Following a five month, $12 million repave project, Watkins Glen International is ready for the rubber to meet the road at this weekend’s IMSA race.
Continental Tire held a successful tire test in early May which was followed by a two-day promoter test May 25-26.
While the overall dimensions and configuration of the 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course remain the same, the surface is smoother and faster and reviews from drivers and teams across multiple series have been remarkable.
“The new surface is amazing,” said Ryan Dalziel, driver of the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP. “It’s been a long time since I’ve driven on a new surface so good. I have to commend Watkins Glen on improving an already perfect race track.”
Lawson Aschenbach, driver of the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3, echoed Dalziel’s sentiment saying.
“Watkins Glen did a fantastic job on the repave!” he said. “The new surface is incredibly smooth and created significant grip levels.
“I wasn’t sure that they could make one of my favorite tracks better, but they did just that. You could see they took their time to do it properly and even addressed a few issues like water runoff.”
The historic track had not been repaved since 1998 so when Continental’s tire test was held in early May, there was a bit of an unknown but overall, the new track surface proved to be very smooth and brought a higher level of grip.
This higher grip level reduced the sliding that normally occurs on a more abrasive track thus, tire wear was minimal.
With faster lap times and very little degradation, the performance of the Continental tires was proven and some great racing is expected this coming weekend.
“Michael Printup and his team have done an excellent job with the repaving of Watkins Glen,” said Travis Roffler, director of marketing for Continental Tire.
“We had an excellent test in May and tire wear looked really good. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a couple track records set this weekend.
“We think the drivers are going to have fun and the fans are going to see some extremely competitive racing. It’s going to be a great race weekend!”
Drivers and team alike had similar feedback following the multiple test days.
“The Continental tires held up great on the new surface and provided lots of grip,” said Aschenbach following the test.
“It seemed that the new pavement was gentle on tire wear and allowed us to push the limits of our Audi Sport R8 LMS.
“This is a high speed track with lots of flowing, fast corners so I think the combination of the tire and car will suit our team very well.”
Dalziel added: “We pushed the tires as hard as we could and they stood up extremely well, in fact we really couldn’t hurt them. The progress Continental have made over their time in sports car racing is amazing.”
Additionally, director of team operations for Action Express Racing, Chris Mitchum, described the changes positively saying, “The repave was impressive. The track was glass smooth, and speeds are absolutely up.“
There are six main areas identified in the long track at Watkins Glen – the ninety (turn 1), the esses (turns 2-4), the back straight, the chute (turn 6), the toe (turn 7), and the boot (turn 8).
It’s typically a fast track that requires a lot of focus and with newly poured concrete apex curbing in the bus stop, some challenges will require a bit more focus.
To limit cutting through the grass in the bus stop, a very high, sharp and wide concrete apron was added.
It’s possible that some GTD cars will try to cut the corner since the cars have clearance.
However, teams have been advised against this as putting the inside of a tire on the most aggressive part of the curb could risk tire damage.
What can fans expect to see this weekend?
A newly paved Watkins Glen coupled with the performance of the Continental tires will provide six hours of intense, action-packed racing! Expect records to be broken and high speeds as well as a lot of standing up in your seat. Just ask the guys behind the wheel.
“I have no doubt that you will see lap records fall during the Watkins Glen 6 Hour weekend,” said Aschenbach.
“You’ll also see intense battles and an exciting race now that the drivers can push themselves and the cars a bit more!”
Dalziel added: “For sure there will be records broken, nonstop action and six hours of intense racing. I can’t wait to get the 6 Hours of The Glen started!”