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Watkins Glen Saturday Notebook

John Dagys’ Saturday Pirelli World Challenge notebook from Watkins Glen…

Photo: Brian Cleary/PWC

***While Toni Vilander wrapped up the GT overall drivers’ championship with a fourth place finish in Saturday’s penultimate Pirelli World Challenge race of the season, the Finn has closed to within four points of Scott Hargrove in the GT Sprint title fight.

***Just three points seperate Hargrove from Alegra Motorsports’ Michael Christensen for runner-up in the overall championship, with Christensen only eight points out of the Sprint title in third. Hargrove has led the Sprint standings all season after sweeping the first two races of the year at St. Petersburg but has not been to victory lane since.

***The Canadian finished sixth on Saturday after being one of three cars to sustain left-side punctures in the race, which is believed to have all been triggered by the curbing at the bus stop chicane. 

***Members of the HART team, meanwhile, discovered a broken drain grate on the outside of the Turn 8 that could also have been a culprit for the punctures.

***A 1:44.189 lap time recorded by Mario Farnbacher will see the No. 92 HART Acura NSX GT3 line up alongside Race 1 winner Rodrigo Baptista on the front row for Sunday’s GT season-ending round. Click Here for the starting grid for Race 2.

***James Sofronas, who clinched the GTS overall title following a seventh-place finish in Race 1 on Saturday, needs to finish ninth or better to guarantee the GTS Sprint title. Lawson Aschenbach trails the GMG Racing owner/driver by 14 points.

***Jeff Courtney’s GTSA class win has vaulted him past Drew Staveley into the points lead in that class by eight points over SprintX champion Drew Staveley heading into the final race on Sunday.

***The No. 10 PF Racing Ford Mustang GT4 of Patrick Gallagher retired early in the GTS race after rising temperature alarms in the differential. It came after a blown fuse forced the car to the pits on Lap 9 after running solidly in the top-1o.

***Ian James, who finished second in the race, praised the series’ revised start and restart procedures, which has prohibited any passing or moving out of line prior to passing the start/finish line. “It stops people anticipating, it stops people diving down the inside erratically like they have done in the past,” he said. “I think it’s a change in the right direction.”

***Blancpain GT Series race director Alain Adam has been in command of the GT and GTS races this weekend, filling in for Peter Roberts, who is on Porsche Supercup duty at Monza. Adam also subbed for Roberts during the Lime Rock Park weekend and is set to become the full-time race director for the GT class next year.

***James’ second place result keeps the No. 50 Panoz Avezzano GT4’s streak alive of wins or runner-up finishes in all Sprint or SprintX races since Lime Rock in May, which has included four wins.

***An additional tire pallet was added at the bus stop on Saturday morning, in an effort to prevent any advantages gained while cutting through the chicane.

***Mike Johnson is serving as acting team manager for GMG Racing for the second consecutive PWC event. Johnson made his series debut earlier this year with VOLT Racing ,which claimed GTS SprintX honors at Virginia International Raceway.

***Interest levels in the Acura NSX GT3s are high, according to program manager Lee Niffenegger, who told Sportscar365 that discussions have taken place this weekend with a team for a potential two-car PWC operation next year.

***The No. 9 K-PAX Racing Bentley Continental GT3 has been sold, with Bentley looking to find new homes for the team’s two other previous-generation cars cars, which have also been put up for sale by the British manufacturer.  K-PAX will take delivery of two brand-new, 2018-spec Bentleys following next month’s California 8 Hours.

***WC Vision President and CEO Greg Gill said he hopes to finalize the 2019 PWC schedules this month. “We have gotten closer to being able to release all dates and venues but we’re still not quite there yet,” he told Sportscar365. “Over the next week or so, these things will all be finalized and we’ll be able to put that together.”

***Gill said the formats for the planned GT4 Sprint and SprintX series remain under evaluation, following the provisional release of the GTS and GT4 Americas East and West schedules in late July.

***Watkins Glen International President Michael Printup is running for public office in the Chemung County Legislature. Printup announced his bid in May for the Fourth District legislative seat, which encompasses parts of the towns of Horseheads and Big Flats, with the primary set for Sept. 13.

***Watch the final GTS round of the season on Sunday at 10:55 a.m. EDT, with GT Race 2 getting underway at 1:05 p.m., both live on and SiriusXM channel 383. Tape-delayed coverage will air on CBS Sports Network on Sept. 8 at 12 p.m. EDT (GT) and Sept. 13 at 8 p.m. (GTS).

Ryan Myrehn contributed to this report

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for and SPEED Channel and has contributed to numerous other motorsports publications worldwide. Contact John

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