Watkins Glen International, USA

Masters Historic Race Weekend
9 – 11 July 2021

Greg Thornton and David Porter became double winners in the Masters & HSR Race Weekend at Watkins Glen International, while Bob Blain and Travis Engen shared the spoils in the two Masters Formula Atlantic Plus races. Masters USA came out to the legendary track in Upstate NY with all its three North American grids – Masters Historic Formula One USA, Masters Endurance Legends USA and Masters Formula Atlantic Plus all adding to five grids brought by American organiser HSR.

RACE REPORTS

Masters Endurance Legends USA – Race 1
Porter pushes Peugeot to first Masters Endurance Legends USA win at the Glen.

David Porter took a lights-to-flag victory in the first Masters Endurance Legends USA race of the Masters & HSR Race Weekend at Watkins Glen. Having started from pole, the Peugeot 908 driver was kept honest by John Reisman in the Whelen-liveried Coyote Corvette DP in the initial stages of the race but the LMP1 car disappeared out of Reisman’s sight after the mid-race stops.

Tommy Byrne (ORECA-Nissan 03) finished third in the quickest LMP2 car, the former F1 driver jumping Travis Engen’s Audi R8 LMP1 for third at the stops. Engen then dropped into the clutches of Chris Ronson Jr, whose ORECA-GM FLM09 moved up into fourth a few laps from the end.

Scooter Gabel impressed by leading all the way to the GT category, his 1997 BMW M3 GTR from the USRRC days beating two much younger Audi R8 LMS GT3 cars, Bruce Leeson leading the Audi challenge at first before giving way to the David Roberts/Mike Skeen example.

On the first lap, Porter lay down the gauntlet in the hope of opening up a gap to Reisman, the Peugeot lapping 1.1 seconds faster than the Coyote. Engen remained in third but had ex-F1 driver Tommy Byrne in the Hagan/Byrne ORECA 03 hot on his heels, while the Ronson ORECA FLM09 had swept past Danny Baker’s similar 03. Bob Blain’s race in the glorious ex-ESM Patrón Tequila HPD-Honda ARX-03b was over right away, though, the car’s diff having given up.

Three laps gone, and Reisman wasn’t giving up on his chase of the Peugeot, trailing by a commendable two seconds. Engen and Byrne were dropped by 14 seconds, with Ronson Jr three seconds further back. Francesco Melandri in the Ligier JSP3-15 LMP3 was next, followed by William Hubbell and Robert Tornello in the other two Coyote Corvette DPs in the field. In GTs, Gabel had hit the front, with Leeson in second and Roberts in third.

As the pit window approached, Reisman was in fact nibbling away at Porter’s venerable lead, the gap now down to 1.4 seconds, as the pair disappeared from Engen and Byrne’s sight, those two now over 20 seconds behind. On lap 6, Byrne and Reisman were the first to blink and went in for their mandatory pitstop. Engen was in on the next lap, leaving Porter out on his own in front, as Baker and Tornello for the moment moved up into second and third. Then on lap 8, the leader came in.

When on lap 9 the field had settled back in after the stops, Porter led Reisman by nine seconds, while Byrne had jumped Engen at the stops, the Irishman now 27 seconds away from the lead but nine seconds ahead of the ex-ALMS Audi. Ronson Jr was fifth ahead of Baker, Melandri, Hubbell, Tornello and Dominick Incantalupo in the second GM-engined ORECA FLM09. In GTs, Gabel still led, now in 11th overall, the Chevrolet Dallara DP of Kurt Schultz splitting the lead GT cars as Bruce Leeson’s Audi R8 LMS GT3 ran 12th.

At the front, however, Porter had started to stretch the Peugeot’s legs, the LMP1 machine running away to an 18-second lead, as Byrne began to close on Reisman in second place. Meanwhile, Ronson Jr had passed Engen for fourth in his former LMPC-class machine. In the GT class, Gabel was now trailed by the fast-approaching other Audi started by David Roberts but switched to the hands of the quick Mike Skeen, who had passed Leeson to move into second place in class.

His work done, Porter crossed the line 19 seconds ahead of Reisman, who kept 22 ticks in hand on Byrne in third. Ronson kept Engen at bay to claim fourth, with Baker, Melandi, Tornello, Hubbell and Incantalupo up next. Gabel notched up the GT class in the oldest car in the field, his BMW M3 GTR keeping 28 seconds in hand over the Roberts/Skeen Audi, with Leeson in third.

Masters Endurance Legends USA – Race 2
Porter dominates in second Masters Endurance Legends race at the Glen

David Porter stormed to a dominant victory in the second Masters Endurance Legends race at Watkins Glen, as he put 37 seconds between his Peugeot 908 HDi FAP and a fierce battle for second place between John Reisman’s Coyote Corvette DP and Tommy Byrne’s ORECA-Nissan 03. In the end, the DP car held off the LMP2 machine by two tenths.

In the first half of the race, Travis Engen in the Audi R8 LMP1 was a factor too, as he chased Reisman while keeping Byrne at bay. However, a two-minute delay during the mandatory pit stops dropped the Audi down to eighth. Right at the end, Danny Baker lost a certain fourth when his ORECA-Nissan 03 coasted to a halt at Turn 6. This allowed Roberto Tornello’s Coyote Corvette DP, Francesco Melandri’s Ligier-Nissan JSP3-15 LMP3, the recovering Engen and William Hubbell’s Coyote to all move up one place.

In GTs, Scooter Gabel led the class towards the stops, his ex-PTG BMW M3 GTR driving away from the Audi R8 LMS GT3 pair of David Roberts and Bruce Leeson, but with Mike Skeen in Roberts’ car after stops, the pendulum swung towards the Roberts/Skeen Audi, despite the pair incurring a time penalty for missing the pit window.

After a second lap behind the safety car to allow for a track clean-up after the previous race, Porter powered away into the lead, chased by Reisman, Byrne, Engen, Baker, Melandri and Robert Tornello, while in GTs, Gabel held the initial upper hand over Roberts and Leeson in their Audi GT3s. Meanwhile, Rick Carlino’s ORECA-GM FLM09 was the first casualty of the race.

Two laps down, Porter led Reisman by 3.7 seconds, with Engen having passed Byrne for third but already 9.4 seconds down on the leader. Baker, Melandri and Tornello were still up next, as Hubbell’s Coyote Corvette DP and the ORECA FLM09’s of Dominick Incantalupo and Chris Ronson Sr completed the top-ten.

At the front, Reisman wasn’t letting go of Porter, the ex-Marsh Racing Coyote still just four seconds in arrears of the Peugeot, while Engen in the Audi R8 LMP1 was now looking at a 15-second deficit to Porter, with two ticks in hand over Byrne. In 11th overall, Gabel had opened up a 25-second gap to the Audis after five laps – as they were the last cars still unlapped by the Peugeot in front.

Meanwhile, a terrific scrap was developing between Baker’s ORECA-Nissan 03, Melandri’s Ligier-Nissan JSP3-15 and Robert Tornello in the ex-Spirit of Daytona Coyote Corvette DP. In fact, Tornello and Melandri switched places on lap 6. Similarly, Ronson Sr had put pressure on Incantalupo to claim ninth on the same lap.

15 minutes of the 40-minute race gone, with the pit window about to open, Porter led Reisman by six seconds, as Engen maintained the gap to the Peugeot at 15 seconds. However, Byrne in the ORECA 03 was closing on the Audi, and now chased the open-top LMP1 car by just three tenths. Meanwhile, Melandri lost another place, this time to Hubbell.

The first car in was Dave Roberts’ Audi R8 LMS GT3, as he handed over to Mike Skeen, but it looked like they were a touch too soon. Byrne followed soon after, right on time, the pit stop dropping the Irishman down to eighth. Most of the others carried on, though, Porter now pounding in the quick laps to lead Reisman by 16 seconds and Engen by 24 ticks.

In the second part of the 10-minute pit window, the rest of the cars followed, with Porter leaving it very late, but when the field settled down after all the stops, the Peugeot led the quickest Coyote by a massive 23 seconds, Reisman now chased hard by Byrne. Baker, Tornello, Hubbell and Melandri had all moved up a place at the expense of Engen, though, the delayed Audi having lost two minutes during its stop.

In GTs, Gabel still led, but Skeen was nibbling away at his lead – however, the threat of a penalty was still looming over Skeen’s head. One minute further back, Leeson was a safe third, holding a lap over Michael Lange’s Ford GT GT3 and Don Ondrejcak ex-TRG Grand-Am Porsche 997 GT3, but Leeson was facing a penalty for speeding in the pitlane.

With Porter well in command, all attention now focused on the fight for second between Reisman and Byrne. Behind the two, a huge gap of almost a full minute had opened up to Danny Baker’s ORECA 03, who in turn held 21 seconds over Tornello, and a further 12 over Melandri. In eighth, Engen was rapidly closing down on Hubbell and looked poised to take back a place.

With five minutes left on the clock, Porter once more asserted his authority by lowering the fastest lap of the race to a 1.40.448, 1.4 seconds quicker than Reisman’s best, before having the best of fun by recording a mindblowing 1.37.973 lap. Reisman and Byrne were now both lapping in the 1.44s, their eyes firmly set on each other instead of the Peugeot in front.

And so Porter – now back in cruise mode – romped across the line 37 seconds ahead of the warring duo of Reisman and Byrne, the Coyote holding the fort from the Irishman’s enduring attacks to take second place by two tenths. In a last-gasp drama, Baker lost fourth place as his ORECA crawled to a halt on the penultimate lap, as Tornello, Melandri, Engen and Hubbell all moved up a place at his expense.

Despite their penalty, Roberts and Skeen still triumphed in the GT class, with Gabel in second and Leeson in third. Lange held off Ondrejcak for fourth in class.

Masters Endurance Legends USA – Feature Race
Melandri and Ondrejcak conquer the water in third MEL race at the Glen

In torrential conditions, Francesco Melandri and Don Ondrejcak won their respective prototype and GT classes in the final Masters Endurance Legends USA race at Watkins Glen.

The two dared to go out in the pouring rain, with Italian Melandri’s Ligier-Nissan JSP3-15 stretching out a one-minute lead over Ondrejcak’s ex-TRG Grand-Am Porsche 997 GT3 Cup car before the challenge of standing water became just too hard. The race was stopped after ten minutes.

Masters Formula One USA – Race 1
Thornton charges to the front to claim victory in first Masters Historic Formula One USA race at Watkins Glen

From fifth on the grid, Greg Thornton put in a fighting performance to claim victory in the first of two Masters Formula One USA races at Watkins Glen. In his Lotus 91, the Briton was up into third after just three laps before he set off after the leading Tyrrell duo of James Hagan and Jamie Constable. Thornton moved past Constable’s Tyrrell 011B on lap 5, but had to wait until the penultimate lap to pounce on Hagan’s 011 that had led the race from pole.

Jonathan Holtzman (Lotus 87B) beat Dan Collins (Lotus 91) to fourth, while in sixth overall Ron Maydon claimed a dominant pre-78 class victory, heading the newer cars of Bud Moeller (Ensign N179) and Lee Mowle (Lotus 78). Maydon’s life was made slightly easier when his two most prominent class rivals Chris Locke (Lotus 77) and Bob Blain (March 751) were both out by lap 1.

Charles Warner (Shadow DN9) was ninth ahead of Doug Mockett (Wolf WR6) while Chris MacAllister’s Ferrari 312T2 took second in the pre-78 class.

From the start, Hagan led away from fellow Tyrrell driver Constable and the three Lotuses, Collins ahead of Holtzman and Thornton. Moeller was sixth, following by pre-78 class leader Maydon, Mowle, Warner and MacAllister, as Blain was forced to start from the back and was down in 12th place. In even more trouble was Chris Locke, whose Lotus 77 got stuck in third gear and was out of the race.

On lap 2, Thornton was up into fourth, and a lap later the Brit swept past countryman Collins for third. Further back, Lee Mowle in the Lotus 78 did the same to fellow Briton Maydon to move up into seventh behind Moeller, while Blain’s March 751 reached no further than lap 1.

At the front, Hagan wasn’t getting away from Constable, the Tyrrells still only half a second apart, with Thornton closing up on the both of them, as the former European Masters Historic Formula One champion dropped Collins and Holtzman. In eighth, Maydon still led the pre-78 class, his main rivals Locke and Blain having both dropped out. This meant that MacAllister’s Ferrari 312T2 was promoted to be the Lec’s two closest challenger for class honours.

After five laps, Hagan had put a full second between himself and Constable, the latter now under pressure from Thornton, who on the next lap-sized up the Tyrrell and moved past. Wasting no time, Thornton set off in pursuit of Hagan. However, the Irishman responded and began to open up a gap, increasing it to 2.2 seconds at the end of lap 8. Behind the leading trio, Holtzman began putting Collins under pressure, the two Lotuses having left Moeller’s Ensign behind by some 20 seconds. Mowle, meanwhile, had his eyes firmly set on Moeller’s sixth place.

With under five minutes left, Thornton put in the fastest lap of the race to close the gap to Hagan down to 0.8 seconds, as the two had now left Constable trailing by 8 seconds. And then on lap 11, Thornton did it, passing the Tyrrell on the penultimate tour of Watkins Glen. As the Briton crossed the line in first, the dejected Hagan gave up to finish 2.9 seconds in arrears, with Constable taking the final podium spot, nine seconds further adrift.

Holtzman had meanwhile completed the move on Collins, who crawled across the finish line with eight seconds in hand on Maydon, the latter having passed both Moeller and Mowle for sixth overall and a dominant pre-78 class win.

Masters Formula One USA – Feature Race
Thornton conquers the rain to double up in Masters Historic Formula One USA at Watkins Glen

Greg Thornton survived torrential conditions to make it two from two in the Masters & HSR Race Weekend’s Masters Historic Formula One USA races at Watkins Glen. In his Lotus 91, the Briton stayed out of trouble in the chaotic opening stages which saw the two leading Tyrrells of James Hagan and Jamie Constable career into an accident, and on the restart romped away to an unthreatened win from American Jonathan Holtzman (Lotus 87B) and fellow Brit Dan Collins in another Lotus 91.

The JPS Lotus 1-2-3 was followed home by pre-78 class winner Ron Maydon in his Lec CRP1, who took fourth overall ahead of Bud Moeller’s Ensign N179 and Doug Mockett’s Wolf WR6.

Hagan and Constable had crashed on a Watkins Glen International circuit that was wet already, and the incident required a lengthy pause to clean up the track. When 15 minutes later the field got going for a rolling restart it was pouring with rain. Thornton proved most able in the conditions and ran off to a 15-second lead over Holtzman at the chequered flag.

As the lights went out, Thornton was beaten away by the Tyrrells of Hagan and Constable, with Holtzman ahead of Collins, Mowle, Maydon, Moeller and Mockett. But then trouble hit on a track that had been hit by a drizzle: Hagan and Constable were in the wall, and chaos ensued behind them. Mockett, Maydon and Moeller were the only ones to complete lap 2, albeit at a snail’s pace, before all cars reconvened in the pitlane, the others slowly dripping in, having survived the mayhem before them – Holtzman, Thornton, Collins, Mowle…

A lengthy stop followed in order to clear the track, after which the remaining cars went out to resume the race. By now, it was pouring, and cars were fighting to stay on the track, lapping a at least a full minute slower than Hagan’s time that was good for pole position in race 1…

Thornton took command from the start, and dealing with the circumstances best, opened up a 15-second gap on Holtzman in three laps’ time. Collins and Maydon already trailed by a huge margin, while Moeller, Mowle and Mockett were all down by well over a minute, before Mowle disappeared on lap 5.

15 fighting minutes later, Thornton was flagged off as the winner, ahead of Holtzman, with Collins beating Maydon to third.

Masters Formula Atlantic Plus – Race 1
Blain bags first Masters Formula Atlantic Plus race at Watkins Glen.

Bob Blain emerged victorious in the first Masters Formula Atlantic Plus race of the Masters & HSR Race Weekend at the Glen. His March 76B inherited first place when runaway leader Howard Katz (Ralt RT1) spun away his massive advantage, but Blain had moved himself into that position when he beat Todd Willing for second at the start.

Australian Willing, who chased Blain all race, dropped out with an oil leak around the same time that Katz left the scene. This promoted Travis Engen (Ralt RT1) into second place. Behind Engen, Dave Zurlinden (Ralt RT31) held off Alex MacAllister (Ralt RT1) for laps but in the end, had to give way to the latter who then proceeded to claim the final podium spot.

The safety car was deployed to allow for the removal of the oil dropped by Willing, but when this proved to be too time-consuming, the race was flagged off prematurely, with three minutes left on the clock.

The race lost one main contender before the start when Peter Greenfield was forced out of action by a clutch issue hampering the Ralt RT4 that he himself had bought in period back in 1982 before buying it back in 2015.

At the start, Katz powered away into the lead followed by the quick-starting Blain who pipped Australian Willing to second with a lightning start from the second row. Engen was fourth, with Zurlinden moving his ex-West Surrey Racing Ralt RT31 F3 car into fifth ahead of Alex MacAllister in the third RT1 in the field.

Four laps gone, and Katz was flying. Beating his own fastest lap of the race every time around, the Ralt RT1 led Blain by 12 seconds, with Willing a further two seconds adrift in third. Still in fourth, Engen was in no man’s land between Willing and Zurlinden, the latter with MacAllister right on his tail.

Past the halfway mark, as the leader had seemingly just turned into cruise mode, disaster struck for Katz, as he spun coming onto the start/finish straight. Willing was in trouble too, dropping down from third to the back as he was shown the ‘meatball’ flag for a technical issue that required his return in the pits. However, before he could do so, the Australian parked the car, his Chevron B27 having dropped too much oil already.

All this put Blain in the lead, his March 76B now three seconds clear of Engen, while MacAllister had jumped Zurlinden for what was now third place. They couldn’t race for long, though, as the oil on track summoned the arrival of the safety car. With three minutes remaining, the race was flagged off, Blain crossing the line in first, ahead of Engen, MacAllister and Zurlinden.

Masters Formula Atlantic Plus – Race 2
Engen handed the win in second Masters Formula Atlantic Plus race at Watkins Glen, as Blain gets penalised.

Travis Engen (Ralt RT1) took the spoils in the second Masters Formula Atlantic Plus race at Watkins Glen when on-the-road winner Bob Blain (March 76A) was given a 40-second time penalty for jumping the start.

Engen and Blain were involved in a monumental scrap all race, and were soon joined from the back by Peter Greenfield (Ralt RT4) and Gray Gregory (Chevron B39), both scything past Alex MacAllister’s RT1 and Dave Zurlinden’s RT31 to make it a four-way battle at the front.

Greenfield initially put Blain under immense pressure before dropping back to fourth halfway into the race. Engen then put on a late charge to move past Gregory and close down the gap to Blain, who going into the final lap fended off Engen to take the chequered flag in first. Blain’s subsequent time penalty, however, demoted him to sixth place, and handed the win to Engen.

From his pole position, Travis Engen’s Ralt RT1 was beaten away into the lead by Saturday’s winner Bob Blain, who had been penalised with one spot on the Sunday grid having gained an advantage by jumping the start of the first race. MacAllister was third ahead of Zurlinden, while Gray Gregory (Chevron B39) and Peter Greenfield (Ralt RT4) bounced back from their mishaps on the previous day.

Soon, though, the question was raised if Blain in his March 76A had once again jumped the start to get ahead of Engen, but for the moment he was leading the race, while Greenfield had made short work of Gregory and Zurlinden to be fourth when the opening lap completed. The man on the move, Greenfield dispensed of MacAllister and Engen on the next lap, and was already chasing Blain hard for the lead. Gregory followed in his wake, taking third from Engen, as the top four remained split by a mere six tenths.

At the end of lap 3, Blain still hung on to the lead but only barely, as he and Greenfield broke away from Gregory and Engen, both now trailing by more than a second, as MacAllister was left fighting Zurlinden over fifth place.

With Saturday’s polesitter and initial runaway leader Howard Katz missing, this was turning into a much more tightly fought over contest than the first race, as Gregory and Engen closed back on to Blain and Greenfield to regroup into a leading bunch of four covered by less than a second. But still, the issue of that jumped start was looming over Blain’s fate…

At half-distance, the order in the top four was shaken up when Greenfield after an apparent mistake suddenly dropped two places to Gregory and Engen, and had some catching up to do, now trailing Blain by three seconds and having to watch MacAllister who was just a second behind.

Freed from Greenfield’s intimidating presence, Blain got the hammer down to set fastest lap of the race and separate himself from Gregory by 1.3 seconds, with Engen still just three tenths behind Gregory’s Chevron in third. In fact, the Ralt RT1 driver produced some magic himself by lowering Blain’s fastest lap mark by a full second to pass Gregory and close up to the man in front, who in the space of a lap saw his lead evaporate to less than six tenths.

Now in a groove, Engen slashed Blain’s slender lead even more, bringing it down to less than three tenths on lap 9, as Gregory began to fade away. Greenfield in fourth, meanwhile, was needing to watch MacAllister, who now led Zurlinden by ten seconds.

As they raced towards the line, Blain consolidated his lead going into the final lap, and continued to set fastest lap of the race as he received the chequered flag well over a second from Engen – but it was all for nothing. As the March driver was indeed deemed to have jumped the start, he was handed a 40-second penalty that dropped him well down the order. So Engen was the winner ahead of Gregory, Greenfield, MacAllister and Zurlinden, with Blain classified in sixth place.

RACE RESULTS