Top-4 finish at a chaotic Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen

Tuesday, June 25, 2024
IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship - Six Hours at the Glen

Ben Barnicoat was back behind the wheel of the #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 at Watkins Glen over the weekend, taking on another endurance event in a busy month for the 27-year old. A topsy-turvy race, with multiple incidents, heavy rain and a red flag, saw Ben and his teammate Jack Hawksworth show race-leading pace, but a penalty and the weather would play against their strategy, eventually claiming P4, helping to close the gap on the championship lead.

Qualifying for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen took place in very warm, sunny conditions, and Jack showed the potential of the fluro yellow and black Lexus, pushing towards the top of the timing screens. As times continued to improve, the Vasser Sullivan entry also moved up the order, and would eventually end the session on the second row. From here, as the lights went green for the start of the race, Jack held position, managing several early Full Course Yellow restarts. Slick work during a pitstop just before the end of the opening hour allowed the #14 to make up positions, and Jack rejoined the race at the front of the GTD Pro field.

Ben took over, just before the two-hour mark, and joined the Watkins Glen circuit holding a strong lead, before a further extended Full Course Yellow interruption neutralised his advantage. Ben led the field away and headed towards a chaotic second half of the race, before the weather delivered its first twist, and a drive through penalty saw the #14 briefly drop down the order. Changeable weather over the following hour saw strategy calls to switch from slick tyres, while further Full Course Yellow periods also shook up the order. As the race approached two-thirds distance, and with a dry line appearing, Ben battled hard over several laps to close in on the podium positions, making the pass on the Corvette just after the four-hour mark.

A further twist came shortly after, as the skies darkened once again, and a sudden heavy downpour hit the circuit. Ben managed to negotiate the slippery surface and brought the RC F GT3 into the pitlane slightly ahead of the scheduled stop, but quick reactions from the team adjust the strategy, and the full service stop switched Ben out for the final stint as the rain got progressively worse.

With a Full Course Yellow called shortly after Ben stopped, and the pitlane now closed, the #14 returned to the track as one of the only cars running on the right tyres for the conditions. At this point, with several cars skidding off the track, the race was red flagged for more than an hour. However, with the conditions improving, the race got back underway but, what had been the right tyres at the time, soon became the wrong ones as a dry line emerged so Jack was forced back into the pits to make a further change.

After this final stop, Ben watched on from the pitwall with the #14 running in P6. With the clock counting down, and the field now running at full race pace again, the GTP field worked its way through the GTD cars, and Jack made the most of the opportunity with a pass, back up to 5th, before the class leader was forced to stop for a late splash of fuel, allowing the Vasser Sullivan team to gain a further spot. After six hard hours of racing in extremely challenging conditions, the #14 Lexus RC F GT3 claimed P4.

Reflecting on a tough race, Ben explained:

P4 on the day, which is where we started, but there was a lot in between! We definitely had a car capable of winning, but things just didn’t quite fall our way today. It kind of went wrong when we got the drive through penalty for the safety car procedure infringement, which is something that feels like it wasn’t super fair, but when these things come you just have to take them.
We recovered well after that, but got a little bit unlucky with the weather and the red flag. We made the right call to put wets on when it rained, but then the lengthy red flag meant that everyone who was on the slick tyres were able to stay out and make it to the end. The huge positives from the weekend are that the team gave us a great race car this weekend, which had strong pace, and we took a step closer to the championship lead.

Arriving at the weekend P2 in the championship, and outscoring the current leaders, Ben and Jack have now further closed the gap to the championship lead. Next up is Canadian Tyre Motorsport Park, over the weekend 12-14 July.