Leaders at both the halfway point and the finish of the Sahlen's Six Hours at the Glen, Action Express Racing took a decisive second victory of the 2012 Grand-Am Rolex Series season at Watkins Glen. Drivers Joao Barbosa and Darren Law took the Corvette DP to its sixth win in eight races this season.
Barbosa and Law moved to the head of the queue after running a lap longer on fuel at the half distance mark to secure the maximum points awarded at that distance for the North American Endurance Championship. With 16 minutes to go, when the overall outcome was still to be decided, Barbosa forged ahead with a clean but firm pass to Alex Gurney's inside at the toe of the boot to take the lead back. The two were approaching the AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 at that point of the track.
“It was so competitive. I saw an opportunity, and I had to push it,” Barbosa said. “The 99 got held up by traffic. It was now or never. I'm really excited to fight with some of these drivers.”
Although Gurney fell nearly 4 seconds back and clawed to within a couple car lengths, a final charge was stunted when Gurney was balked trying to lap the Horton Autosport Porsche, which pulled out in a passing attempt on one of the Sahlen's Mazda around the Carousel. Gurney in the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing “Red Dragon” finished just 0.238 of a second back, co-driving with Jon Fogarty.
“I wouldn't say the monkey's gone off the back – it's still there,” Gurney said. “I caught the GTs at precisely the wrong point. Joao put a move on and that was it.”
Starworks Motorsport finished third with its Riley-Ford behind the two Vettes, in a good effort turned in by usuals Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio with guest third driver Sebastien Bourdais, in his Watkins Glen debut. Despite pitting to replace a broken radiator, the Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates crew recovered to take a fine fourth with polesitter Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.
The win also vaulted Action Express to the head of the standings in the second of three NAEC races this season. Unofficially, the team leads Starworks by two, Ganassi by three and Rolex 24 at Daytona winners Michael Shank Racing by four.
GT saw Stevenson Motorsports take its first win of the 2012 season – second for Camaro after Autohaus Motorsports, absent from Watkins Glen this weekend, won in Detroit. The usual pairing of Robin Liddell and John Edwards took Stevenson to the head of the NAEC points in GT.
“We never caught a break earlier,” Liddell said. “John did an awesome job. He did 2.5-3 hours in the middle of the race to make my stint a bit easier.”
Edwards, a former Mazda driver now racing for GM, admitted the Camaro was close on fuel in the waning stages.
“The win has eluded us – I don't think I've ever been more nervous when they said fuel reserve,” Edwards said. “When he came out of last corner, all the nervousness just went away.”
Turner Motorsport finished second with its BMW M3 and the aforementioned AIM Ferrari 458 completed the GT podium. Extreme Speed Motorsports posted its best result in four Rolex starts in 2012, fourth with Guy Cosmo, Johannes van Overbeek and Mike Hedlund in another Ferrari 458. For Turner, a flawless drive from the trio of Bill Auberlen, Paul Dalla Lana and Billy Johnson in the six-hour race came up just short of their second win of the year.
Behind the leaders in GT, there were a handful of frustrating stories that seemed to pepper the field throughout the day.
Two Porsches suffered in-race fires. The first, in dramatic fashion later captured by an in-car camera, occurred for Rolex 24 champions Magnus Racing. Team principal and co-driver John Potter brought the car to a stop just past the entrance to the boot with an electrical fire in the dashboard. Later in the race, the same fate befell the Goldcrest/Burtin Racing guest entry driven by Claudio Burtin and Martin Ragginger.
Additionally, at a restart with roughly one hour, 18 minutes to go, Ben Keating's TRG Porsche got going out of Turn 11 and speared the rear of the Sahlen's Mazda RX-8 driven by Dane Cameron (RIGHT), who had driven a sterling race to third in class from the back of the grid after the rear sway bar broke after qualifying. Whelen Racing's Corvette was also involved.
Both APR Motorsport Audi R8s hit problems after promising early runs. The full-season No. 51 car had to replace a broken wheel bearing and axle while the guest No. 52 had a suspension failure similar to what hit its sister car.
After a stretch of four races in five weekends, some teams shift to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a two-day test during this week, and the rest of the series will race there for the first time at the end of the month on July 27.