Round four of the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge would see the teams travel up to the Finger Lakes region of New York, and the famous Watkins Glen International for a two hour battle with the standings in both GS, and ST extremly close.
In GS the #12 Bodymotion Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 lead the field coming into the weekend with a six point lead over the #33 CJ Wilson Racing team, also running an identical Porsche Cayman GT4. The #70 McLaren GT4 from C360R also sat with 80 points but due to tiebreaker rules was scored as third coming into the race weekend.
In ST the gap between first and second in the standings was just one point with the #17 RS1 Porsche holding onto a small lead over the #56 Murillo Racing Porsche. Thirteen points behind the two leaders in ST and you find the #37 Mini JCW Team who would be looking to close the gap with a strong showing at the Glen.
All eyes were on the ever changing skies of upstate New York when the green flag dropped at just after 2:00 PM local time for the Continental Tire 120 and the fourth round for the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge.
The race’s first victim faltered within the first ten minutes, being the third place qualifying #84 BMW with Tyler Cooke behind the wheel. The #84 was slow going through the outer loop and into the chute before the left front wheel detached from the car. Cooke was able to limp the car home and a new wheel was put onto the slightly damaged assembly.
The clouds which had held on for the first half hour of the race began to drop rain on the field forcing the drivers to turn on the wipers and slow the pace. The timing of the rain helped no one as the CTSC requires a minimum 45 minute drive time so no team could do a driver change. Multiple teams still took the pits as conditions worsened and drivers fought for grip, even in the pits with a handful of drivers sliding past their pit boxes.
The first two victims of the rain and the first Full-Course Yellow came out in response to the #63 Porsche in ST driven by David Askew who backed his Cayman into the wall.
The #75 Audi driven by Roy Block and ironically the only four wheel drive car in the field, went straight on at turn one before getting the car going again, only to have the hood pop up and block, no pun intended, Roy Block’s view. After a few minutes behind the safety car the red flag was shown just before one hour and fifteen minutes remaining for repairs to the turn one tyre barrier, and due to lightning in the area.
After 15 minutes under Red Flag condition the race resumed, though still behind the safety car. Teams took this opportunity to come down into the pits, do their mandatory driver change and, in most cases, switch back onto slick tires to accommodate the rapidly drying track. Green flag racing resumed with just under 45 minutes remaining in the race.
The #44 Nissan Altima in ST had been dealing with a clutch issue for most of the race and shortly after Owen Trinkler got into the car it came to a stop just before the final turn bringing out the race’s second yellow flag of the day. Eventually the race got back going green after the short caution. Confusion during the red flag period and flowing yellow cause a few cars to get their position wrongs and race control handed down a few stop and go penalties.
With 18 minutes left to go in the race the #57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro, which was running in third, lost drive coming out of the heel of the boot. It appeared to be a gearbox failure when Robin Liddell was climbing through the gears that caused the #57 to come to a halt on the inside of the track which brought out the third full course caution of the day.
The race resumed with twelve minutes to go and the #76 McLaren driven by Matt Plumb got a great restart but he got it wrong in the inner loop sliding well out of shape and dropping quite a few spots back handing the GS lead to Al Carter in the Aston Martin.
The next car to make a mistake was the ST classed #27 MX-5 driven by Britt Casey Jr. who locked the rear tires up and spun hard into the outside wall of turn six. Casey was able to get the car out of danger and avoided a late yellow.
A fuel alarm from Spencer Pumpelly and his #17 Porsche Cayman ended their run with five minutes to go in the race, and despite the car’s slightly precarious spot just before turn 10 the race stayed green.
The final lap of the race saw Dean Martin and Al Carter side-by-side up through the esses. Carter got the worst of the exchange after the two made slight contact sending the Aston Martin sliding through the grass and around in the esses, Carter did a great job keeping the car off the wall but the race win had been handed to Dean Martin and Jack Roush Jr. in the #59 Kohr Motorsports Ford Mustang. The two C360R McLaren’s of Nico Rondet and Matt Plumb came home second and third respectively in GS.
In ST the two Pombo brothers and their Minis came home first and second with Mat getting the better of his brother Mark. Eric Foss brought the #56 Porsche Cayman back to the pits after securing the final spot on the podium in ST.
Race control declared no action shortly after the race regarding the incident between the Al Carter and Dean Martin, Carter was in victory lane to congratulate Martin after he got out of the car.
Photo courtesy of IMSA