In this edition of our WeatherTech SportsCar Championship (WTSC) round table we take a look at Watkins Glen International and stop number three in the Tequila Patron Endurance Championship. We talked to Dane Cameron, driver No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi, and Colin Braun, driver No. 54 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 R. Here’s their insight:
Q: What challenges does a track like Watkins Glen present?
Cameron: Watkins Glen is challenging as it is a great mix of super quick corners and low speed corners. It can be tricky to get the car to have a nice feel and balance in the fast corners while being strong on brakes and traction in the slow corners. They did a great job with their repave last year and the track is incredibly fast and high grip, making for some of the highest cornering speeds and g-forces we see all year.
Braun: I think Watkins Glen is a really fun race track because of the repave job and how much grip the track makes. But it also presents quite a challenge because it’s such a grippy track compared to most of the places we go to. It’s a challenge to get your car set up well. It’s a specific and unique track that requires a little bit different set-up package. Trying to find that set-up package and quick time in practice makes it a tough thing. It’s also a six hour race so a lot of teams will opt for a third driver so you need to get him some time in practice, and develop the set-up, so all those things combined make for quite a challenge.
Q: What is the tire strategy for a six hour race at Watkins Glen?
Cameron: Hard to know exactly what the tire strategy will be since this will be our first time running our new Cadillac DPi at Watkins Glen but typically we take new Continental tires at every fuel stop since we have so much time waiting for fuel. There could be some opportunities for people to try and double stint the Continental's on Watkins Glen’s exceptionally smooth new surface.
Braun: The easy part about Watkins Glen is the fact that it is so easy on tires. After the re-pave it’s got a lot of grip and it seems to be incredibly good wear with the Continental tires. I think the tire strategy is a little bit easier. We obviously get a few more sets because its six hours compared to the normal sprint length. It’s pretty straight forward because it is so easy on tires. I think it’s easy to double stint, and you could probably get away with triple stinting the tires to be honest.
Q: What is your most memorable moment from Watkins Glen?
Cameron: For sure my favorite moment at Watkins Glen was winning my first six-hour in GTD with Turner Motorsport and Markus Palttala in 2014. We took the lead in the first corner and lead basically the entire race and the car was just perfect to drive. It’s not very often in racing that everything seems to go just right but that was one of them.
Braun: I think probably a few years ago in the PC car. We had a rough start to the race. I don’t even remember, I think we started with some pit road penalties and just kind of a rough start. I got in the car for the last two hours and I think we were two laps down at the time and ended up winning the race. We had some good pit stops and good strategy and were super duper fast that day. I remember talking to my engineer and he told me we were two laps down but instructed me to drive as fast as I could for two hours, which I did, and at the end of it, I couldn’t believe we had won it! We were able to drive by everybody a couple times and win the race. It was a good car, a good day, and you have days like that every once-in-a-while when the stars line up and your car’s great, your guys do a great job on pit road, and everything just kind of works out and that was one of those moments.
Q: What can fans expect to see at this year’s Watkins Glen race?
Cameron: I think the fans are in for a great race at this year’s Watkins Glen six-hour. There are a lot of great places for the drivers to pass, and for fans to watch from, so I think it’s always a good show. Racing in the GT classes is always hard fought and comes right down to the wire. I think the top of prototype is closing up at the moment and everyone is hungry to dethrone the No. 10.
Braun: Fans can expect an exciting race! The GTD class is so competitive. They are so close with the balance of performance stuff. You factor in a track like Watkins Glen where it’s easy to pass and the track races really wide because there is so much grip. It’s not so bad to be off-line and that encourages us to run side-by-side so I think you’re going to see a lot of good, competitive, hard racing right from the start. Certainly the speed of the Prototype cars is going to be high so those guys working through the traffic of the GTD and GTLM cars will certainly be an unknown factor. I think it’s going to be an exciting, hard race. The 24 and 12 hour races have been flat-out and I don’t think the six hour race will be any different.