The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing GT Le Mans (GTLM) program is quickly running out of ‘firsts’ but it accomplished another one in Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen at the 3.4-mile Watkins Glen International circuit.
It was the first 1-2 finish for the team’s new-for-2016 GTLM program, as Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe co-drove their No. 67 Ford GT to victory ahead of teammates Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller in the 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning No. 66 entry.
Westbrook qualified on the class pole position Saturday while co-driver Briscoe was making his way back to Watkins Glen from Connecticut, where his wife, Nicole, gave birth to their second child, a daughter, on Friday. By the end of the first lap Sunday morning, however, it was John Edwards in the No. 100 IHG Rewards Club BMW M6 GTLM that held the lead with Westbrook running in second.
The Ford/BMW battle lasted throughout the six hours, while the No. 68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE also took a turn at the head of the field. In the end, Westbrook and Briscoe combined to lead five different times. Briscoe put the No. 67 into the lead for what turned out to be the final time with an hour and 40 minutes remaining, 10 minutes before pitting to turn the car over to Westbrook, who rejoined the race without losing the lead.
Westbrook then held off a hard-charging pack for the remainder of the race, beating Hand by 3.222 seconds to earn the second consecutive WeatherTech Championship victory for himself and Briscoe, who previously won the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May. The win moved the No. 67 teammates to within eight points, 159-151, of GTLM championship co-leaders Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin, who co-drove the No. 4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.
“It’s just a good pairing for us at the moment,” said Westbrook, who earned his third consecutive victory at Watkins Glen International after winning the Prototype class the last two years. “Confidence is so high, so it’s nice to go to work at the Ford camp. It’s been a great 30 days, hasn’t it?
“We had a tough fight with the BMW for most of the race, but right at the end we had just that little bit to be stronger. I’m happy for my mate and happy that he made it. And I’m happy he has a trophy to take back to his girls.”
Two weeks after winning the GTE Pro class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Hand and Mueller came home second. Hand took the runner-up spot from Bill Auberlen in the No. 25 IHG Rewards Club BMW M6 GTLM with five minutes remaining. Auberlen and co-driver Dirk Werner came home third.