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Larry Ott: Action Express Mustang Sampling wins thrilling Six Hours of The Glen

Watkins Glen -- One team from the Cadillac camp continued a noteable winning streak in thrilling fashion while another had a different one unceremoniously snapped during the running of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen on Sunday afternoon at Watkins Glen International.

For the second consecutive year here, the co-driving trio of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Filipe Albuquerque emerged victorious, this time in their new No. 5 Action Express Racing Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi claiming both the Prototype class and overall victory in the Sahlen's race. While Albuquerque actually got to co-drive the car Sunday, last year he shared in the win as a reserve driver in the No. 5 pits but never got to drive. The team's win this year was dramatic.

With 36 minutes to go and a 30-second lead in Sunday's race, Barbosa appeared to be cruising to victory for himself and his No. 5 team. Then the yellow flag was displayed for problems elsewhere on the track and the entire day suddenly changed.

On the subsequent restart with just 23 minutes left in the six hour contest, Stephen Simpson overhauled Barbosa down the front stretch and rocketed his No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA LMP2 entry into the lead.

But Barbosa was far from done. Barbosa mounted a late race charge that saw him repay Simpson, passing him in the Esses with just over 9 minutes left in the race and go on and score a narrow 1.183 second victory over Simpson who shared the bridesmaid honors with co-drivers Chris Miller and Misha Goikhberg.

This season is the first that the new IMSA Daytona Prototype International (DPi) formula is being utilized in IMSA's Prototype class. The No. 5 team's victory here a year ago was achieved in the former IMSA Daytona Prototype (DP) Corvette configuration.

"It was pretty exciting from inside the car," Barbosa said  "The Mustang Sampling Cadillac just ran perfect the whole time. We've been improving the car. Since the last race we did a lot of work and tried to understand what we were lacking or missing pace-wise compared to the other cars. We're still not the fastest car out there for various reasons.

"I had a big, big lead in the last hour, at last 30 seconds I think at one point. I knew everything would be lost if there was a late yellow and that's what happened toward the end of the race. He (Simpson) had a great restart and overtook me into Turn One and then I just tried to get my tires up to temperature initially on the first few laps. We were very equal on pace. I lost some ground to him but I knew if traffic could play a role in the race I would have to take the fight back to him and that's what I did.

"Coming back in the last corner I was able to get really good drive and get along side him and pull a great move on him in Turn One. We raced fair. We touched a couple times but he gave me just enough room to go around him. It was a really fun but hard race."

For another Cadillac team, Sunday's Sahlen's race also saw the 2017 five race IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship domination in the Prototype class by the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R and their co-drivers, brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor ended by a first lap difficulty that ultimately defined the rest of their day.

The Konica Minolta Cadillac squad came into the race Sunday having won all five WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races contested in 2017 but their bid to keep the win streak alive took a serious blow right off the bat Sunday.

After starting fourth with Ricky behind the wheel, the Cadillac appeared to have a steering problem on the first lap at the bottom of the Esses and drifted, touching the No. 90 Visit Florida Multimatic/Riley LMP2 entry driven by Renger Van Der Zande near the top of the Esses. Taylor limped the car slowly to the pits with damaged front and rear suspension parts and steering components. The team spent the next several laps making repairs on pit road and returned to the fray with Ricky still driving but six laps in arrears. The team spent the remaining five-plus hours clawing their way back through the field eventually placing both sixth in the Prototype and overall finish.

One of the other pre-race favorites for the Prototype victory was the pole-starting No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi but they were also felled by misfortune. Pipo Derani led early by as much as 15 seconds before turning the ESM car over to Scott Sharp. With just over four hours remaining, Sharp's car was contacted while exiting the inner loop by the GTD class entry of Boris Said aboard the No. 75 Sun Energy 1 Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3. The contact sent Sharp hard into the outside barrier. Sharp got the car back to the pits but the ESM team's day was effectively done falling three laps behind the overall leader. ESM finished 32nd overall and 8th in the Prototype class. IMSA officials deemed the matter a racing incident and did not penalize Said.

In other IMSA class racing in the Sahlen's race, co-drivers James French, Pato O'Ward and Kyle Masson emerged victorious in the PC class in their Performance Tech Motorsports No. 38 ORECA FLM09. The PC class which is being discontinued next season by IMSA consisted of only three cars Sunday.

The No. 25 BMW M6 tandem of Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims were triumphant in the GTLM category scoring a slim 4.416 second win over the No.67 Ford GT driving combo of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe.

For the second straight IMSA WeatherTech event the Michael Shank Racing No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 pairing of Andy Lally and Katherine Legge claimed victory in the GTD class. They also won the most recent race held in early June in Detroit. Finishing second in GTD was the No. 63 Ferrari trio of Alessandro Balzan, Christina Nielsen and Matteo Cressoni.

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