The record book will show that Cadillac won its sixth consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with a victory at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on Sunday at Watkins Glen International.
But this one was anybody’s race. Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque were the victors in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R, taking their first victory of the season and snapping a streak of five consecutive victories by No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi co-drivers Ricky and Jordan Taylor.
Barbosa took the lead for the final time with nine minutes remaining, taking advantage of slower traffic to pass South African driver Stephen Simpson in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA LM P2 machine.
He then held off Simpson to win by 1.183 seconds. For Barbosa and Fittipaldi, who won the IMSA championship in 2014 and 2015, it was their seventh series victory and was the first for Albuquerque. It was Barbosa’s fourth Watkins Glen six-hour victory, the third for Fittipaldi and the second consecutive for both drivers.
“I knew if traffic could play a role in the race, I could take advantage of it,” Barbosa said. “Coming into the last corner, (Simpson) had to check-up on a GT car so I got to pull a little bit of a move into Turn 1. He gave me just enough room to go around, it was really a fun race. We raced really, really hard. The mentality going into every race is to get the win. We keep believing it.”
Simpson and the No. 85 ORECA he shared with Mexican driver Jose Gutierrez were a fixture in the top five through the second half of the race. It appeared that the No. 85 might become the first new LM P2 car to win in the WeatherTech Championship when Simpson swiped the lead from Barbosa on a restart with just over 20 minutes remaining before Barbosa returned the favor to win.
Finishing third – and securing the third podium result for the Mazda DPi program – were No. 55 Mazda RT24-P co-drivers Tristan Nunez, Jonathan Bomarito and Spencer Pigot.
Fourth and fifth place went to the two other LM P2 race cars in the Prototype field. Olivier Pla and Jose Gutierrez took fourth in the No. 52 Ligier LM P2 for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, followed by Renger van der Zande and Marc Goossens in the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Multimatic/Riley machine.
For the Taylor brothers, their quest for a sixth consecutive victory was over on the opening lap of the race. Ricky Taylor started the race for the team but the No. 10 car was damaged through contact with Pla just a few turns into the race. The No. 10 lost six laps as a result of the damage but the team battled back to finish sixth, three laps down to the winners.
Throughout the six hours, the race was similar to a high-speed game of musical chairs. Both of the Tequila Patrón ESM Nissan DPis were strong. Brazilian Pipo Derani started the team’s No. 2 machine from pole and led early on, but co-driver Scott Sharp crashed into a tire barrier after tangling with Boris Said in the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 while leading during the second hour of the race.
Bruno Senna led in the No. 22 Tequila Patrón ESM he shared with Johannes van Overbeek at the halfway point in the race, but a mechanical problem in the fifth hour ended their chances.
Another early contender, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R shared by defending WeatherTech Championship Prototype champions Eric Curran and Dane Cameron – as well as Albuquerque – fell out of the running for a victory when the right-rear tire came off following a pit stop and in need of a tow back to the garage. It lost several laps as a result.
Full race results are available here.