In 2019, the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) was celebrating its 50th anniversary. IMSA was founded by NASCAR’s Bill France and John Bishop (a former executive director of the Sports Car Club of America) and Bishop’s wife, Peggy. They succeeded in creating their vision which was to build a sanctioning body for professional road racing in North America. From its humble beginnings in 1969 IMSA currently sanctions seven different race series: IMSA WeatherTech SportCar Championship, IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge, IMSA Prototype Challenge, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge – USA, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge – Canada, Lamborghini Super Trofeo and the Ferrari Challenge.

In addition to the 50th anniversary celebrations there were a number of changes to the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship:

  • The Prototype category was split into two classes – Daytona Prototype International (DPi) and Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2).
  • In the Grand Touring Daytona and Le Mans Prototype 2 classes the driver lineups will be required to include a mix of amateur and professional competitors. Drivers are graded by the FIA as Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum based on their racing experience and success. Different combinations of these ratings are required for teams to score points in championship events.
  • A multi-year agreement with Michelin means are cars competing in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be using their Michelin tires.
  • The IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup will be a separate championship that recognises the top-finishers in four events:
    • Rolex 24 at Daytona
    • Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring
    • Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen
    • 10-Hour Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta
  • There will also be the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup championships for the Grand Touring Daytona driver, team and manufacturer scoring the most points in the seven sprint races.

The 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship consisted of twelve race weekends – the schedule mirrored last year’s calendar. The season opened at Daytona International Speedway in January with the traditional Rolex-24. It was followed by the historic 12-Hours of Sebring, Long Beach, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Detroit, Watkins Glen International, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Lime Rock Park, Road America, Virginia International Raceway, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and a 10-hour finale called Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

In 2019, the classes grew from three to four championship categories. The Prototype class was split into Daytona Prototype International (DPi) and Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2):

  • Daytona Prototype International (DPi) – These are purpose-built race cars and the quickest in the series. The DPi category includes the Cadillac DPi-V.R, Nissan Onroak DPi, Acura ARX-05 and Mazda RT24-P. This class uses production-based engines which are associated with the chassis’ nameplate.
  • Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) – These are also purpose-built race cars. The LMP2 cars are powered by a 3.8-liter Gibson V8 engine. Competitors use chassis’ from ORECA, Ligier and Riley Technologies. Unlike the DPi cars, these vehicles are eligible to compete in the FIA World Endurance Championship and the 24-Hours of Le Mans.
  • 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. These cars are also eligible to compete in the 24-Hours of Le Mans.
  • 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 IMSA technical staff uses many methods to ensure parity.

Watkins Glen International was race six of the twelve rounds contested during the 2019 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen was also the third race in the Michelin Endurance Cup. The Michelin championship was for the series’ four marquee endurance events – Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta.

The 2019 edition of the Sahlen’s Six-Hours saw thirty-six starters compete on Watkins Glen International’s eleven-turn 3.337-mile road course.

The second wave of Grand Touring entries exit turn one for the first lap of the six-hour endurance classic. Leading the way is the second fastest qualifier in GTLM, Richard Westbrook driving the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. Tucking in behind Westbrook is the GTLM pole-sitter, Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R. Beside Garcia is BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE with John Edwards behind the wheel.
Mazda did it in style. Not only did they capture the overall victory but finished first and second in the DPi category. Harry Tincknell qualified the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P and was fourth quickest. Sharing the car with Tincknell were Olivier Pla and Jonathan Bomarito. With forty-five-minutes remaining in the event, Ticknell passed the class-leading Acura of Juan Pablo Montoya and went on to win by a margin of 0.353-seconds.
Capturing the GTLM victory were Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR. In qualifying, Tandy was seventh quickest in GTLM and started twenty-first overall. Progress during the six-hours moved the duo to the head of their class. Despite pressure from the second place Corvette late in the race, Tandy held on to first place. The win was Porsche’s fourth in a row and marked the company’s 570th IMSA victory.
The LMP2 category was poorly subscribed with only two entries. Performance Tech Motorsports prepared an ORECA LMP2 for drivers, Kyle Masson, Cameron Cassels and Andrew Evans. The trio started on the class pole but finished sixteen-laps behind the class winners. Taking the LMP2 honours were Matthew McMurry, Eric Lux and Gabriel Aubry in the No. 52 ORECA LMP2 from PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports.
In qualifying, for the GTD category the Michael Shank Racing Acuras were first and second quickest. Trent Hindman captured the pole in the No. 86 Acura NSX that he would share with Mario Farnbacher and Justin Marks. In the final half-hour, Farnbacher was second when the class-leading Audi R8 had to pit for fuel. But it wasn’t ‘clear sailing to the victory’ as he had to hold off the hard-charging BMW of Bill Auberlen.
The overall and DPi class podium at Watkins Glen International. To the left are the runner-up’s, Oliver Jarvis, Timo Bernhard and Tristian Nunez from Mazda Team Joest. On the opposite side of the podium are the third-place finishers and new championship leaders, Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron. In the center and scoring, Mazda’s first overall win in IMSA competition are Olivier Pla, Harry Tincknell and Jonathan Bomarito.
Finishing second just 0.452-seconds behind the GTLM winning Porsche was the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R shared by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia. Garcia qualified on the class pole and in the process broke the lap record by 1.149-seconds. Garcia and his teammate, Jan Magnussen remained in contention during the event. Despite pressuring the Porsche of Nick Tandy late in the contest, Garcia was unable to make the pass.
The field of the thirty-six starters heads into Watkins Glen International’s second turn for the first lap of the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen. Leading the charge is the pole-winning Mazda RT24-P driven by Oliver Jarvis. Behind Jarvis is the third-place starter, Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi. Missing is the second fastest qualifier, Dane Cameron who started from the pit-lane after the team discovered a tire was leaking.
Winning the overall and DPi class pole for round six of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was Oliver Jarvis. During his run, he was than 2.711-seconds quicker than the existing track record. In the six-hour event, Jarvis and his co-drivers, Tristan Nunez and Timo Bernard traded the top spot with the other contenders. In the final hour, the No. 77 Mazda was third but was able to pass the Acura of Juan Pablo Montoya for second place.
The GTLM podium for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen. In the center are the winners, Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet drivers of the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR. This marked the fourth consecutive GTLM victory for Porsche and the marque’s 570th win in IMSA competition. On the left are the second-place finishers from Corvette Racing, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia. Completing the rostrum are Ford’s, Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe.
Finishing second in the GTD category were Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley and Dillon Machavern. The trio started twenty-fourth overall and third in class with credit for qualifying going to Machavern. Auberlen drove the final stint and was in third place when the class-leading Audi R8 of Ryan Dalziel pitted for fuel. Now in second place, he chased down the Michael Shank Racing Acura of Mario Farnbacher but was unable to make the pass.
Sharing the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa prepared Ferrari 488 GT3 were Cooper McNeil, Jeff Westphal and Toni Vilander. The team’s best result to date was a third-place finish in the season’s second race at Sebring International Raceway. Westphal drove the Ferrari during qualifying and was fourth quickest in the GTD class. At the checkered flag, the team was in third place, 26.863-seconds behind the winning Acura NSX GT3.
Qualifying fifteenth overall and second in GTLM was the No. 67 Ford GT of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe. Westbrook started the six-hour event and jumped into the class lead. He was in the top spot when the steering column came loose, which limited his ability to shift. The issue was resolved and while the pair remained in contention, they were no match for the top Porsche and Corvette. At the finish, the duo was third in class.
The No. 6 Acura ARX-05 qualified second but started from the pit-lane after the team discovered one of the tires was leaking. Despite the setback, drivers Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya were able to work their way to the front of the field. Montoya was leading in the final hour but lost first place to the Mazdas and ended up with a third place. Although the duo did not collect the win, they now led the class standings.
The top three teams for GTD category. In the center are the winners, Trent Hindman, Mario Farnbacher and Justin Marks. This was the Michael Shank Racing team’s first victory of the season and the first series win for Hindman and Marks. On the left side of the rostrum are the second-place finishers, Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley and Dillon Machavern. Completing the podium are Cooper McNeil, Toni Vilander and Jeff Westphal.

1DPiBomarito / Tincknell / PlaMazda RT24-P211-
2DPiJarvis / Nunez / Rast / BernhardMazda RT24-P211-
3DPiCameron / MontoyaAcura ARX-05211-
4DPiTaylor / Van Der ZandeCadillac DPi-V.R211-
5DPiCastroneves / TaylorAcura ARX-05211-
6DPiBarbosa / Conway / AlbuquerqueCadillac DPi-V.R209-
7DPiNasr / Curran / DeraniCadillac DPi-V.R208-
8DPiOwen / BinderCadillac DPi-V.R206-
9DPiTrummer / Simpson / MillerCadillac DPi-V.R204-
10LMP2Lux / McMurry / AubryORECA 07201-
11DPiVautier / Piedrahita / GoikhbergCadillac DPi-V.R199-
12GTLMPilet / TandyPorsche 911 RSR195-
13GTLMMagnussen / GarciaCorvette C7.R195-
14GTLMBriscoe / WestbrookFord GT194-
15GTLMHand / MuellerFord GT194-
16GTLMKrohn / EdwardsBMW M8 GTLE194-
17GTLMVanthoor / BamberPorsche 911 RSR194-
18GTDFarnbacher / Marks / HindmanAcura NSX GT3188-
19GTDAuberlen / Folley / MachavernBMW M6 GT3188-
20GTDMacNeil / Westphal / VilanderFerrari 488 GT3188-
21GTDLegge / Figueiredo / NielsenAcura NSX GT3188-
22GTDHawksworth / Frommenwiler / HeistandLexus RC F GT3188-
23GTDHargrove / Robichon / KernPorsche 911 GT3 R188
24GTDPotter / Lally / PumpellyLamborghini Huracan GT3188-
25GTDMorad / Mies / FellerAudi R8 LMS GT3188-
26GTDBell / Telitz / MontecalvoLexus RC F GT3188-
27GTDMiller / Werner / SeefriedPorsche 911 GT3 R186-
28GTDEidson / Yount / GdovicLamborghini Huracan GT3185-
29GTDSkeen / Chase / DalzielAudi R8 LMS GT3185-
30LMP2Evans / Masson / CasselsORECA 07181-
31GTLMDe Phillippi / BlomqvistBMW M8 GTLE159Did Not Finish
32DPiBennett / Braun / DumasNissan DPi111Did Not Finish
33GTDLindsey / Long / BoullePorsche 911 GT3 R86Did Not Finish
34GTDSellers / Hardwick / LewisLamborghini Huracan GT368Did Not Finish
35GTLMMilner / GavinCorvette C7.R0Did Not Finish
36GTDKeating / Bleekemolen / FragaMercedes-AMG GT30Did Not Finish
37GTDDavis / Riberas / HardemanAudi R8 LMS GT3Did Not Start-

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