- 66 Ford GT team earns first win at Watkins Glen
- Ford Chip Ganassi Racing used pit strategy, fuel economy and luck to drive to Victory Lane after locking out front row in qualifying
- Ford CGR now heads to Mosport this week for the next race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
WATKINS GLEN, New York, July 1, 2018–After dominating practice and locking out the front row in qualifying, it looked like the odds were good that Ford Chip Ganassi Racing would dominate again on Sunday. They didn’t, but they made the right moves exactly when it counted and the team walked away with their second win in three years at the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International.
For Ford CGR, the race came down to the No. 66 Ford GT pitting exactly at the right time on the last cycle. They did, able to take a shorter stop thanks to a fuel-sipping strategy executed by driver Joey Hand, and when Hand turned the car over to co-driver Dirk Müller, Müller took Team Manager and shot caller Mike O’Gara seriously when he told him to “have the best out-lap of his life.”
That move put them in perfect position to inherit the lead when the then-leaders made their own stops, including their No. 67 teammates, who had battled to p2 and stayed in the hunt despite a broken front roll bar. Müller then kept the lead to the checkered flag to put the No. 66 in Victory Lane for the first time since Road America last year.
“A lot of little things happened early on to prevent us from running our best,” Müller said. “We had a little electrical glitch and the team did such an awesome job finding the error and fixing it, then we were caught out by a caution. I thought it might be difficult to come back. Then Joey drove absolutely stellar at the end and (O’Gara) made the perfect call. We leap-frogged everybody. There was a lot of pressure. It sounds easy, but it wasn’t. I gave it my all.”
Hand qualified the No. 66 p2, next to polesitter and teammate Richard Westbrook in the No. 67. Westbrook and co-driver Ryan Briscoe finished sixth.
Hand and Müller came to Watkins Glen fresh off of a third-place GTE Pro finish at the Le Mans 24.
“We worked on our race car all weekend,” Hand said. “We didn’t have the fastest car. The No. 67 had a great weekend, actually, and we just kept working at it. We made changes this morning in warm-up. That’s one thing we do well as a team on the No. 66 car. Dirk and I have been driving together so long and we know each other so well, we always try to make a racecar, thinking ‘what kind of car do we need to pass on the dirt and gravel?’
“You get put in awkward situations in these races, especially in a six-hour race. We had our best race car today in the race and that’s a huge testament to the guys at Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Ford Performance, and all the help we get from Multimatic and Michelin. We were good at the beginning, but these cars pack a lot of aero so we decided we’d try to save fuel, shorten our fuel stops, and as long as we could hang on we could maybe do it. I was able to more than hang on, I was able to attack, even on fuel conserve. As much as I love racing and passing, I knew my job was to save enough fuel so that when Dirk got in, we could have a shorter stop and leapfrog some guys. We had a really good car out front, in clean air, so that’s what I was trying to give Dirk.”
It was a disappointing result for Westbrook and co-driver Ryan Briscoe, who combined to lead every practice session before Westbrook qualified first.
“The broken roll bar happened on the very first stop, so after an hour,” said Westbrook, who ran the quickest lap of the race in GTLM with a 1:42.872. “The car was obviously very difficult to drive. That’s a key part of our set-up, to have some roll support. It’s a little hard to take because the weekend promised so much. But when it comes down to it, lady luck wasn’t with us. I’m really happy our teammates were able to win.”
Ford CGR now heads to Mosport this week for the next race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.