Auberlen Adds to His Record Total with GTD Victory
By Godwin Kelly
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Antonio Garcia had to be patient – and super-fast – to navigate his Corvette through a major traffic jam and nab the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class victory Sunday in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
“It was a flat-out fight,” Garcia said. “All the classes got together with two laps to go. Fortunately, there were no crashes, no yellows and (I) managed to stay ahead and bring Corvette another victory here. It’s been a long time since the last one.”
Garcia, who raced the bright yellow No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C8.R from the GTLM pole, nipped a hard-charging John Edwards in the No. 24 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE by 0.845 seconds. It was Corvette’s first win at Watkins Glen International since 2014 and the 116th IMSA triumph for the storied racing marque.
The victory by Garcia and teammate Jordan Taylor pushed them to an unofficial 81-point lead in the GTLM driver standings over Edwards and No. 24 teammates Jesse Krohn and Augusto Farfus. Garcia drove the opening stint in Sunday’s hot and steamy conditions. Taylor was in the car for two and a half hours in the middle of the race, before Garcia closed it out for their second win of the season.
The victory gave Taylor the career grand slam of IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup races, with previous victories in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts and Motul Petit Le Mans.
“This one has been high on my list,” Taylor said. “Every year it seems like something goes wrong.”
A late yellow flag deep into the sixth hour of competition helped create that logjam on the 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course.
This race featured all five WeatherTech Championship classes of cars of varying speeds. And to make things more tense, there was a heated battle between a pair of DPi machines for the overall win.
“There were people trying to get by me in dangerous places,” Garcia said. “I had a few times we were three-wide and I was just praying nobody would hit me. I had to stay calm, but be aggressive, because the No. 24 car was right there behind me.”
The No. 25 BMW, wheeled by Connor De Phillippi, Philipp Eng and Bruno Spengler, rounded out the GTLM podium.
Auberlen Nets 64th IMSA Career Victory with Turner’s GTD Triumph
Bill Auberlen was not going to be denied victory at The Glen in the GTD class Sunday after settling for second place in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race the day before.
“They were like carbon copies of each other,” Auberlen said of the races staged on back-to-back days. Auberlen was leading near the end of the Pilot Challenge race but was passed for the win.
“It was such a great move, I would have high-fived him if I could reach out the window,” he joked, but Sunday the all-time IMSA wins leader provided a different ending to the script and finished off his record-extending 64th win in IMSA’s top-tier series.
Auberlen, who was co-driving the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 with Robby Foley and Aidan Read, said the late full-course caution created incredible track position for his car.
“Are there five guys ahead of me? Are they all going to the pits?” Auberlen recalled thinking as the pits were opened under the yellow. “It was like the parting of the seas. They all went in and we became the leader. I saw Bryan Sellers (No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3) behind me, but luckily, I got through traffic. The BMW M6 may not be the ultimate fast car, but it is good through traffic.”
Sellers, driving with Madison Snow and Corey Lewis, took second place followed by the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 piloted by Roman De Angelis, Ross Gunn and Ian James. Along with Audi, Mercedes-AMG, Lexus and Porsche, the top seven GTD finishers Sunday each represented a different manufacturer.
Leading them all after four races in the season championship are Auberlen and Foley in the No. 96 BMW. They enjoy a 61-point advantage on De Angelis and Gunn.
“To win a championship is why we are here,” Auberlen said. “To win races is great, but to win championships is amazing.”
The GTLM and GTD classes are back in action on Friday at Watkins Glen, in the IMSA WeatherTech 240 at The Glen. Live coverage begins on NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET.