A Complete Team Effort Takes the No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier to Victory at Watkins Glen
By Mark Robinson
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – Racing is a team sport, the saying goes. MLT Motorsports proved it Friday in winning the IMSA Prototype Challenge race at Watkins Glen International.
Following a solid opening stint from driver Josh Sarchet that had the No. 54 Ligier JS P320 in second place, the MLT Motorsports crew completed a quick enough pit stop to put co-driver Dakota Dickerson into the lead. Dickerson held strong from there through changing conditions around the 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course and pulled away to a comfortable victory in the Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) development series.
The first win of the 2021 season for the No. 54 moved Sarchet and Dickerson to the brink of the lead in the season standings. They’re just 10 points behind Moritz Kranz, the pole sitter who finished second Friday in the No. 21 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine D08.
“This is the boost we needed,” Dickerson said. “We’ve had the opportunity to win a couple times this year so we knew it was coming. The boys had an awesome pit stop. Ultimately, that’s what got us in front of Moritz and got us the win.
“Fantastic race. It was tricky with the conditions but glad to be on the top step of the podium.”
Kranz led Sarchet throughout the first stint of the one-hour, 45-minute race. Light rain began falling on portions of the track soon after Dickerson took the wheel of the No. 54 with about an hour remaining. The Californian was able to keep Kranz in his mirrors on a pair of restarts, the final one in treacherous conditions with 26 minutes left, following a full-course caution necessitated when four cars slid off the back section of the course that took the brunt of heavier rain while the main straight remained mostly dry.
“It was tough,” Dickerson said. “Being the first one into most of those zones, it was really difficult. The nice thing about Watkins Glen is the sight picture changes a lot with the weather. The track changes color so you can see where it’s damp, where it’s dry. As the track progressed to dry, I think that’s what ultimately got us that big gap at the end.”
Dickerson crossed the finish 18.736 seconds ahead of Kranz. It was the third career Prototype Challenge win for Dickerson and first for Sarchet. The duo had finished second once and third twice in the opening three races this season.
“It feels great, couldn’t be better,” Sarchet said of his breakthrough to the top of the podium. “It was a fun first stint. No rain so it made it a little easier, and I was just hanging onto the back of Moritz. Once we got the call to (pit), I just rolled right up on his bumper, pulled in and got a clean stop, and then we got the lead on the pit stop.”
Dan Goldburg and Rasmus Lindh finished third in the No. 6 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier, just ahead of Ari Balogh and Garett Grist, who recovered from a pair of pit-lane drive-through penalties to take fourth in the No. 33 Jr III Racing Ligier.
Kranz was the top finisher among Bronze-rated entries. Francesco Melandri and Anthony Lazzaro (No. 24 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P3) won the LMP3-2 class for previous-generation Le Mans Prototype 3s and also claimed second place in Bronze Cup behind Kranz.
The IMSA Prototype Challenge takes an extended break before returning to action Oct. 8-10 at VIRginia International Raceway, in the fifth of six rounds this year.