The 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship opened at Daytona International Speedway in January with the traditional Rolex-24. It was followed by the historic 12-Hours of Sebring, Long Beach, Circuit of the Americas, Detroit, Watkins Glen, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Lime Rock, Road America, Virginia International Raceway, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and a 10-hour finale called Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

As in 2016, there were four classes:

  • Prototype (P) – These are purpose built race cars and the quickest in the series. Significant changes were implemented to this category in 2017. It included cars constructed to two different set of rules – Daytona Prototype International (DPi) and Le Mans Prototype 2 (P2). The DPi category includes the Cadillac DPi-V.R, Nissan DPi and Mazda RT24-P. This class allows manufacturers to use their engines. All the P2 cars are powered by a 3.8-liter Gibson V8 engine. Competitors are using chassis’ from ORECA, Ligier and Riley Technologies.
  • Prototype Challenge (PC) – This is a spec class which was introduced in 2010 by the American Le Mans series. This category uses the ORECA FLM09 chassis. The cars are powered by Chevrolet LS3 engine which produces approximately 485-horsepower. 2017 is the last year that Prototype Challenge will be eligible to compete in the WeatherTech series.
  • Grand Touring Le Mans (GTLM) – Cars in this class are highly modified production vehicles from manufacturers such as Ferrari, Porsche, Chevrolet and BMW. As a result, a wide range of engine configurations and displacements are employed. The series technical staff uses a number of methods to ensure that teams are competing on a ‘level playing field.’ Most of the teams racing in this group are receiving factory support.
  • Grand Touring Daytona (GTD) – This is also a production based class but does not allow the same level of technological improvements that can be made to Grand Touring Le Mans cars. Vehicles in the category include Audi R8 LMS GT3, Porsche 911 GT3 R, Ferrari 488 GT3, BMW M6 GT3, Acura NSX GT3, Lamborghini Huracan GT3, Mercedes AMG GT3, Lexus RCF GT3 and Aston Martin Vantage. Similar to Grand Touring Le Mans, the technical staff uses a number of methods to ensure parity.

Watkins Glen International was race six of the twelve rounds contested during the 2017 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen was also the third race in the Patron North American Endurance Cup. The Patron championship was for the series’ four marquee endurance events – Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta.

The 2017 edition of the Sahlen’s 6 Hours saw thirty-eight starters compete on Watkins Glen’s eleven-turn 3.337-mile road course.

On the pole and leading the field is the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi driven by Pipo Derani. The outside of the front row is occupied by the JDC-Miller Motorsports prepared Ligier JS P217 – starting the race in the Ligier was Olivier Pla. Behind them are the Cadillac’s of the third fastest qualifier, Christian Fittipaldi and Ricky Taylor who was gridded fourth.
Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa were the defending race winners of the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen. This year they were joined by Filipe Alburquerque in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Cadillac Dpi. Fittipaldi recorded the third fastest time in qualifying. The trio was in contention the entire race and Barbosa took the lead for the final time with just nine minutes remaining in the event. The victory broke Ricky and Jordan Taylor’s five-race win streak.
The Grand Touring Daytona point’s leaders, Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen competed in their backup car after their primary Mercedes-AMG GT3 was seriously damaged in the previous round at Detroit. Keating was given the qualifying duties and was eleventh quickest in a field of seventeen Grand Touring Daytona entries. At the checkered flag, the team was tenth in class and fell to second in the driver’s standings.
Setting the pace in the opening practice session was the JDC-Miller Motorsports Ligier JS P217 driven by Stephen Simpson. Sharing the driving duties with Simpson were Misha Goikhberg and Chris Miller. Goikhberg qualified the Ligier eighth quickest. With just over twenty minutes left in the contest, it appeared the trio would take the victory. Unfortunately for them, they were passed and finished 1.183-seconds behind the winning Cadillac.
Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen proved that it doesn’t matter where you start in an endurance race. Garcia was just 0.736-seconds slower than the pole-sitter, Joey Hand. But his qualifying time meant that he and Magnussen were the slowest GTLM car in the field. An excellent race strategy and some good driving allowed the duo to overcome their starting position and capture the final spot on the GTLM category podium.
The No. 38 ORECA FLM09 was qualified by James French. For the fourth time in five events, French was the fastest in the Prototype Challenge category and was 2.076-seconds quicker than the BAR1 Motorsports entry. Sharing the ORECA with French were Patricio O’Ward and Kyle Masson. The trio dominated the race and at the conclusion of the event had a three lap lead on the second place Prototype Challenge entry.
Prototype point’s leaders, Ricky and Jordan Taylor entered Watkins Glen with five consecutive victories. This performance tied them with the 2001 record established by Audi driver’s Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen. In the qualifying session, Ricky was the fourth quickest. At the start of the race, there was contact which damaged the Cadillac’s suspension and caused the team to lose seven laps. They rebounded and finished sixth.
The Grand Touring field enters corner eleven in anticipation of the starter’s flag. On the pole is Joey Hand driving the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. Sharing the front row with Hand is the Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM with Alexander Sims behind the wheel. In total there were twenty-four Grand Touring entries – seven in the GTLM category and seventeen in the GTD class.
The Michael Shank Racing team had a breakthrough win with the new Acura NSX at Detroit. In the first practice session, Andy Lally driving the No. 93 NSX topped the time sheets. And, at the end of the qualifying session, he was the fastest GTD entry – giving Acura their first pole. Sharing the NSX with Lally was Katherine Legge. Despite a late race challenge from Scuderia Corsa, the pair was able to score the team’s second consecutive victory.
The No. 55 Mazda RT24-P was gridded ninth overall and in the Prototype class. Sharing the Mazda were Tristan Nunez, Jonathan Bomarito and Spencer Pigot. Strong driving stints and an excellent pit-stop strategy by the team allowed the trio to run with the leaders. At the end of six hours Nunez, Bomarito and Pigot were on the lead lap and finished third – tying their best result of the season (third place at Long Beach).
Sharing the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 were Justin Marks and Jan Klingmann. The BMW started sixth in the GTD category. The pair moved into contention and competed for the class victory. Klingmann was in the car for the final stint and maintained third giving Marks and him the final spot on the class podium.
The No. 66 Chip Ganassi Ford GT served notice in the first practice session when Joey Hand set the fastest time in the GTLM category. Hand repeated his performance in qualifying and put the Ford that he would share with Dirk Mueller on the class pole. At the conclusion of six hours of racing, the pair finished twelfth overall and fourth in class.
Alexander Sims handled the qualifying duties for the No. 25 Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM and recorded the second quickest GTLM time. Sims shared the BMW with veteran sports car driver, Bill Auberlen. The pair was able to overcome tire issues during the event and captured the class victory. This was the first GTLM win for the BMW M6 and also the team’s first victory since the Circuit of the Americas event in 2015.
The second Ganassi Ford GT entry was piloted by Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe. Westbrook was looking for his fourth consecutive victory in the six hours race. Last year he won the GTLM category and before that, Westbrook had victories in the Prototype class. Westbrook was fourth fastest in qualifying. He was in the car for the final stint and chased the class leader. Unable to pass, Westbrook finished 4.426-seconds behind the winners.
The Scuderia Corsa team was the defending GTD race winners. The Ferrari 488 GT3 was gridded tenth in class and driven by Christina Nielsen, Alessandro Balzan and Matteo Cressoni. The trio had four podium finishes in five races but was yet to win in 2017. The Ferrari was in contention for the victory but finished second - 0.592-seconds behind the winning Acura. However, their result gave Nielsen and Balzan the lead in the driver’s standings.
At Watkins Glen, Ed Brown was scheduled to compete in his final prototype event but back surgery forced him to withdraw from the race. Filling the vacated seat in the Nissan was, Pipo Derani. Derani proved his worth by qualifying on the pole. Sharing the driving duties with Derani were Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel. Sharp was leading the race when he made contact with another car. The team’s race went downhill from there and they eventually retired.
Sharing the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 were Jack Hawksworth, Robert Alon and Austin Cindric. Hawksworth drove the Lexus in the GTD qualifying session and was third quickest. The outstanding qualifying effort was following up with the team’s best finish of the season – fifth place. Prior to the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, Hawksworth and Alon earned a seventh at Detroit.

1PJ. Barbosa / C. Fittipaldi / F. AlbuquerqueCadillac DPi-V.R200-
2PC. Miller / S. Simpson / M. GoikhbergORECA 07200-
3PT. Nunez / J. Bomarito / S. PigotMazda RT24-P200-
4PJ. Gutierrez / O. PlaLigier JS P217200-
5PR. Van Der Zande / M. GoossensMultimatic/Riley MK30198-
6PR. Taylor / J. TaylorCadillac DPi-V.R197-
7PCJ. French / P. O'Ward / K. MassonORECA FLM09195-
8GTLMB. Auberlen / A. SimsBMW M6 GTLM192-
9GTLMR. Briscoe / R. WestbrookFord GT192-
10GTLMA. Garcia / J. MagnussenChevrolet Corvette C7.R192-
11PCD. Yount / B. Rice / D. BurkettORECA FLM09192-
12GTLMD. Mueller / J. HandFord GT192-
13GTLMO. Gavin / T. MilnerChevrolet Corvette C7.R192-
14GTLML. Vanthoor / G. BruniPorsche 911 RSR192-
15GTLMP. Pilet / D. WernerPorsche 911 RSR191-
16PD. Cameron / E. Curran / F. AlbuquerqueCadillac DPi-V.R190-
17GTDA. Lally / K. LeggeAcura NSX GT3187-
18GTDC. Nielsen / A. Balzan / M. CressoniFerrari 488 GT3187-
19GTDJ. Marks / J. KlingmannBMW M6 GT3187-
20GTDC. MacNeil / G. Jeannette / S. Van GisbergenMercedes - AMG GT3187-
21GTDJ. Hawksworth / R. Alon / A. CindricLexus RCF GT3187-
22GTDS. Pruett / S. Karam / A. CindricLexus RCF GT3187-
23GTDM. de Quesada / D. Morad / M. ChristensenPorsche 911 GT3 R187-
24GTDP. Lindsey / M. McMurryPorsche 911 GT3 R187-
25GTDL. Aschenbach / A. DavisAudi R8 LMS GT3186-
26GTDB. Keating / J. Bleekemolen / M. FarnbacherMercedes - AMG GT3186-
27GTDL. DeGeorge / C. Sbirrazzuoli / P. RubertiLamborghini Huracan GT3186-
28GTDB. Sellers / M. SnowLamborghini Huracan GT3186-
29GTDJ. Bennett / C. Braun / N. JonssonPorsche 911 GT3 R186-
30GTDB. Sweedler / T. Bell / F. MontecalvoAudi R8 LMS GT3184-
31GTDK. Habul / B. Said / T. VautierMercedes - AMG GT3184-
32PS. Sharp / R. Dalziel / L. DeraniNissan DPi177Not Running
33PCB. Alder / D. Jones / G. YacamanORECA FLM09176-
34GTDJ. Segal / O. Negri Jr.Acura NSX GT3167Not Running
35GTLMJ. Edwards / M. TomczykBMW M6 GTLM161Not Running
36PJ. van Overbeek / B. SennaNissan DPi160Not Running
37GTDC. Lewis / J. Mul / B. SandbergLamborghini Huracan GT389Not Running
38PT. Long / J. Miller / M. FranchittiMazda RT24-P61Not Running

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