Sunday, July 7, 2019

Sahlen's Six Hours Of The Glen

                                            Welcome To Watkins Glen International

A perfect weekend, a perfect race! That's the summary of my experience June 28-30 at Watkins Glen. The weather for the most part cooperated and the race result was historic in that the Mazda's finished one, two.
But I'm getting ahead of myself as there was really great racing in the Michelin Pilot Challenge, GT3 Cup and the Lamborghini Super Trofeo.  I have a special interest in the Michelin Pilot Challenge because Alfa Romeo is running two Giuliettas in that series and I drive an Alfa Romeo Giulia. On another blog post I will tell the story of the Alfa Romeo Team's moments of success and their challenges over the weekend.  The end result was the #5 Alfa placed 6th and the #3 placed 11th. This is not representative of both cars speed on the track. They certainly had the pace to keep up and even lead the field.  But luck was not with them.

To start the weekend off, I drove the 75 miles to the track from Mendon, NY on a beautiful June morning arriving at 7:30 AM in time to take my usual walk through the paddock and midway area.  I was impressed with the new paved roads in the infield and the new turn 10 viewing area. WGI is continually upgrading the facility and it is a world class track from a fan perspective, comparing it to Daytona, the gold standard of tracks.

After my brief walk around, the roar of Michelin Pilot Challenge cars filled the air as I headed out with the camera. I had to get pictures of the Alfa Romeo boys to share with  Florida Alfa Club members back home.

                                                   No, This is not the way it is today

Watkins Glen is no longer the rowdy, dusty and muddy venue where rag tag race fans came in the '70's to outdo each other's antics in the 'Bog', but I had to snap one shot shown above representing that past at my first stop at turn 9.  (Turn 9 is an iconic photo spot, about as good as you will find anywhere on a road course)  You will see in the pictures here the beautiful backgrounds a photographer can achieve by moving a short distance along the fence line, capturing wooded backdrops to large elevation changes.  So here's a taste:

Alfa Romeo leading the way.

And from Grand Sport class - BMW and Mercedes

Scrapping little Honda Civics were fast.

Alfa Romeo being chased by Audi

Mercedes, Mercedes

Lifting the hind leg? Alfa Romeo glued to the track.

Honda and Audi again.

So you can see from the above- Turn 9 is the place for photos.

Next came qualifying for Porsche GT3 and here's a taste:

And next came practice for the IMSA Weather Tech Championship including DPi, LMP2 and GTLM followed by the GTD class.

Both Mazdas were quick, #77 here finishing 2nd overall and #55 finishing first.

So to conclude, Friday was a busy day with perfect weather- however Saturday brought rain and some dramatic photos. Here's a  sample:

Konica Minolta Cadillac chasing the Team Joest Mazda

And Sunday, race day brought overcast, cool weather mixed with sun for a comfortable setting for the race. And an exciting race it was with the Penske team #6 car and Juan Pablo Montoya leading the #55 and #77 Mazdas with an hour left to go. In the end it was finally the two Mazdas winning with a one, two finish.  The #55 first and the #77 second. An historic win for Mazda Team Joest! 

Here's a few pictures from the race:

The race winner, Mazda #55!

Mazdas finished first and second after overtaking the Penske Acura shown above driven by Juan Pablo Montoya

Trying to get by Montoya, the #55 and the #77 Mazda eventually pass the #6 Montoya driving the Penske Acura for the dramatic first win by Mazda Team Joest.

Hope you liked the pictures. There's more to come in future posts. I know I enjoyed the entire weekend  at such a beautiful and historic race track.

Brought to you by Paul Ziegler, Publisher and author of "Echoes From The Glen"
Follow on Instagram @wownowpics