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Larry Ott: ESM goes after a third Endurance Cup win

WATKINS GLEN – The Extreme Speed Motorsports team has served notice that it will be tough to beat in Sunday’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. Johannes van Overbeek utilized a fast car and the newly repaved track surface to grab the Prototype class pole for Sunday’s Sahlen’s event and in record fashion.

In addition to the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen being part of the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, the six-hour contest also doubles as part of the four-race Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup. The No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Racing Honda-Ligier team won the first two 2016 North American Endurance Cup races, the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Twelve Hours of Sebring.

In Prototype class qualifying Saturday, van Overbeek sped to a track record lap of 1 minute, 35.207 seconds, easily eclipsing the Glen Prototype mark of 1:37.902. Overbeek will exchange driving stints in Sunday’s race with teammates Scott Sharp and Pipo Derani.

“The ESM guys really put together a great car,” said van Overbeek. “It was just a matter of small improvements. I knew that car had the possibility of getting the pole and I didn’t want to let the guys down so I just closed my eyes and hung on.”

In other Sahlen’s class qualifying Saturday, it was a banner day for the Ford camp. Hours after announcing earlier in the day that it had extended its involvement in international GT sports car racing though at least 2019, the brand celebrated a GTLM class pole win for Sunday’s Sahlen’s race courtesy of the No. 67 entry co-driven by Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe.

Westbrook, driving the Ford/Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, practiced the car all weekend while Briscoe was away in Connecticut on family matters. Briscoe and his wife, broadcaster Nicole Briscoe, welcomed a baby girl, Blake Briscoe, late Friday night. Ryan made it to the track Saturday just in time to witness Westbrook’s pole run. He will join Westbrook in the race Sunday.

During Saturday’s qualifying Westbrook recorded a lap of 1:41.255 smashing the track record of 1:44.084.

Ford announced it has extended its factory-supported GT race program for a minimum of three years in the WeatherTech series as well as the World Endurance Championship. Ford campaigns a four car GT effort globally with the two-car WeatherTech-based GTLM entries of the No. 66 co-driven by Joey Hand and Dirk Muller and the No. 67 entry of Westbrook and Briscoe.

Also notching class poles for Sahlen’s race Sunday were Renger van der Zande, Starworks Motorsports, Oreca FLM09, 1.39.125 in Prototype Challenge and Robin Liddell, Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8, 1.45.407 in GTD.

In other racing activity here Saturday, Bodymotion Racing’s Trent Hindman, driving the life out of his Porsche Cayman GT4 overcame a fierce battle with C.J. Wilson Racing Porsche Cayman GT4 teammates Tyler McQuarrie and Marc Miller to score the thrilling GS class victory in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Continental Tire 150.

Hindman was riding a close second with four minutes left in the race when Miller, while leading got trapped behind a lapped car allowing Hindman to grab the lead. McQuarrie moved to second. Hindman held off the two rivals in the last few laps. Hindman took his stint behind the wheel midway through the race after co-driver Cameron Cassels started the race. It was the third straight 2016 Continental series GS victory for the Hindman/Cassels pairing.

Hindman spoke about the lapped car situation that provided the races decisive winning moment.

“I saw brake lights from both cars come on and I knew we were going to catch him really quickly,” said Hindman. “I had to thread the needle without causing contact or breaking my momentum.”

In the Continental Tire 150 ST class, RS1 Racing’s co-drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Nick Galante were best in their Porsche Cayman.

Pit stops

• One of the most popular teams in the WeatherTech GTLM class paddock is the two car Corvette C7.R entries of Corvette Racing. The pairing of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia will start Sunday’s Sahlen’s race in eighth in the team’s No. 3 Corvette while Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin will start the No. 4 car from the sixth position.

In 2014, Garcia and Magnussen won the Sahlen’s race for Corvette Racing on the old pavement. Magnussen spoke about the necessary of relearning the places on the track where there is good grip.

• On Thursday evening the weekend kicked off with the third annual Cameron R. Argetsinger Award for Outstanding Contributions to Motorsports dinner held at the Corning Museum of Glass. During his acceptance speech, this year’s recipient and international motorsports legend Roger Penske mentioned two Western New Yorkers those being the late Bill Milliken of Williamsville as well as Joe Sahlen of Elma.

Milliken who died at age 101 in 2012, was an aerospace and automotive engineer and race pioneer who in addition to racing sports cars helped to plan, map the course and draw up technical and safety rules for the first-ever street sports car race held in Watkins Glen in 1948.

Penske noted that Milliken helped draw major attention to racing safety and was instrumental in bringing it to the forefront in the motorsports industry. Penske also thanked Sahlen and his Buffalo based Sahlen’s Packing Company for their 15th consecutive year of sponsoring the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.

email: lawrence_o_14075@yahoo.com