One of North America’s most historic and challenging circuits, Watkins Glen International is a fitting home for the third stop of the 2021 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, rightfully taking its place alongside Daytona, Sebring, and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
The fast 3.4-mile circuit features 11 turns, some of long duration, and 141 feet of elevation. Like most circuits of its era, it is a circuit with consequences for mistakes.
The longer the race duration, the greater number of options for teams and drivers. At Six Hours, Watkins Glen is the shortest of the four Endurance Cup events, but still more than twice as long as standard IMSA events.
Given the depth of competition, quality of preparation and level of driving talent this will likely be a six-hour sprint.
The mid-week forecast calls for sunshine and temperatures in the low 90s on Sunday. If correct, that means a very hot and slick racetrack. GTLM teams will likely look to their higher temperature range tire options. The heat may also limit drivers doing extended multi-stints.
Two or Three
Two-car teams like Corvette Racing, BMW Team RLL, and Vasser Sullivan Lexus have the luxury of being able to split strategies.
The first decision for teams is whether to go with two drivers or three. All the GT teams, save Corvette Racing, have opted for three drivers.
Drivers like Pagenaud, Rossi, Kobayashi, Johnson, Bourdais, and Andretti are taking a rare mid-season weekend off from their other championships to race here.
Next is to determine the batting order or driver rotation. Who starts? Who finishes?
Each team plans the race from front-to-back and back-to-front. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Mike Hull often looks for match ups. Who will he put in the car against a top rival’s strongest player?
Race strategists consider who is best in traffic or has the pace to break away from pursuers? Who manages tires and fuel? Who can attack and who best defends?
Minimum drive time for DPi and GTLM is just 30 minutes while it is 90 minutes for GTD, LMP2 and LMP3.
The timing and frequency of caution periods can quickly shuffle the field and race strategies.
Maintaining tire performance over the long stints is a highly prized quality.
Unlike the longer races like Daytona or Sebring where the track conditions and temperatures often change in the evening hours, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen runs in daylight. The biggest variables are likely direct sunshine making for higher track temperatures and any rain.
Here are the current Watkins Glen records:
DPi/Oliver Jarvis/1:29.639/June 29, 2019
LMP2/Gabriel Aubry/1:31.735/June 29, 2019
LMP3/Colin Thompson/1:42.142/June 30, 2017
GTLM/Antonio Garcia/1:40.799/June 29, 2019
GTD/Jack Hawksworth/1:44.499/June 30, 2018
GS/Indy Dontje/1:54.709/June 28, 2019
TCR/Michael Lewis/1:56.888/June 28, 2019
DPi/Olivier Pla/1:29.657/June 30, 2019
LMP2/Matt McMurry/1:33.042/June 30, 2019
LMP3/Colin Thompson/1:43.623/June 30, 2017
GTLM/Antonio Garcia/1:41.563/June 30, 2019
GTD/Jack Hawksworth/1:44.786/June 30,2019
GS/Devin Jones/1:54.077/June 29, 2019
TCR/Michael Johnson/1:57.994/June 29, 2019