WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. — With 90 minutes remaining, thunderstorms closed in on Watkins Glen International Speedway and halted the 2022 Sahlen’s Six Hours at The Glen. At the time, Oliver Jarvis and Meyer Shank Racing led in both DPi and overall.
About an hour and 15 minutes later, the skies cleared and the lightning clock had expired. IMSA paused the race clock at 35 minutes and prepared for a restart to decide the finish. Tom Blomqvist hopped into the No. 60 Meyer Shank machine, ready to fend off the Acura from Wayne Taylor Racing and five Cadillacs.
Blomqvist dominated all weekend. He set the fastest times in both practice sessions and qualified his car on the pole.
On the other hand, Filipe Albuquerque had the experience. He was in the car the stint prior to the weather delay and had raced in slick conditions at Watkins Glen before. Both Albuquerque and co-driver Ricky Taylor met drive time requirements, so Wayne Taylor tabbed Albuquerque to finish the race.
“I had the experience of last year,” Albuquerque said. “It was like deciding on each 10 minutes depending on IMSA and the weather forecast… I was just so focused and so motivated to win the race.”
After 14 minutes of caution time, the race finally restarted with 21 minutes on the clock. Albuquerque dipped in behind Blomqvist in Turn 1 and had a strong run out of the esses and down the backstretch. Entering the bus stop, Albuquerque catapulted past Blomqvist on driver’s left and took the lead.
“It was the one shot, the only one to overtake Blomqvist,” Albuquerque said. “I just sent the car in, went over the curb.”
Wayne Taylor did not need to pit after the weather delay, but they were tight on fuel. In the final minutes, Albuquerque saved fuel and managed damage on his race car with Blomqvist still in reach.
“If I didn’t have to save fuel, I’m sure I could have taken off,” Albuquerque said. “I knew I had the better car than Tom [Blomqvist].”
Coming to the white flag, Albuquerque maintained a slim margin over Blomqvist but was told he had enough fuel to finish. In Turn 1, Blomqvist made contact with a GTD car and lost time on Albuquerque. Sebastian Bourdais, the third-place finisher with Cadillac Racing, closed in on Blomqvist for second but Blomqvist put a huge block on him going down the backstretch.
Exiting the bus stop and entering the bootleg, Albuquerque was caught in lapped traffic and it gave Blomqvist one final chance. But, Albuquerque preserved with a strong Turn 9 to hold onto his third win in four races with Taylor and Wayne Taylor Racing.
Taylor won his 30th career IMSA race and his second career Sahlen’s Six Hours. His last came in 2011.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 11 years,” Taylor said. “This race has been so hard to win for us… I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy with a teammate. I was so proud watching to see how hard [Albuquerque] fought to make the move.”
Blomqvist and Meyer Shank recorded their third consecutive runner-up finish after another heartbreaking result at Mid-Ohio. Bourdais finished third with Renger van der Zande to pace Cadillac. Notably, Jimmie Johnson, Kamui Kobayashi and Mike Rockenfeller finished sixth for Ally Cadillac.
In LMP2, after winning the pole by one one-thousandth of a second, the No. 52 car from PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports went to victory lane. Scott Huffaker held off Louis Deletraz by a tenth of a second to help score the team’s second consecutive victory in the Michelin Endurance Cup.
Huffaker, 22, recorded his fourth IMSA win in a more untraditional way. Typically, Huffaker doesn’t drive the final stints of races in the No. 52 car. But, because of strategy after the weather delay, it made the most sense for Huffaker to finish the race off.
“The finish was pretty crazy,” Huffaker said. “After the red flag, they told me ‘you have to [finish]’. I was a bit nervous because that’s not usually my role.
“After the red flag, I was in the car, so we would have to pit to change drivers. But, we had fuel at that time to finish the race, so it would be a huge disadvantage — it would make no sense to pit.”
Ben Keating won his second endurance race in three weeks after winning his first 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“I don’t know what I did to deserve all of these blessings that I’m getting,” Keating said. “I’m just going to ride the wave when I can get it.”
DragonSpeed Racing’s No. 81 entry piloted by Juan Pablo Montoya led at the red flag. But, a driver change for Sebastian Montoya and an equipment penalty derailed the team’s chances.
Sunday’s race started with several incidents in LMP3. Dillon Machavern’s No. 6 car burst into flames in the esses and Lars Kern’s No. 13 car struck the wall hard exiting Turn 1.
But, in the final spurt to the finish, Felipe Fraga held off Colin Braun to win the Six Hours in the No. 74 car. It’s the team’s second win of the season after winning the Rolex 24 in January. They also won the Six Hours for the second consecutive year.
“I’m really happy to win a race again,” Fraga said. “Last year we won two races here in two weeks… The car was perfect. The team did a perfect job.”
In GTD Pro and GTD, BMW M Team RLL and Winward Racing, respectively, originally won their classes. But, both teams had their wins stripped after IMSA discovered drive time infractions, which were likely caused by the weather delay.
Instead, Heart of Racing Team took home victories in both classes. Ross Gunn and Alex Riberas won on the GTD Pro side while Roman De Angelis, Maxime Martin and team boss Ian James won GTD.
“We’re super proud as a team,” James said. “When I started this team in ’18, I never thought we would have two cars winning on the same day. It’s really a testament to everyone who works on the team — the dedication, the hard work.”
The IMSA WeatherTech Series returns next weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.