The third round of IMSA’s Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup season at Watkins Glen International takes place next week, June 29-July 2, with 39 cars and a handful of notable additions in terms of cars and drivers. The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen kicks off the post-Le Mans portion of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
Gianmaria Bruni makes his debut as a Porsche factory driver alongside Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR in GT Le Mans.
Bruni, formerly of Ferrari, has been out of competition since the end of last year. Kevin Estre was in that car the opening rounds of the year before he departed for the FIA World Endurance Championship; Wolf Henzler was in at Circuit of The Americas last time out for the class.
That’s one of eight GTLM cars listed, while the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE is not. The team’s chassis that raced at Le Mans suffered significant front-end damage there after being contacted by Mathieu Vaxiviere’s TDS Racing Oreca 07 on the Mulsanne Straight going into a chicane.
It was a separate chassis from the one raced in IMSA, although consecutive first-lap accidents at Long Beach and Austin took them out of contention.
The Prototype class sees Onroak Automotive veteran Olivier Pla the latest pro in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson alongside Jose Gutierrez. The team ran limited laps at Detroit with Kenton Koch and Ryan Lewis listed, with Gutierrez unavailable. Bobby Oergel’s team has cycled through primary lineups of Gutierrez and Tom Kimber-Smith, Kimber-Smith and Will Owen, then at COTA, Gutierrez and Marco Bonanomi.
Pipo Derani (No. 2) and Bruno Senna (No. 22) return to the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis as third drivers, both after racing in different classes at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Pla and Derani were in Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs while Senna was in one of the Vaillante Rebellion Orecas in LMP2.
Other third drivers that return to action include Filipe Albuquerque, Spencer Pigot, Marino Franchitti and Chris Miller.
The GT Daytona class sees roughly half the 17-car class add third drivers. It’s not a requirement to have a third for Watkins Glen. 3GT Racing, Paul Miller Racing, Stevenson Motorsports, Michael Shank Racing and Turner Motorsport, do not, at the moment, have third drivers.
Notable additions include the Alex Job Racing Audi R8 LMS of Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler and Frankie Montecalvo and the Dream Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3. The Montaplast by Land-Motorsport Audi, which ended second in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and had considered doing this race, is not listed.
The Prototype Challenge class has four cars and a bevy of TBAs, as could be expected. While Starworks Motorsport is listed it’s not guaranteed the team will run, Peter Baron instead working towards finalizing his impending LMP2 effort for either later this year or the start of 2018.
A busy weekend for IMSA also features the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda, IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama and Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Yokohama, Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America action.