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IMSA: Simpson, JDC-Miller win thriller at Watkins Glen; Ford, Turner claim GT honors

JDC-Miller WG 2018

JDC-Miller Motorsports No. 99 Oreca at Watkins Glen. Photo courtesy of IMSA

“David” slayed “goliath” in Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen, as Stephen Simpson made a spectacular three-wide pass on Jordan Taylor and Juan Pablo Montoya to take the lead in the final hour.

Simpson, in the the No. 99 Oreca 07 Gibson “Red Dragon,” then hung on as they battled through GT traffic to give co-driver Misha Goikhberg and Chris Miller, along with the entire JDC-Miller Racing team, their first Prototype victory in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

The battle was set up after Andy Lally suffered a cut tire in his No. 44 Audi R8 LMS GT3 for Magnus Racing, which dropped bodywork and a tire carcas on track after the tire started coming apart.

A round of pit stops saw Jordan Taylor come out with the lead in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R - the Wayne Taylor Racing team elected to take fuel only, which gave them a much quicker stop and vaulted them into the lead.

Montoya, whose No. 6 Acura ARX-05 had dominated the race with he and co-driver Dane Cameron, came out in second, with Simpson’s No. 99 Oreca in third. CORE autosport, which entered the pits as the leader, came out in sixth with the team electing to change drivers - Colin Braun got out, with Romain Dumas finishing the race in their No. 54 Oreca. (Of note: although Braun qualified the No. 54 on the pole, the team elected start Jon Bennett to get his required drive time in, which saw them start at the back of the Prototype field).

A subsequent restart saw Montoya immediately challenge Taylor for the lead as they entered the esses, but their battle opened the door for Simpson, who took advantage and passed both on the back straightaway approaching the bus stop chicane.

Simpson stretched out the lead to nearly four seconds, but GT traffic allowed Montoya and Dumas, who quickly climbed up to third, to close in. But, their efforts were to no avail, as Simpson pulled the lead back out to nearly two seconds to take the win.

Dumas nipped Montoya at the line to finish second. Behind them, Paul Di Resta brought the No. 32 United Autosports Ligier JS P217 Gibson home fourth, while Taylor ended up fifth.

In GT Le Mans (GTLM), Dirk Mueller and Joey hand emerged from a tough race-long battle with Porsche GT Team and Corvette Racing to take the GTLM victory in their No. 66 Ford GT for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.

Both entries from Gansssi, Porsche, and Corvette fought hard with each other for all six hours - Ganassi and Porsche slugged it out in the first half of the race, while Corvette emerged as a threat in the second half - Jan Magnussen was leading in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R with just over one hour left.

But, the aforementioned caution and pit stops saw Mueller emerge in the lead, and he held on during the final hour to take the GTLM win by 1.5 seconds. It’s Ganassi’s first GTLM victory since the Rolex 24 at Daytona, won by Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe, and Scott Dixon.

Antonio Garcia, who took over the No. 3 Corvette from Magnussen at their final stop, came home second. Patrick Pilet and Laurens Vanthoor finished third and fourth their Nos. 911 and 912 Porsche 911 RSRs, with Tommy Milner finishing fifth in No. 4 Corvette.

In GTD, Turner Motorsport inherited the lead late in the race after the leading Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi, in the hands of Sheldon van der Linde, incurred a penalty for pitting in a closed pit - they tried diving in to take their final stop before the pits closed for the aforementioned caution for Andy Lally, but did not make it in time.

Their penalty saw Turner driver Markus Palttala move to the lead ahead of Meyer Shank Racing’s Alvaro Parente - the MSR squad bad been battling Turner, Montaplast, and Paul Miller Racing in an extremely intense GTD battle that saw all four entries engage in a six-hour slugfest.

In the end, Palttala, who co-drove with Dillon Machavern and Don Yount, hung on for the win ahead of Parente, who returned to MSR as a co-driver with Katherine Legge. Bryan Sellers brought the No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3 home in third for the Paul Miller squad. Jack Hawksworth, the GTD pole sitter, finished fourth in the No. 15 Lexus RCF GT3 for 3GT Racing, with Jeroen Bleekemolen finishing fifth in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports.

Full results can be found here. IMSA heads to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park next week for the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix.