WATKINS GLEN, NY (26 June 2023) – Changing weather conditions and a pit stop fuel fill that was a split second too quick for the rulebook were the difference for Sean Creech Motorsport (SCM) in Sunday’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins International.
Drivers Lance Willsey, João Barbosa and Nico Pino showed solid pace behind the wheel of the No. 33 SCM Focal One Ligier JS P320. But the team found a significant difference in the car’s reaction to the racing surface at Watkins Glen this weekend than they’d experienced just two weeks earlier in testing, thus putting a premium on practice time. But rapidly changing conditions during the two practice sessions – and a rained-out qualifying – limited time on track and made setup decisions difficult.
Two 90-minute practice sessions (one late Friday, one early Saturday) gave Pino, racing at WGI for the first time, a chance to get up to speed on the tricky 11-turn, 3.45-mile circuit. But as it turned out, neither session was in the weather conditions the team would see during the race. Nevertheless, Pino held the top spot on the speed charts for much of the early going in Saturday’s session but it was Barbosa who set what would end up being the team’s fastest lap of the weekend – a 1:41.522 once the track dried out. But the weather changed again and Saturday afternoon qualifying was completely rained out, with the grid set by team championship points which placed the No. 33 in seventh on the grid.
Willsey took the green flag and settled in quickly, though finding a race rhythm was difficult through the first third of the race with multiple yellows slowing the action. He put down consistent laps, with solid pace before handing to Barbosa two hours into the race. The team executed a flawless pit stop – but with a 40-second refueling minimum, the telemetry showed that the refuel had been 39.95 seconds: a mere .05 of a second short, which earned the team a drive-through penalty that put the Ligier a lap down.
However, Barbosa did not become a four-time Sahlen’s Six Hour winner without a great deal of success at Watkins Glen, a within several laps he had reset the quick LMP3 class lap time. But nearing the halfway point, a P2 slid to the inside through turn seven, pushing Barbosa to the outside and into a GT car, causing left rear body work damage.
Pino jumped in just after the halfway point and also laid down quick times through his stint, hoping for the full course caution that would put the car back on the lead lap. With an hour to go, that caution still had not come, as Pino handed to Barbosa to finish the race, taking a hard-fought seventh place finish.
“It was an interesting weekend,” said Willsey. “With the weather difference, what we learned in testing didn’t really carry through. Everyone really expected three days of rain but instead, it rained off and on through practices, but then not at all on Sunday. It’s been a long time since all five classes were on track so it was a bit chaotic early, but we avoided the carnage. But the car was good, Nico and Joao did great, and we finished in a decent spot. Very much looking forward to getting to CTMP in two weeks to do both the VP Racing SportsCar Challenge and the WeatherTech race.”
“I feel as though I didn’t practice in the dry at all,” said Pino. “We weren’t in position to fight for the win but I feel as though we could have fought for a podium without the penalty. It was a tough weekend but it was a fun track. It was good to be back with the team, I’m looking forward to Road Atlanta.”
“We missed the window of where we were at the test,” said Barbosa. “We were good at the test but that didn’t work out in these conditions, for some reason. The car was quite difficult to drive and we were playing catch up. The rain hurt us in terms of practice time, to get a direction on the car. Tough weekend, especially with the penalty.
“I don’t understand what happened with the fuel restrictor,” said team principal Sean Creech. “We ran that restrictor last year, both races this year, and we tested it in the shop and in warm up, to make sure that the timing was correct. There were a lot of teams that got hit with that penalty, which was strange. But the whole weekend was a bit strange. The rain kept the track pretty green all weekend – I talked to several teams battling the same problem in regards to setup. Then we expected rain on Sunday and got none. But I’m proud of the effort from the entire team, just one of those weekends.”
SCM thanks partner Focal One for its continued support.
Next up for SCM will be the Chevrolet Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, July 7 to 9. The race will be broadcast live in the U.S. on NBC and Peacock TV, and on REV TV in Canada. International viewers can watch via IMSA.tv, with IMSA Radio also available at IMSA.com.
Team leader Sean Creech has competed in a multitude of sports car series from 1990 until the present day, including Group C, IMSA GTP, WSC, Grand-Am, SRO World Challenge, and IMSA. SCM will contest the full WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2023 with João Barbosa and Lance Willsey. http://seancreechmotorsport.com/
About Focal One
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