Story and photo by Vickie Miller
Another fantastic weekend at Watkins Glen International (WGI) is in the books. Â The weather was perfect, with one little rain shower allowing fans to reflect on the downpour from last year. The weekend held many types of racing including the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship (WTSC) four classes (P, PC, GTLM, GTD), IMSA Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge (CTSC) with two classes (ST, GS) and IMSA Mazda Prototype Lites with two classes L1 and L2.
Also providing racing excitement were the combined Porsche GT3 Cup USA and Cup Canada with the Lamborghini Super Trofeo series in attendance.Â I enjoyed a very long chat with Stefan Wilson who is running the remainder of the series with team GMG #23 Â Lamborghini HuracÃ¡n LP 620-2 Super Trofeo in the Pro/Am class. Â If you attend a Lambo race, please take a moment to meet and talk with Stefan.
During the race weekend, the phrase that paid was â€œnew surface!â€Â Everyone was talking about the repaving effort completed at WGI.Â Indy Car was the first to try out the new surface with test days in mid-June preparing for Indy Carâ€™s return to the track for the race event over Labor Day weekend.
At WGI, I spoke with Jon Beckman, track VP, who mentioned all the other improvements besides just the repaving of the track.Â There is a new pit wall, pit boxes behind the wall, and new cabling in the pit boxes for internet and scanners.Â The old surface was ground up and poured throughout the camping area for new road replacing the old gravel.Â The vineyard outside the media center and the flower beds were all freshly mulched and the place looked great.
The highlights of the weekend include, for the CTSC race at the wave the of green the masses headed into turn one proving once again, you cannot go 12 wide at WGI.Â The battle between Stevenson Motorsports Robin Liddell and the Turner Motorsport BMW (sorry I donâ€™t remember who was driving at the time) was fierce and resulting in Robin losing his front bumper.Â I wonder if Robin was impatient as a child, too.
Scott Maxwell received his 12th career CTSC pole in the GS class driving the # 15 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Shelby GT350R-C. Â Scott was on pole at WGI last year, too, despite the tragic issue of the left front tire being stuck during a pit stop, the # 15 raced back to finish fourth.
Item of note, the three podium spots for both the GS and ST class in CTSC were taken by Porsche Cayman GT4 cars <insert your own BOP comment here>.
While the new surface provided grip and cars found new speed and improved times, going over the curbing to what on paper looks like the quickest shortest route, resulted in teams chewing up their tires many laps earlier than anticipated.Â Many track records were re-written including SW Racing driver, Corey Lewis in his Porsche Cayman who set a new time of 2:06:029!!
By my count, there were nine races held over the WGI weekend:Â 1 WTSC, 1 CTSC, 3 Lites, 2 GT3 cup, and 2 Lamborghini, and with the hot laps and car corrals taking turns on the track, there was always excitement to watch.Â WGI is one of my favorite tracks for the scenery, access to different viewing areas and a full action packed weekend.
On Sunday, WTSC held an early morning practice session, but few cars took to the track. Â Many teams have the cars set up in â€œraceâ€ mode and ready to go.Â Why risk a possible issue with a short morning practice, especially since there was no noticeably change due with the weather.
Many WTSC teams this year ran the full six-hour race with only two drivers.Â While Filipe Albuquerque was on hand to help Action Express, he never got behind the wheel during the race.Â The two-man Action Express teams took the top two spots on the podium, with Michael Shank Racing (MSR) with three drivers, Ozz Negri, John Pew and Olivier Pla started the race and ended with a hard fought third.
Okay, letâ€™s be honest.Â Yes, Ozz qualified the car and started the race, he did great.Â John took over the car and he did great, but Olivierâ€™sâ€™ turn behind the wheel was very exciting to watch.Â Olivier had a little quick off and on, recovered nicely and had some dirt to work off the tires.Â Okay, so he didnâ€™t exactly set the world on fire with his restarts, but he tried to hit all his marks and push hard to get the team to second place.Â I talked with him after the race and expressed my pride in his driving.
Item of note was the totally sharp # 55 Mazda Motorsport livery and the new orange driver fire suits to match.Â From the Mazda Motorsports website, â€œThe No. 55 Mazda will feature a vivid green and orange color scheme in honor of the 25th anniversary of Mazdaâ€™s rotary powered victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1991. The No. 70 car will carry a similar design, but in the Soul Red, Silver and Machine Grey colors which represent the present and future look of the Mazda brand and Mazda Motorsports.â€
Other than the repaving of the track, I think the liveries on the two Mazda Motorsport cars were the talk of the weekend.Â With WGI being held during the July 4th weekend, many cars honor America with red, white, and blue decals or paint schemes.Â It was very moving to see and should remind us all of the freedoms we have in America.Â Thank a Veteran!
Before I open my complaint box, letâ€™s spend some enjoyable time with Max Hanratty, driver of #30 Mazda Lites with Extreme Speed Motorsports (ESM). Â Â Max also drives in the USF 2000 series, part of the Road to Indy program, with Arms Up Motorsports. Â Â I had met Max earlier this year at Sebring and caught up with him again at St. Petersburg and Indy 500 weekend.
- What race/track is on your bucket list? A.Â Race at 24 Hours of Le Mans with ESM Patron!
- What is your favorite food? A.Â Steak especially surf and turf.
- What is currently on your playlist? A. Anything electronic to get pumped up for a race.
- If you could spend the afternoon with anyone, who would it be and what would you do?
- Max has always had a love of basketball and considered making that his career choice. Max would shoot hoops with his favorite player, Dwayne Wade ex-Miami Heat player.Â Dwayne is a big source of inspiration to Max and helps him get through the rough days and workout sessions.Â Dwayne never gives up and keeps pushing which Max inspires to do too.
Q:Â What is the biggest difference between driving the USF 2000 car to Mazda Lites?
A: Both have a very different driving styles. The USF 2000 car â€œmovesâ€ around the track more, while the Lites car has momentum and downforce.Â Also Max enjoys the paddle shifter of the Lites car.
Q: Since you started racing by attending Skip Barber School, many drivers start with karting, have you ever raced go karts?
A: Maxâ€™s first time in a go kart was earlier this year at Homestead with his USF 2000 teammate, Victor Franzoni, where Max tested only and enjoyed the experience.
Please enjoy learning more about Maxâ€™s racing helmet:Â http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BC8eDtzS3ps
Maxâ€™s goal is to become an Indy Car driver.Â With Maxâ€™s talent, desire, strong ethics for hard work, and his noticeable and fun interaction with fans, I think Max is well on his way to making his dream come true.Â Whether itâ€™s with Indy Car or in sports car racing, keep your eye on this young man as his future will be filled with podium visits!
Please learn more about Max from his website, which is excellent by the way:Â http://www.mphanratty.com/Â Â Please follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MPHanratty
When you hear the words gold, silver, and bronzeâ€¦..if you are a race fan, you think driver rankings.Â Well, I am not going near that topic! I did ask several drivers if they were going to watch the upcoming summer Olympicsâ€¦..nice segue!Â Here is a few videos with their response.Â Of course, Al Carter never disappoints with his opinion!
Meet Maxâ€™s ESM Lites team mate James Dayson (@jimmydracing):Â https://youtu.be/aYX-m0CMfd4
Pierre Kleinubing, driver of the C360R Ford Shelby GT350R-C: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dN_2miof8EM
Al Carterâ€™s Report on the Olympics (Part One):Â http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc2CUn0nZRs
And just because one report is not enough from Al Carter, please enjoy Al Carterâ€™s Report on the Olympics (Part Two):Â http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVht9FY_l68
So if you have read to this point, you have met Max Hanratty who had 3 races with IMSA Mazda Lites over the weekend and letâ€™s say you want to see his results.Â Good Luck. At the time I am writing this article, a quick google search will take you to the Prototype Lites website where you will find the results for the Sebring race from March 2016 which I donâ€™t consider â€œcurrentâ€.Â http://prototypelites.imsa.com/schedule-results/current-results
Okay, now try navigating to the race schedule, scrolling down to Past Events, find Watkins Glen, click on DETAILS, and the results shown, once again, are from Sebring.Â In my opinion, the staff updating the race series website or providing information via social media are mass communication college graduates and have never been a race fan. Â By the way, the CTSC website â€œcurrent resultsâ€ are from Laguna Seca.
If I want any information, I check out John Dagyâ€™s Sportscar365 where the link to CTSC results can be found here:Â http://imsatiming.com/Results/2016/ICTSC/04-Watkins%20Glen/ICTSC%20WGI%20Race%20Unofficial.pdf
And the WTSC results can be found here: http://imsatiming.com/Results/2016/WeatherTech%20Championship/06-Watkins%20Glen/WeatherTech%20Championship%20WGI%20Race%20Unofficial.pdf
I travel to many races in different countries and various race series and in my attempt to find event information (schedule, gate times open, parking, etc.) I am increasing frustrated in the lack of any, or correct, communications.Â I rely heavily on team PR staff or other fans which is not the proper method.Â A race series or even the track itself should provide the fan with more information than needed for an enjoyable weekend.
Many fans walk up to me at the track and ask me anything from when or where the autograph session will be held or where are the restrooms?Â I usually know because I have been to the event or track before and can help.Â I am always glad to provide assistance, but sometimes I donâ€™t know and I am unsure where to find the answers.
The series and track should put on their â€œfan hatâ€.Â While I do not follow the IMSA account or have the app, the new person whom I met several times is much improved on Twitter to answer questions.Â But if the information was on the website and provided proactively, the twitter account shouldnâ€™t be the main source for Q&A. Â Â I hope to see improvements in the communication channels.Â I will be watching.
Thank you all for reading. I have no affiliation with IMSA, WGI, etc. just a fan. There are many blogs and websites where you will find statistics, results, and scoring from the race; this is â€œjust the way I see itâ€.Â Got a comment?Â Feel free to post at the end of this article or tweet me at @viclovesracing