Watkins Glen International Raceway Saturday, June 29, 2019 Watkins Glen, NY
Every team participating in the grueling 4-hour IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race at Watkins Glen International Raceway was obsessed with the subject of tires. Running on slicks all week during dry practice runs, they were all too aware that rain in the forecast for race day could force them to change setup and strategy at a moment’s notice.
To pit or not to pit
When the showers finally hit late in the race, teams were forced to make the dreaded decision about whether to stick with their slick tires – or switch to wets for the remainder of the race.
Initially it looked like those that opted to pit for rain tires had made the right decision as they began to pass cars sliding around on slicks. But fortunes can be fickle, and the rain stopped as suddenly as it had started. As the track began to dry, teams that had stuck with their slick tires were able to reclaim the advantage.
A crashing denouement
Unfortunately for the Legistics/Racing To End Alzheimer’s/FastMD/Speed Syndicate team, while tires did indeed prove to be their undoing at Watkin’s Glen, it was not for the anticipated reasons.
Midway through the race – and well before the rain began to fall – the #23 Audi RS3 driven by Nick Galante was battling for the TCR lead with the #54 helmed by Mikey Taylor. Coming into a tricky turn 8, a sudden puncture in the front tire of the #54 had Taylor battling for control of his car.
With split-second reflexes, Galante swerved to an outside line to avoid contact. But Taylor wasn’t able to keep his radius small, veering wide into the path of the #23. Both cars careened off the track in a collision that marked the end of the race for both race leaders.
With major damage to the #23 far from home, the team will have to throw everything they have into readying for their next race the following weekend in Bowmanville, Ontario.