WATKINS GLEN, New York (June 26, 2023) - After 196 laps, the No. 18 Era Motorsport Oreca 07 finished second place in the 2023 Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen, marking two straight podiums for the team in the Michelin Endurance Cup, and the highest finish for the team this season in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship.
The trio of Dwight Merriman, Ryan Dalziel, and Christian Rasmussen led the race for over an hour, and finished second-in-class crossing the finish line under a yellow flag which interrupted a close push for first place with the class winner.
The podium comes as a great relief after a history of bad luck at Watkins Glen, ending the bad luck streak the team has had there.
The weekend started off great for the team on Friday evening as the first practice session brought a half-dozen or so dry laps, followed by rain to throw things off for the drivers as they looked to learn the track and make adjustments.
Luckily, the No. 18 managed to be second fastest in the dry, and second fastest in the wet in that practice session, and more speed was still found in the car afterward.
The team qualified fifth after a rain-soaked session was abandoned and points positions were used to set the field.
Starting in the middle of a nine car field, the team got to work straight out of the gate, keeping great pace and avoiding some early race drama with many of the fellow LMP2 competitors.
Not long after the first hour, the team sat comfortably in fourth place with Merriman behind the wheel, and a long green flag stint with Dalziel hopping in the car would allow another position to be gained about an hour later.
Sitting in a podium position, Rasmussen hit the track for his first stint, and managed to overtake the final two competitors to grab the lead, which would be held throughout Dalziel’s next stint as well.
Unfortunately on the final lap of his final stint, Dalziel got stuck behind a GTP car on an out-lap, causing a loss in time big enough that once the pit-cycle was finished, the 18 had been overtaken and sat eight seconds behind the leader.
Despite Rasmussen powering through traffic in the final stint to reduce the gap to around two seconds, a late race caution brought an end to the drive, and caused the field to finish under a yellow-flag, securing second for the Era Motorsport team.
“I’m super excited to have landed a second podium in a row!” said Rasmussen after the race. “The LMP2 is such a joy to drive, and the team did a fantastic job setting it up for us this weekend.
“The field keeps getting more and more competitive in our class, and it’s great to be part of a front-running team in the LMP2 category.
“I wish we could have finished under green and seen what would’ve happened, but our team absolutely nailed it. It was just traffic that made things difficult on an otherwise flawless weekend.”
Dalziel shared a similar sentiment at the podium celebration after the race, “We once again had an incredible drive, an incredible car, an incredible team, sadly it just didn’t quite come together as we had some bad luck with traffic, but that’s racing for you!
“I’m definitely not going to complain about second-place, especially not in a field this competitive. We’ve proven time and again that we have an extremely well put together package, and it shows when we’re out there constantly battling towards the front every weekend.
“I wish we would have stayed green at the end there, I’m not sure if the winners had enough fuel, but I suppose it’s not worth dwelling on, we did a fantastic job regardless.”
“I’m just glad to have the Watkins Glen curse off our backs!” said team-owner Kyle Tilley.
“We’ve historically had good pace here but nothing has ever seemed to really go our way, so to finally come away with a podium is absolutely fantastic.”
The duo of Dalziel and Merriman will return for the next round of the IMSA Weathertech SportsCar Championship with the LMP2 class at Road America on August 6th, and Rasmussen will join them in the final round of the championship at Petit Le Mans on October 14.