The moving of the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen to prevent a clash with the Indianapolis 8 Hour has become a “substantial relief” for Honda Performance Development according to NSX GT3 program manager Lee Niffenegger, who admitted their programs would have been compromised had a solution not been found.
IMSA announced on Thursday that its Watkins Glen round would move to Labor Day weekend, six weeks after the rescheduled event was initially placed on the Oct. 1-4 weekend that will see the first-ever GT3 endurance race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Acura had been one of the hardest hit manufacturers by the initial clash, which had put three-fourths of its Intercontinental GT Challenge powered by Pirelli crew out of commission, along with conflicts for three of its full-season GT World Challenge America powered by AWS drivers, who all also have full-time rides in IMSA.
Speaking to Sportscar365, Niffenegger said he was relieved to hear the news of a scheduling solution although HPD had already been working on backup plans on the driver and engineering front.
“For us it was going to be a personnel strain,” he said.
“We were really facing a bit of a struggle as to how to support all the way down to our touring car customers because TCRs were [also] going be racing in two places at once and we only have one support engineer for all of the touring car programs.
“We put plans in place in case that didn’t change.”
HPD-contracted IMSA drivers Mario Farnbacher and Dane Cameron, along with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Renger van der Zande, are scheduled to split driving duties of the JAS Motorsport-run Acura NSX GT3 Evo in IGTC this year with Super GT driver Bertrand Baguette.
All four drivers would have been unavailable to contest the Indianapolis round, with a Super GT round in Fuji now also provisionally taking place on the same weekend.
GTWC America championship leaders Trent Hindman and Shelby Blackstock, along with fellow Racers Edge Motorsports teammate Kyle Marcelli, meanwhile, all have full-season IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge rides, which had added to the logistical nightmare for the manufacturer and its teams.
It’s understood upwards of 100 people, from drivers to engineers and media and PR staff, were affected by the initial clash.
“That was also a massive concern as we were trying to figure out how we were going to divide up what we had and/or find replacements that were suitable,” said Niffenegger.
“But that was not so easy as most of the guys were already racing that weekend in some way shape or form.
“There were discussions of pulling in other people [for the IGTC car], like Trent Hindman, if we could figure out some way to make it work. But that was even going to be hard with the simultaneous race aspect they’re doing with the first three hours [of the Indy 8H] being GTWC America for points.
“We were trying to get creative but this allows us to not have to be so creative!
“It is a pretty substantial relief from many aspects, for us globally and locally.”
Niffenegger said that Farnbacher and Cameron are now set to contest the Indy 8H, although the identity of the third driver will be confirmed by JAS.
Farnbacher is due to test with the Italian squad at Spa next month, with the factory NSX GT3 Evo confirmed for the remaining IGTC rounds despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“They’re still moving forward,” said Niffenegger. “They’ve been testing just recently and have been able to restart [operations].
“Mario, because he’s not going to be doing the Sebring [IMSA] race (due to Meyer Shank Racing not being entered), will be able to go back and support JAS with a test at Spa in July.
“We’re still going forward with the JAS-entered car with HPD support with Dane and Mario supporting them.”