Braun Puts No. 60 Acura atop Watkins Glen Practice before Rain

By John Oreovicz

IMSA Wire Service

Practice 1 Results

 

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – With confidence bolstered by a recent test at Watkins Glen International, Colin Braun set a blistering pace to lead the first practice session for Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.

 

While Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class rival teams and manufacturers representing Cadillac and Porsche in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship focused on the centenary running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Braun and the Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06 tested May 26 at Watkins Glen International along with the Wayne Taylor with Andretti Autosport Acura team and BMW M Team RLL’s BMW Hybrid V8.

 

Braun’s No. 60 Acura ARX-06 was fast as soon as the green flag fell for Friday afternoon’s 90-minute practice that began in overcast but dry conditions. Braun toured the 3.4-mile road course in 1 minute, 33.563 seconds on just his ninth lap. That was a robust 1.229 seconds quicker than Matt Campbell in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 before steadily increasing rain put an end to the pursuit of quick times.

 

“The car was really good,” Braun said. “Obviously not of ton of laps (in the dry), but enough to get a feel for it and get a little bit of a balance check. Happy with all the work HPD (Honda Performance Development) and Acura and the Meyer Shank guys have been doing. This class is so much about behind the scenes what the people can do, so obviously super happy with the job everyone’s doing and I think that shows in the speed and performance of our car.

 

“After the rain we were fast as well,” Braun added. “For us, it was kind of our first chance to drive it in the rain. … And man, it was pretty good.”

 

Other class leaders in practice were: Mikkel Jensen in the No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA LMP2 07 in Le Mans Prototype 2, with a lap of 1:36.066; Garett Grist in the No. 30 Jr III Racing Ligier JS P320 in Le Mans Prototype 3 (1:41.139); Bryan Sellers in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 in GT Daytona (1:46.457); and Daniel Serra in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3 in GTD PRO (1:46.552).

 

WeatherTech Championship competitors hit the track early Saturday, with a practice session slated for 8 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying at 1:15 p.m. that streams live on IMSA.com/TVLive and Peacock. Flag-to-flag coverage of the six-hour race starts at 10:30 a.m. Sunday on Peacock, with USA Network joining the coverage at 2 p.m.

 

Pombo Nabs Michelin Pilot Challenge TCR Pole, Murillo Grabs GS Honors

 

Qualifying Results

 

Mat Pombo secured the fourth consecutive Touring Car (TCR) class Motul Pole Award for LA Honda World Racing in IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge competition with what he called “a pretty perfect lap” for the Sahlen’s 120 at The Glen.

 

Pombo’s effort timed at 1:55.096 (106.346 mph) was almost three-quarters of a second quicker than the next best TCR qualifier, Chris Miller in the No. 17 Unitronic/JDC-Miller MotorSports Audi RS3 LMS TCR. 

 

It was even faster than the best lap produced by any Grand Sport (GS) class competitor, as the GS qualifying session was cut short.

 

“This car is a blast to drive, and we’re excited to have some clean air for tomorrow going into Turn 1,” said Pombo, coming off a third-place finish at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca Raceway with co-driver Ryan Eversley in the debut race for the FL5-generation Honda Civic Type R TCR. “It’s a long race, and we just need to control what we can control and hope some luck comes our way.”

 

The GS field managed to complete only a few laps in qualifying before a crash and subsequent red flag halted the 15-minute session. Incoming points leader Kenny Murillo clocked a 1:55.934 (105.577 mph) his second time around, good enough to claim the GS Motul Pole Award in the No. 72 Murillo Racing Mercedes-AMG GT GT4 that he shares with Christian Szymczak.

 

Hugh Plumb was the second fastest GS qualifier in the No. 46 Team TGM Aston Martin Vantage GT4.

 

“I feel a little lucky,” said Murillo, who teamed with Szymczak for their first series win at WeatherTech Raceway in May. “It’s really a dream to get a pole here; I’ve been wanting a pole position here my whole life, so we’ll check that off the bucket list. I’m incredibly happy.”

 

The Sahlen’s 120 runs begins at 3:45 Saturday, with live coverage on Peacock.

 

Sahlen’s Extends Watkins Glen Legacy

 

Watkins Glen International officials announced that Sahlen’s Packing Company has extended its contract as title sponsor of the six-hour IMSA race at The Glen. Sahlen’s, a leading producer of hot dogs, sausages and deli meats, is based in Buffalo. 

 

“My own relationship with Watkins Glen as a spectator goes back 50 years to the ‘Summer Jam’ concert in 1973, and we’ve been involved as a sponsor since 2002,” said Sahlen’s owner Joe Sahlen. “I don’t think many events have a corporate sponsor that lasts more than four or five years, so to think we are coming up on 25 years is incredible. I’m very proud of the relationship and the length of time we have been able to nurture it.”

 

Teams Presented BDO Knows Strategy Award for First Four Races

 

When BDO joined as an IMSA Corporate Partner this season, the BDO Knows Strategy Award was created to recognize an IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team that best executes a successful strategy to deliver results at each race. As determined by the IMSA Radio crew, the winning teams at the first four races of 2023 were presented with their trophies on Friday at Watkins Glen.

 

Those teams receiving their awards were: No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R for Daytona International Speedway, No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 for Sebring International Raceway, Porsche Penske Motorsport Porsche 963 for Long Beach and No. 01 Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-Series.R for WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

 

Hart Wins Porsche Carrera Cup Opener; Jeansonne Victorious in Mazda MX-5 Cup

 

Porsche Carrera Cup Race 1 Results

 

Jason Hart (No. 20 MDK Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, type 992) triumphed in the opener of the Porsche Deluxe Carrera Cup North America’s Watkins Glen doubleheader. Hart led the final nine laps of the 40-minute contest after pole winner Will Martin dropped out.

 

Mazda MX-5 Cup Race 1 Results

 

Aaron Jeansonne (No. 24 JTR Motorsports Engineering) claimed his second consecutive victory in the first of two Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BF Goodrich races at Watkins Glen this weekend, extending his championship lead in the process.

Adam Sinclair