the drivers couldn’t afford any mistakes. This is a very special win. It’s my first in the #55 and a nice point in the championship to take a win like this.”
“I love sharing a car with these guys. They’re competitors, they’re warriors and they are flat out the whole time and that’s what it takes in this class in this series. It was a flat out race with some brilliant fuel-saving finesse at the end. I was listening on the radio up in the stand to all the math and calculations. I wish everyone could hear and experience it because it’s neat to hear the engineers crunching the numbers and trying to calculate the end of the race. If Harry had been four seconds further up the road we would have had to do one more lap and probably would have run out of gas so that’s how close they are calculating the fuel and that’s pretty cool to see.”