Action Express, BMW Team RLL among winners in Thriller at The Glen

Photo courtesy of IMSA
0 Comments

A late-race restart with 24 minutes remaining resulted in a thrilling finish to the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.

In Prototype. Joao Barbosa, in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi for Action Express, outdueled a game Stephen Simpson in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca LMP2 for the overall win.

Simpson managed to jump around Barbosa with an aggressive move up the inside on the restart, but Barbosa regrouped and closed back in as the two worked through traffic. Barbosa was able to retake the lead with an incredible outside pass between turn 1 and the run up to the esses.

The victory is the first of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season for the No. 5 machine, with co-drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque joining Barbosa in Victory Lane, while second is a season-best for the No. 85 entry, in the hands of Simpson, Chris Miller, and Misha Goikhberg this weekend. Behind them, the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi finished third, with Tristan Nunez, Jonathan Bomarito, and Spencer Pigot sharing driving duties.

In GTLM, the No. 25 BMW Team RLL entry, in the hands of Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims, claimed their first victory of the year. Sims needed to save fuel in the final stint to make it to the finish, but a caution period with 36 minutes remaining put him in position to make it to the end. He outlasted late charges from Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT and Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R for the victory.

In GT Daytona, Andy Lally and Katherine Legge made it two-in-a-row in a dominant performance for Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian in the Acura NSX GT3. However, they endured a late challenge from Alessandro Balzan in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, who closed to within a few car lengths but could not make a move for the win. The No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 in the hands of Justin Marks and Jens Klingmann was third in class. Also, the No. 86 entry from Michael Shank’s squad was in position to finish second and complete a 1-2 finish for the team, but a mechanical issue forced driver Jeff Segal off the track with 36 minutes remaining.

In Prototype Challenge, the perfect season for the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 continued, with James French, Pato O’Ward, and Kyle Masson winning over the No. 20 and 26 entries from BAR1 Motorsports. Don Yount, Buddy Rice, and Daniel Burkett came home second in the No. 20 ahead of teammates Brian Alder, Derek Jones, and Gustavo Yacaman in the No. 26.

Meanwhile, the perfect season for the Wayne Taylor Racing No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R came to a crashing halt in turn 1, lap 1. Contact with Olivier Pla, in the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier LMP2, broke the right-front suspension of the No. 10 car, in the hands of Ricky Taylor at the time. Taylor then drifted across the track and pounded the outside wall in the esses, which sent cars behind him scattering in avoidance.

The older Taylor brother managed to bring the car back to the pits, but the team lost several laps making repairs to the right-front suspension as well as the right-rear suspension, which sustained damage after the wall contact. They ended the day in sixth place overall and in the Prototype class, three laps off the lead.

Elsewhere, Tequila Patrón ESM endured a difficult race after an uptick in pace saw them score pole position with the No. 2 Nissan DPi. That No. 2 entry, with Pipo Derani at the helm to start, rocketed off into the lead and dominated most of the opening two hours.

However, shortly after Scott Sharp took the helm, he made contact with the No. 75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3, with Boris Said behind the wheel, in turn 5. The contact sent Sharp spinning into the runoff area, where he eventually backed into the tire barrier. Although the damage was cosmetic, repairs saw the team lose a handful of laps.

The No. 2 machine also incurred several drive-through penalties for a series of infractions before it eventually came to a stop in the final minutes, with throttle problems ultimately ending their day just shy of the checkered flag.

Their teammates in the No. 22 entry also saw their day end early with mechanical troubles, as Bruno Senna slowed and pulled off the track entering turn one with about one hour remaining.

Also, while their teammates were celebrating in Victory Lane, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing entry from Action Express saw their day unravel shortly before the halfway point, when a mechanical issue saw the right-rear tire come off following a pit stop. The car came to a halt just before the bus stop chicane and was towed back to the pits for repairs. It eventually rejoined the fight and finished seventh in class, 16th overall, with Dane Cameron and Eric Curran sharing driving duties with Filipe Albuquerque, who was entered in both Action Express cars this weekend.

Full results can be found here.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’

0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”


Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”


Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).