EVENT RECAP: Wright Motorsports Strategy Brings 1st Phorm Podium Finish at Watkins Glen
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (June 25, 2023) – It is not a common occurrence, but every now and then, a third-place finish will feel just as good as a victory, and that was the case on Sunday afternoon for Wright Motorsports at Watkins Glen International. The No. 16 Wright Motorsports 1st Phorm Porsche 911 GT3 R returned to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to compete in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, putting in a commanding performance in a chaotic race to drive from 15th to third place.
“The performance of the drivers and crew today was spectacular,” said Team Owner John Wright. “The Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen is not for the lighthearted, and with so many cars on track and so many incidents today, it was never truer. We executed so well as a team and used every tool in the toolbox to our advantage. It was a true team effort today to earn this podium, and to us, it feels like a win.”
Competing in only the four races that make up the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, the drivers and crew of the 1st Phorm Porsche came to Watkins Glen for their third race of the season, having not raced since March’s Twelve Hours of Sebring. The team started the year off with their new Porsche 911 GT3 R, utilizing the first two races of the year and testing in between to become familiar with Porsche’s latest creation. After a ninth-place finish at Daytona and a sixth-place finish at Sebring, drivers Ryan Hardwick, Jan Heylen, and Zacharie Robichon had high hopes to finally achieve podium success at Watkins Glen.
After a shortened qualifying session where traffic interrupted Hardwick’s run, he started Sunday’s six-hour endurance race from 15th in the 20-car GTD class. The GTD field barely enjoyed half of a lap of green racing before the first full course caution but managed to creep his way up a few positions once the racing resumed. The next incident in the race played well into the hands of the Porsche team, taking place just as Hardwick approached pit lane. He dived into the pits before the race went full-course caution, getting the first of several pit stops early while the rest of the field slowed to caution speeds.
From there, the Porsche broke into the top ten, utilizing the cautions to the team’s advantage. Hardwick completed his stint and Zacharie Robichon took over almost two hours into the race, rejoining twelfth in class. He climbed up to sixth by his next pit window, racing behind the No. 44 Aston Martin of Andy Lally. By the hallway point of the six-hour race, the Porsche ran third. Though outpaced by other cars in the class the pit stop strategy played an important role in keeping the Wright entry in a competitive spot for a podium finish.
Heylen relived Robichon behind the wheel with two and a half hours remaining, jumping up to first place before a lengthy full-course caution. Lacking the straight-line speed of the competition, the Porsche slid into second place as the race went back to green, getting passed by the No. 12 Lexus of Parker Thompson. Heylen put in a strong drive, but ultimately relinquished the second-place position to the championship points leader and charging BMW of Madison Snow.
Happy with the performance that showed a 13-position progression, the team at Wright Motorsports celebrated a job well done. The No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3 R will next compete in the fourth and final round of the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, at Petit Le Mans, October 11-14.
That was an unbelievable finish. I truly don’t think we could have done anything better as a team to get a better result than a podium. That was a win today, from where we started back in 15th. Our Porsche is lacking so much top speed with these regulations, so our team had to work extra hard when it came to strategy and calls in the pit lane. It gained us a lot of track positions. I’m really proud of my teammates, and both Zach and Jan. They drove an amazing race. This is one race I’ve always wanted to win, but the win will have to come further down the road. The podium definitely feels like a win today, though.
It was an awesome result for the team. That was a well-deserved result for everyone involved after a tough season. We won this race today because we have the best team. All the drivers did their job, and we had the best pit stops. It was a perfect strategy and good execution. I’m really happy to be back on the podium.
The goal is always to win, but today our third place feels like a win. Our team did everything right. From that perspective, I don’t think we could have made any better decisions. There’s nothing we could have done differently, and this was the maximum result we could have gotten. You have to just be proud of what you can achieve, and that’s what we did today.