Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller drove to the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen victory Sunday in Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s #66 Ford GT, ending a perfect weekend for the manufacturer in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s GT Le Mans (GTLM) class.
Ironically, Ford’s sweep of a trio of practice sessions and qualifying on the weekend was by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s other entry, the #67 Ford GT of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe, which finished in sixth position.
“All these guys, all our boys who did these pit stops today did such a great job, it was a flawless race for us,” said Hand. “I love this race, and I love this Fourth of July – Independence Day week. I’m so thankful to be American. So thankful to drive for Ford and Chip Ganassi Racing.”
The #67 Ford GT started on the pole, the team’s third consecutive at Watkins Glen, and promptly led the race’s opening 65 laps. Porsche’s march from the third row to the front was complete on lap 66 when Patrick Pilet took the lead just past the race’s two-hour mark in the #911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
While the weekend was all-Ford, Sunday’s race saw Porsche and Corvette spending a notable amount of time at the front of the field.
Pilet and co-driver Nick Tandy went on to lead much of the next 90 minutes of the race after getting past the leading Ford, before Corvette Racing’s pair of Corvette C7.Rs took over from there, sharing the lead over the next 90 minutes of the race.
In fact, the #3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia was leading the race with 52 minutes remaining before a timely pit stop by the #66 Ford GT team just before a caution for debris elevated Mueller to the lead for a final restart with 36 minutes remaining.
Mueller took over from there, holding off Garcia to win the race by 1.592 seconds.
Porsche took the next two spots with the #911 Porsche of Tandy and Pilet rounding out the podium over teammates Earl Bamber and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Laurens Vanthoor. The #4 Corvette of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin finished fifth after leading for 20 laps in the middle stages of the race.
The Ford Chip Ganassi dominance was no surprise with the team entering the weekend with the most Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen victories among the entries with a total of five, including a GTLM victory at the track in 2016.
It was Ford’s second win of the season with the #67 of Westbrook, Briscoe and Scott Dixon opening the season with a victory in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and the first win of the season for Hand and Mueller.
The win unofficially moves Mueller and Hand into the points lead with a one-point advantage over teammates Briscoe and Westbrook with six races remaining.
“We leapfrogged everybody when we came in a little shorter and got lucky on that yellow,” said Mueller. “My team manager told me ‘buddy if you want to win that race you have to give us the best out lap of your life. We need it to jump ahead of the Corvette.’ And again we were low on [tyre] pressure. I know we always get told not to push hard there but I drove like crazy, and that basically jumped us ahead of the Corvette and just sailed it home. Sounds easy. But it wasn’t. I gave it all. I was a sweaty one.”
The WeatherTech Championship returns to action next weekend for the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Sunday, 8 July 2018.