Deja-vu for the Aston Martin runners in MPC's second visit to Watkins Glen

Saturday, July 03, 2021


The cars from the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship and supporting Michelin Pilot Challenge Series were back in Sprint action at Watkins Glen last night just a week after racing at the New York State circuit in their respective series Endurance Championships.

With the double header being necessary to make up their calendars after it again became obvious that their annual visit across the border to the Canadian tire Motorsport Park would not be possible due to Covid, staying on at ‘The Glen’ proved to be a ‘no brainer’ for IMSA and at least gave us another ‘old school’ American circuit to appreciate during these multi-class races.

Having already endured a contrast in weather events than that of last week with thunderous downpours at times during the midweek build up to Friday’s race programme, it was the GT4’s from the Michelin Pilot Challenge up first for their customary two-hour race.

No race winning #23 Notlad Racing Aston Martin Vantage of Pat Gallagher and Stevan McAleer this time around so that left the full season entered AMR Vantage GT4 cars from Volt Racing with Archangel with Alan Brynjolfsson and Trent Hindman with the #09 Stoner Car Care with Automatic Racing for their drivers Rob Ecklin and Ramin Abdolvahabi to wet our appitites.

What had changed in-between races though was a 30kg increase in base weight for the AMR Vantage GT4 platform after last week’s race win for the #23 car and the effects of that would be obvious.

Qualifying in P3, it was a better preparatory phase for the bright yellow #7 Volt car for Brynjolfsson this time around whilst the #09 and Abdolvahabi was farther back in P16 as the team did not have Brandon Kidd for this race. Dramatic scenes during the warmup lap saw a TCR collide heavily with the barrier and whilst the car was removed relatively speedily, the fluid clean-up operation seemed to take an age to undertake and over 18minutes were lost behind the Safety Car before the race eventually began. 

Quickly dropping three places as the race went to green for the first time, it appeared that the weight penalty would only see the #7 car going backwards but whilst Abdolvahabi did maintain a constant P13 up until his pitstop at a point just over his minimum drive time but it would take Brynjolfsson slightly longer to pick up steam before putting in some of the quickest laps of the race so far to climb up to P4 as he pitted just before the hour mark.

Whilst the #09 would obviously have to pit again for fuel but an hour should have been at the #7’s upper limits of fuel endurance capabilities as Hindman came out effectively in P2 by the time the pit cycle had finished to set chase after the leading BMW as the clouds above started to darken and the air and track temperatures dropped.

Lap after lap, the gap between the #7 and the #95 BMW dropped until and with just over twenty minutes remaining, the two lead cars were together and battling whilst the #09 had already pitted again for fuel, dropping them down into the lower regions of GS (P16 in class).

With just 15 minutes remaining, the #7 car stopped for fuel believing the #95 car would do the same but a late FCY for a TCR car stuck in the gravel would negate that need for that car and that effectively put themselves out of a podium place winning contention as the race went back to green with just four minutes remaining.

Luckily for this race, the wipers on the cars only came on during the final lap and a P6 finish was looking good for the #7 but pass on the final corner saw them drop to P7 overall – the same position as they finished during last week’s four-hour race whilst the #09 Stoner car also duplicated its finishing position of last week in P16 in class. These results see the #7 crew drop to P9 in the table.

The next round of the Michelin Pilot Challenge will be at Lime Rock Park in mid-July.

Photo credits – IMSA / CSJ Motorsport / Teams
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