IMSA: All four classes return to same race for first time since Sebring

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It may seem weird to say considering this is the first year of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, but the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen provides the championship a fresh start this weekend.

How so? Controversies over penalties assessed, not assessed or rescinded, highlighted the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring for all the wrong reasons. Those two were the first two rounds of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup as well.

This weekend’s third race of the NAEC brings all four of the TUDOR Championship classes – Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona – together in the same race for the first time since Sebring in March. It’s a different landscape now than three months ago.

Watkins Glen will feature a bumper crop of entries, with 55 cars entered. Daytona (67 cars) and Sebring (63) filled their car count capacity compared to the available pit and paddock space. Still, we’ve had several teams (Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing, Level 5 Motorsports) that have dropped off since Sebring.

In the marquee P class, only 13 cars will race at Watkins Glen, down from 18 at Daytona and 17 at Sebring. But there’s still going to be a net gain of prototype cars compared to this race last year in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series; 14 DPs took the grid a year ago; this year, the 13 P class cars will be joined by 10 PC entries for a total of 23 prototypes. Overall, the car count jumps from 33 up to 55.

After the rough start in Florida, the TUDOR Championship redeemed itself with back-to-back caution free races for the P and GTLM classes at Long Beach and Monterey, a very decent PC/GTD race the Sunday morning of Monterey, and a thrilling finish at Detroit with contact between two P class Daytona Prototypes on the last lap. PC also raced in Kansas with the IMSA Prototype Lites, in what was viewed as an experimental type of race.

All things considered, a smooth weekend devoid of the paddock unrest and controversies that boiled to the surface is the goal for IMSA this weekend – and six hours of racing at one of North America’s finest road courses should provide plenty of headlines, hopefully for the right reasons.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”