Michael Hartley may have taken both outright victories at The Glen but it was fellow Viper drivers Tom Atherton and Dave Moore who starred upon their return to the US GT Championship. Brian Faessler was another standout as he became the first driver to put a Ford on the outright pole for a US GT Championship race, while Kathy Stout’s elation from a stellar qualifying performance quickly turned into heartache.
An electric atmosphere and over 120 racing cars graced New York’s former Formula 1 circuit as the US GT Championship was joined by six other national series, including the new TRG run Aston Martin GT4 Challenge, Radical Cup USA, Whelen US TimeTrial Championship and Formula Atlantic, for the NARRA Grand Prix of Watkins Glen (May 16-18).
Friday’s treacherously wet conditions may have subsided for Saturday and Sunday, but the unforgiving light blue Armco surrounding the 3.370 mile track remained, as did some particularly cruel luck.
Kathy Stout’s impressive form continued in qualifying for Round 5 as she outpaced the men and became the only GT1 driver to go sub 2 minutes. This put her Oakley Dodge Viper Comp Coupe on the class pole, but her elation almost immediately turned into heartache when she crashed on her in lap.
With the car beyond repair she was sidelined for the rest of the weekend, costing her dearly in the championship. She dropped from second to third in the standings, however with 7 rounds remaining she still has time, and clearly enough speed, to be a threat.
Promoted to the pole, Dave Moore (Viper Comp Coupe) rekindled his love for Watkins Glen. Two years ago, just as it did to Kathy, The Glen had bitten Moore hard in qualifying for the season finale. On that day he had to summons the courage to call his wife and tell her the bad news. On Saturday she watched on as her man turned his luck around.
Initially Moore was on the back foot after Steve Loudin (TRICEL Honeycomb Viper Comp Coupe) got the jump into turn one and Kurt Sollberger (Viper Comp Coupe) applied pressure, but he soon found his feet and clawed back to Loudin. Using traffic to his advantage he took the class lead, and went on to take a convincing win in his first series appearance of 2014.
Struggling with a foreign object in his foot-well, Loudin relinquished second place to Sollberger before a spin in the final turn allowed Keith Prociuk (HP Tuners Viper SRT-10) to take third. Russ Oasis (PartsRack Viper Comp Coupe) completed the GT1 top five.
It was another case of what could have been in the GTU class. Brian Faessler (Ford Mustang GT) made history, becoming the first to clinch an outright pole position for Ford. The 22 year old shocked the establishment by lapping over a second quicker than Michael Hartley (Dezigns Construction Viper Comp Coupe), and was visibly more committed through the demanding high-speed esses. He further demonstrated his speed in the race by storming off into the distance before an electrical issue cruelly forced him to retire, resulting in third place.
This left Hartley to cruise to a 35 second victory, while Stout struggled home with a gearbox issue for second.
Tom Atherton (Viper Comp Coupe) gave Viper all three class victories on Saturday after a flawless drive in which he lead the GT2 class from start to finish and gain the fastest lap bonus point. He took the win from Barry Dickson (Viper SRT-10), Joe Moholland (Corvette Z06) and David Greenman (Corvette Z06).
Atherton, who like Moore was also making his series return, then repeated his performance on Sunday to take home every point possible. However, this time a late race spin from Dickson allowed Moholland to claim second in GT2.
Hartley was another to do the double. Stout initially looked strong and pressured pole-sitter Hartley before dropping down the order as his gearbox woes continued. After seemingly rectifying the issue stormed back through the field, claiming the fastest lap of the race, a 1:52.911. But while Stout got within two seconds of Hartley, he couldn’t get any closer and Hartley took his second GTU win of the weekend.
Faessler salvaged third place points after borrowing Philip Grabow’s Element Tuning Subaru STi time-trial car.
Crucially Hartley’s two wins have moved him from third in the GTU championship points into the lead, four points clear of Stout when the round drops are taken into account.
Moore backed up his Saturday win by taking second place in Round 6 on Sunday behind GT1 pole-sitter and race winner Prociuk. Loudin completed the GT1 podium, while Sollberger and Oasis made up the top five.
For traveling all the way from California to compete at The Glen Sollberger was awarded the Bad Boyzz Garage Hard Charger cash award.
Moore’s results have jumped him to fifth in the points, while Oasis has moved into second behind Prociuk, and ahead of Kathy Stout.
The US GT Championship next heads to Virginia International Raceway for rounds 7 & 8, where it will again be joined by the Whelen US TimeTrial Championship, Aston Martin GT4 Challenge North America, as well as the SCCA PRO Formula Atlantic, F2000 and F1600 series.
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