A Race of Survival at Watkins Glen

On a weekend that witnessed wildly inconsistent weather, multiple-car crashes and even a few rollovers, Autometrics Motorsports reached the Grand Am ST class checkered flag with a combination of consistent speed and careful strategy.

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Ask any competitive sports car racer about rain and they’ll say it isn’t much of a problem.  Tires can be swapped, spring rates changed, and suspension settings altered.  All one needs is time to make the changes to the car, and weather that stays consistently rainy or consistently dry.  The Grand Am Continental Challenge event at Watkins Glen June 29th allowed competitors time to make any number of changes to their car, but the weather continually changed with such speed and drama that even the best meteorologists among the field were left to guess at their race-day set-up.

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Autometrics greeted test day with dry setup on the Mac Papers / Hastings Fiberglass #24 Porsche Boxter and immediately started setting quick laps and making minor adjustments.  By session two, however, large rainclouds pelted the historic road course with water and the weather-induced chaos of the weekend began to take shape.

Patches of severe weather showed on the radar but it seemed practice and qualifying might be dry.   Most teams—Autometrics included—elected to leave dry setups on their car, to sit out the wet 2nd practice session, and avoid the hassle of switching from dry to wet set-ups and then back again for what looked to be a dry practice and qualifying.

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Then it rained during the first practice.

The Autometrics crew immediately tuned the Porsche for light rain and drivers Mac McGehee, David Baum and Cory Friedman resumed setting quick laps.  The team was ready for light rain.

Then it poured during practice two.

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New plans were made.  A new setup put on the car.  The #24 Autometrics Porsche again resumed setting quick laps with its new, heavy weather set-up.

Then the rained disappeared and by qualifying the track’s surface was as dry as a bone.  Again the Autometrics crew sprung into action and changed back to a dry set-up.  David Baum took the controls and quickly reached a strong qualifying pace.  Despite his speed, however, traffic managed to slow both of his flying laps and the team qualified in the 25th position.

By race time the track was dry and the radar showed small patches of intense weather approaching. Teams took to the grid with a bewildering array of wet-weather set-ups, dry set-ups and any number of “in-between” set-ups.  For better or worse, every one of these would work best at some point in the race.

There were 2 significant spots of rain.

The first came just before the 1-hour mark, and the accompanying caution was a good time for the team to make its first stop and driver change.  The crew elected to keep the scrub dry tires on the car, as they would come up to temp on the damp track quicker.  Other ST cars elected for new dries and yet others for rains.

Soon a dry line formed on the track, but with an off-line that was still very wet there were no passing opportunities.  The ST field basically circulated in position until the second big rain.

The Autometrics Motorsports Boxter needed fuel, and planned to come in before the inevitable caution.  The rain came on violently and quickly, and it was clear that to stay out on dries was a dangerous gamble with over 40 minutes left in the race.  Monitors showed cars sliding off in multiple corners, some in groups of 2 or 3 cars at a time.  Some cars even ran off track only to roll over.  The damage was so bad, and the subsequent caution so long, that when the green flag finally waved again there was only time for a few laps on a wet track. The cars that stayed out on dry tires—and survived until the caution—were up front and able to stay there for the few laps to the end.  And while the Autometrics Motorsports team looked to finish much higher than their 14th position, they were happy to take home their Boxter in one piece.  On weekends like these, sometime survival is as good as a win.

Please find below our gallery of the weekend and, as always, contact us if you’d like to campaign a Porsche on track, receive driver-coaching or engineering expertise from our record-holding team, or buy, sell, store or maintain a Porsche.