06 Jul Race Report: The Continental 240 at The Glen
A twelfth place finish for the #33 Techemet car and the first DNF of the season for the #57 Sonic Tools AMG GT4 do not tell the story of another promising race week at Watkins Glen International for Winward/HTP Motorsport. The speed that both of the Houston based team’s cars displayed throughout the event showed how much potential this ambitious first year Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge team truly has.
Thursday’s opening practice session caused some concern as heavy rain soaked the track in the minutes before the Green Flag. With the forecast for the rest of the weekend showing temperatures in the nineties, it was unclear if there was any value in running during the hour long session. The rain stopped and as the track dried, Faulkner in the #33 and Dontje in the #57 cars exchanged fastest laps. As the tire temperatures soared, it became apparent that it was time to change to slicks. Both cars came into the pits for slick tires and a change of drivers. The session ended with Russell Ward in P4 for Techemet with Bryce Ward less than a second behind him in P8.
The early start on Friday morning proved slightly problematic for Bryce Ward’s #57 Sonic Tools AMG GT4 as a sensor failure kept the car on pit lane as the session got underway. Once it was resolved Ward was able to set some sold times before handing the car over to Indy Dontje who finished the session in P3. A trouble free run for the #33 car saw Damien Faulkner take the eighth spot on the time sheet with the fastest middle sector of any GS car in the session.
The second practice of the day was the fifteen minute session just ahead of qualifying. Damien Faulkner lapped close to the top of the time sheets in the #33 AMG GT4 before handing over to Russell Ward for a couple of additional laps. Meanwhile Indy Dontje left it late by blitzing the field on his final lap, setting ‘purple’ fastest sector times in all three timed sections of the track. The Dutchman finished .469 seconds clear of his nearest rival and gave the team an excellent platform to build on in the short qualifying session to follow.
BOOM! In a break with tradition. @IndyDontje eschews the traditional Orange for PURPLE! A 1:56.305 a hefty .469 seconds faster than P2 in the final @continentaltire practice session before qualifying. pic.twitter.com/ptujDC57NX
— Winward Racing (@WinwardRacing) June 29, 2018
GS Class qualifying had barely begun when an accident involving the #4 AMG GT4 and the #5 Porsche Cayman GT4 brought out a red flag which halted the session for ten of its scheduled fifteen minutes. With a huge field of Continental Tire GS Class cars on track and with a set up which needed a number of laps to get the tires up to full operating temperature, the Winward/HTP Motorsport drivers had their work cut out for them. After two fraught flying laps, the Top 10 cars were separated by less than a second with Indy Dontje’s #57 car finishing P4 and Faulkner’s #33 lining up directly behind him on the third row in sixth position.
The set up on the Winward/@HTPMotorsport AMG GT4s did not really suit the crazy five-minute dash for pole in @continentaltire Qualifying this afternoon. P4 for @IndyDontje is a more than acceptable result. pic.twitter.com/p6xcUSYINJ
— Winward Racing (@WinwardRacing) June 29, 2018
The second four-hour race of the season gave the team’s professional drivers the chance to start the race around the legendary eleven turn, 3.4 mile road course in Upstate New York. The race was barely half a lap old before a multiple car accident in the Esses caused the first of four full course yellow flag periods. Once the race restarted, both Indy Dontje’s #57 and Damien Faulkner’s #33 AMG GT4s made steady progress towards the front of the pack. On Lap 29 the Dutchman pitted from P2 while his Irish counterpart came in one lap later having inherited second position from his Winward/HTP teammate.
Spare a thought for the Winward/@HTPMotorsport crew who had to work for more than four hours in fireproof suits in 100+F. Big thanks to Josh on the front tires for this fantastic footage of the #57 @sonictoolsusa AMG GT4 dring it’s first pit stop. #AMG @IndyDontje @winwardbw pic.twitter.com/7TJvzHoaGD
— Winward Racing (@WinwardRacing) July 3, 2018
For Bryce Ward, his middle stint was a short-lived affair as an error entering the Bus-Stop chicane saw the team owner hit the barrier and resulting an immediate retirement for the #57 Sonic Tools car. For Russell Ward his solid fifty-lap stint was punctuated by a spin at the Horseshoe on lap 81. The ensuing full course yellow gave Ward the opportunity to pit for fuel tires and a driver change which would see Irishman, Faulkner, take the car to the end of the race.
The always positive driver from Donegal, was quick to see the value of the result at The Glen. “There was a lot more to Watkins Glen for WinWard/HTP than just the bottom-line results. The 33 was fast all weekend. However, Watkins’s threw everything at us but the kitchen sink! As a team, we learned a lot, and the event will only serve to further develop our character. Fastest race lap is little consolation, but a sign we’re headed in the right direction.”
For Dutchman, Dontje, it was hard to hide his disappointment. “I had to let it sink in a bit as it was a frustrating end to a competitive weekend. I really believe we had a good shot at a podium and maybe even more. The Sonic Tools AMG was very good and we were quickest on track during my stint. It is such a shame we ended up with a DNF. Luckily Bryce was unhurt and we will now focus on coming out fighting at our next race.”
Round 5 of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Championship, The Canadian Tire Motorsports Park 120, takes place on Saturday, July 7th at 3:05.pm. You can also get session-by-session updates from the Official Winward Racing Twitter and Instagram accounts at https://twitter.com/WinwardRacing and https://www.instagram.com/winwardracing/