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July 02, 2013 | By Matt Cleary
Talk about a legacy.
Last weekend’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen not only featured round two of the North American Endurance Championship presented by VISITFLORIDA.COM (NAEC), but it also witnessed history being made as Christian Fittipaldi raced to a GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series win on the same track where his uncle Emerson scored his first-ever Formula One victory back in 1970.
For Fittipaldi, who shared the driving efforts with Joao Barbosa in Action Express Racing’s No. 5 Corvette Daytona Prototype, the win was far from a straightforward one.
After emerging with the lead with just ten laps to go, Fittipaldi first had to recover from a late race bobble that saw him struggle to keep the car on track as he battled for the lead with fellow Brazilian Ozz Negri in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Dunn Tire Ford-Riley. After Negri had to go off course to avoid a nearly-spinning Fittipaldi, that threat was gone. But only for a lap or two, as Fittipaldi soon enough had to fend off a furious late race charge from the No. 3 8Star Motorsports Corvette piloted by Michael Valiante.
But Fittipaldi held on to notch the second-closest finish in the 32-year history of the Watkins Glen 6 Hour race with a winning margin of just .265-seconds after six hours of flat out racing.
That close racing and frenetic dash to the checkered flag saw Fittipaldi take a post victory lane detour as he visited the medical station to take on fluids after giving it his all in the high heat Daytona Prototype cockpit.
Barbosa (who also won the 2012 edition of the Glen 6 Hours with Darren Law) and Fittipaldi are arguably the hottest duo in GRAND-AM right now. The two Action Express Corvette DP pilots took a podium at Detroit before going on to win both the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Watkins Glen races.
With the Watkins Glen victory--and with having led at the halfway point of the race--the duo will also enter the Brickyard Grand Prix (July 26) race weekend atop the NAEC points standings as they look to score the second-ever championship-within-a-championship. The NAEC is staged at Daytona International Speedway, Watkins Glen International and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I knew that the No. 3 car had a very strong pace,” said Fittipaldi of the Corvette DP that Valiante chased him to the line with. “They showed it a couple of times during the race, but I think we played the game better than they did. And we, as a team, won the race today. Hats off to Joao, who drove an outstanding stint. And man, I’m very happy. Two in a row is a very nice feeling. We led at the three-hour mark and won the race, so it couldn’t have been a better weekend.”
The Rolex GT Class saw another group putting their hot hand to work as Stevenson Motorsports scored the team’s fourth win from the last five GRAND-AM events at Watkins Glen. Young American superstar-in-the-making John Edwards shone even in the rainy conditions before turning the car over to Scotsman Robin Liddell to take the victory as he kept the Ferrari 458 of Leh Keen at bay to take the win by just a few seconds.
"I kept forcing myself to stay focused the whole race,” said Liddell, who also won the 2012 race and started the 2013 edition from pole. “And I was fully expecting some rain, we saw some dark clouds coming through. So I was expecting some rain or some kind of safety car so I was just trying to stay focused on the job at hand and just reel off the laps. I just want to say thanks to everybody here, the Camaro is fantastic and John did a great job. But I have been with this team for six years and it is probably the best team result I have ever seen for us. Everybody contributed in such an important part, it really was a proper team effort throughout the whole weekend. So I am really happy for the guys, it was great."
So as we look forward to the Brickyard Grand Prix in just a few weeks’ time, we can bet that these two white-hot teams will look to convert that momentum into some new trophies and the over $150,000 in cash and prizes that come with the North American Endurance Championship winners. But with just a pair of points separating both the Daytona Prototype and GT Class leaders, it will be close all the way to the finish.
And with the points all focused on the finish, it will likely be the winner taking all!
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