WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – He may be with a new team, manufacturer and co-drivers, but Olivier Pla is out to defend his 2019 win at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. The Frenchman took a step in that direction by leading Friday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice at Watkins Glen International.
Now driving the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05, Pla logged the top overall and Daytona Prototype international (DPi) lap around the historic 11-turn, 3.4-mile road course. Pla was clocked at 1 minute, 31.056 seconds (134.422 mph) in the car he shares with Dane Cameron.
“The car felt really good, and it felt where it should be,” Pla said. “There was definitely more confidence in the car. After Dane drove the car, he told me a few changes to make because of the wind and the track conditions, which had changed compared to the test a few weeks ago.
“The car drove pretty different from the test, so Dane’s feedback was a big help, so I could then concentrate on getting a good lap. But the car was good from the beginning of the session. There are still a few things to improve on, but that is normal.”
Two years ago, Pla was a member of the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports DPi entry that won the Sahlen’s Six Hours, along with co-drivers Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito. Tincknell and Bomarito are back in the No. 55, so also have the chance to repeat as the event winner since there wasn’t a race last year.
Pla is now paired in the No. 60 Acura with Cameron. He’s also back with Meyer Shank, where he finished third at The Glen in 2016, the last year the team operated a prototype program before returning to the top-tier class this season.
Mike Conway, the endurance driver for the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi V.R, was second quick in practice with a lap of 1:31.647 (133.555 mph), nearly six-tenths of a second off Pla’s pace. Conway is teamed with full-season drivers Pipo Derani and Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 operated by Action Express Racing.
All five WeatherTech Championship classes are on hand this weekend. Tristan Nunez led Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) practice at 1:33.836 (130.440 mph) in the No. 11 WIN Autosport ORECA LMP2 07. Oliver Askew was fastest in Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) (1:40.812, 121.414 mph), driving the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier JS P320.
The GT Le Mans (GTLM) class was paced by Nick Tandy with a lap of 1:42.517 (119.394 mph) in the No. 4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. Jack Hawksworth rolled the No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 to the head of the GT Daytona (GTD) chart at 1:46.673 (114.473 mph).
“It’s interesting out there,” Tandy said. “There are a lot of cars and a lot of traffic. We have the interaction of GTLM and LMP3 again. Traffic management shows already that it will be key to the race. The car out of the box was already good. We made some planned changes and it was a good step in the right direction. So yes, a decent session.”
A final one-hour practice begins at 8 a.m. ET Saturday. Qualifying to set the 38-car starting grid streams live on IMSA.com/TVLive starting at 11:45 a.m. Saturday.
Live coverage of Sunday’s race is available on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold starting at 10:35 a.m., with the NBCSN telecast at 7 p.m.