What to Watch For: Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen

By David Phillips

IMSA Wire Service

Call it the second half, the homestretch, whatever you prefer. It’s late June and, all of a sudden after this weekend, there are more 2024 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship events in the rearview mirror than in the windshield.

Indeed, following Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, there will be just three races left for the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) competitors, four for Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) and five for GT Daytona (GTD) and GTD PRO combatants. While the WeatherTech Championship driver, team and manufacturer titles in all four classes are still up for grabs, those with championship aspirations had best get a move on if they hope to hoist trophies when the checkered flag flutters over Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta in October to conclude the Motul Petit Le Mans and the 2024 season.

With that in mind, there are some things to keep an eye on this weekend at Watkins Glen International.

Momentum or Rest, which Is Best?

Among the salient features of every Sahlen’s Six Hours are the decidedly different challenges faced by two groups of competitors. Namely, those who competed in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and those who did not.

Those who participated in last weekend’s “Le Ronde Infernal” are tackling the considerable logistical, physical and emotional challenges of preparing for and racing as many as 30 hours of elite sports car competition on two continents separated by the Atlantic Ocean in less than 10 days. Of course, those who experienced a successful trip to France will be fueled by the adrenalin and satisfaction that comes from winning (or at least running well) in the prestigious sports car race. And in auto racing as in just about every sport, momentum is a potent force.

Thus, should Le Mans LMP2 winner United Autosports be counted among the ones to beat at The Glen with its two entries, including the No. 22 ORECA LMP2 07 that boasts Le Mans winner Bijoy Garg among the driver lineup. Likewise, Oliver Jarvis, Garg’s teammate at Le Mans who returns to his regular gig this weekend in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports McLaren 720S GT3 EVO in the GTD PRO class. Or Le Mans LMP2 Pro-Am winner Ben Barnicoat as he returns to his day job at The Glen in Vasser Sullivan’s GTD PRO No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3.

In contrast, Le Mans produced a mixed bag for the IMSA GTP teams (Porsche Penske Motorsport, Cadillac Racing and Whelen Cadillac Racing). Although the Porsche and Cadillac squads qualified 1-2-3 and led the race at various times, none were destined to finish on the podium. Similarly, 2023 Akin Bronze Cup winner Brendan Iribe planted Inception Racing’s No. 70 McLaren on the LMGT3 class pole only for the car to experience cooling issues en route to a 13th-place finish.

On the other hand, the Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti, BMW M Team RLL and JDC-Miller MotorSports GTP teams enjoyed well-earned respites following the WeatherTech Championship race at Detroit on June 1. They will be tanned, rested and ready when the green flag waves on Friday. What’s more, the No. 10 WTRAndretti Acura ARX-06 is coming off a win in Detroit, while BMW M Team RLL is the defending GTP winner at The Glen.

Return of LMP2

Did someone say tanned, rested and ready? The LMP2 class makes its first WeatherTech Championship appearance since the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac in March. United Autosports comes to the Finger Lakes region with a head of steam in the wake of its Le Mans success, so the team’s Nos. 2 and 22 ORECAs will bear watching.

However, to date the story of the LMP2 class this season has been Era Motorsport, given victories at the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Sebring. Needless to say, every member of the team will be looking to complete its hat trick at The Glen, none moreso than young Connor Zilisch who will be going for his third straight LMP2 win in three starts at the tender age of 18. On the other hand, Riley already has a Sahlen’s Six Hours hat trick in its trophy case, having won each of the WeatherTech Championship’s past three visits to the iconic Watkins Glen circuit. However, those victories all came in the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) class that’s no longer part of the championship. This weekend finds Riley seeking its first victory since switching to LMP2. The veteran team is never to be counted out, with co-drivers Felipe Fraga, Gar Robinson and Josh Burdon shaping up as prime candidates for this weekend’s LMP2 win.

Streaking GTD Teams

A couple of streaky teams are seeking to build on recent success in GTD and GTD PRO at The Glen. AO Racing’s No. 77 “Rexy” Porsche 911 GT3 R is looking for its own hat trick in the wake of GTD PRO wins at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and Detroit. Rexy’s recent success has propelled AO and drivers Laurin Heinrich and Sebastian Priaulx to the class points lead over the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus, the reigning champion.

Over in GTD is Winward Racing’s No. 57 Mercedes-AMG GT3. Although their two-race win streak to open the season was derailed at Long Beach in April, drivers Russell Ward and Philip Ellis rebounded last month with a win at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. Together with co-driver Indy Dontje, they will be looking to extend their latest streak and bolster their commanding class points lead.

Catch all the action this weekend on USA Network, Peacock and IMSA.tv or on the radio via IMSA.com and Radio LeMans.com.