The sticker e-book favorite that turned a cheerful looking floor
Richard Westbrook isn’t any stranger to success at Watkins Glen. He received three IMSA SportsCar Championship races on the trot on the circuit between 2014 and 2016, together with twice outright. However the Cadillac World Endurance Championship racer’s affiliation with the famed sportscar racing venue in higher New York state stretches again to a childhood sticker album.
“Once I was a child, I used to have this Panini journal,” he tells Autosport within the Caddy hospitality at Spa. “They’d a Formulation 1 one, and just like the soccer groups, you’d gather the drivers and stick them in. It had all of the tracks, and certainly one of them was Watkins Glen.”
Westbrook was sufficiently impressed by the circuit that hosted 20 consecutive US Grands Prix between 1961 and 1980 when it got here to devising Scalextric layouts.
“I at all times made my Scalextric observe into the form of Watkins Glen!” he says. “Each time I used to be doing that, my dad who used to race a few years in the past at membership degree, was at all times saying ‘Watkins Glen is an incredible observe’. However I didn’t know what made it particular till I obtained there for the primary time.”
The story of Westbrook’s stop-start profession is well-known. A rising star of the Nineties, who got here near nominating pre-chicane Imola and the Osterreichring he raced throughout the 1994 Formulation Opel Lotus season, he made his comeback in one-make Porsche racing within the early 2000s and landed a works deal after profitable back-to-back Supercup titles in 2006 and 2007.
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The second of these title campaigns featured a maiden go to to the three.450-mile Glen, which might change into a “blissful looking floor” through the years. Driving a GT class Porsche for Synergy Racing within the Grand-Am Sequence alongside Steve Johnson, he completed fourth.
“It clearly had no downforce,” he remembers. “It was on a Hoosier tyre, there wasn’t lots of grip. However the observe, I simply immediately fell in love with it.
“The observe is so particular, it’s flowing and the tarmac they’ve used there after they re-paved it’s simply phenomenal grip. There’s a lot load occurring within the automobile and no deg in any respect. So whenever you’re double-stinting there, each lap is a qualifying lap and also you’re simply going bloody quick the entire lap. It’s rewarding in each sense.
From sticker books to Scalextric, Westbrook couldn’t wait to race at the true factor
Picture by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Photographs
“There’s overtaking alternatives and whenever you look again on the observe, other than including the chicane it hasn’t modified in any respect. The armcos are the identical color as again within the ‘70s and it’s nonetheless very daunting. It’s a typical American observe with some European traits. It’s obtained a little bit of Spa in it as nicely, some undulation and a little bit of Oulton Park as nicely, however simply sooner!”
Westbrook’s return with TRG in 2008 as a Porsche manufacturing facility driver was relatively forgettable. It might be one other 4 years till his subsequent Watkins Glen outing, which got here with Spirit of Daytona’s Coyote Corvette Daytona Prototype after signing for the complete 2012 Grand-Am season. He says the expertise “reaffirmed it as my favorite place on this planet to drive a automobile”, though Westbrook might solely end fifth within the six-hour race that between 1968 and 1981 featured on the world sportscar championship calendar.
He didn’t get to drive when Grand-Am made a second go to later that 12 months for a two-hour race on the shorter 2.450-mile inner-loop, as diff issues put Antonio Garcia out on the opening lap, then completed ninth within the 2013 six-hours with Garcia and Ricky Taylor.
“Going into Watkins Glen after the race and having an American pizza and seeing all of the memorabilia from James Hunt’s days there, it’s simply unimaginable – I like it” Richard Westbrook
However for 2014, the primary following Grand-Am’s merger with the American Le Mans Sequence, Westbrook’s luck at Watkins Glen circled. In that 12 months’s six-hour LMP2 finesse was pitched towards DP brawn, and it was Westbrook and Michael Valiente’s Spirit of Daytona Coyote that got here out on prime towards OAK Racing’s Morgan-Nissan.
A late warning allowed Westbrook to shut on erstwhile chief Alex Brundle, who was hampered in his exit from the primary nook after the restart when Burt Friselle forcibly unlapped himself. That, mixed with the superior straightline pace of the DP allowed Westbrook to breeze previous into the Bus Cease. His first Watkins Glen victory is for Westbrook an apparent favoured reminiscence from the circuit.
“The P2s had been actually sturdy at locations just like the Glen, it actually suited their automobile,” he recollects. “However we simply executed so nicely, Michael was on it and we simply had been flat out each lap. We had been preventing with the Oak LMP2 for that entire six hours and we pipped them with about 5 laps to go. That was so particular.”
Westbrook has a hattrick of wins and a pole place to his identify at Watkins Glen
Picture by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Photographs
The end result was the identical 12 months later, Westbrook and Valiente on prime as soon as extra albeit in very totally different circumstances within the moist after Ricky Taylor crashed out and Joey Hand needed to make a fast splash and sprint. “Troy Flis’s staff opted to run a divergent technique, however it was a flawless efficiency that counted probably the most,” wrote Jeremy Shaw in Autosport journal’s report.
However Westbrook highlights as his favorite second his pole lap in 2016, the 12 months he accomplished his hattrick on the Glen along with Ryan Briscoe – albeit within the GTLM class relatively than outright with the Ford GT. The approaching arrival of his Australian team-mate’s second little one gave Westbrook the uncommon alternative to get the automobile set-up attuned exactly to his needs and yielded the automobile’s first pole in IMSA.
“I obtained all the brand new tyres in observe as a result of Ryan needed to get to the hospital,” says Westbrook of his second win with the programme, after he and Briscoe had damaged the automobile’s duck in a gas mileage race at Laguna Seca. “I obtained the automobile how I appreciated it and the automobile was simply so good in qualifying. I received’t say it was simple as a result of nothing is simple at Watkins Glen however every thing clicked. It’s a uncommon factor to have.
“Ryan got here again for warmup and I feel he went P1 immediately. Then we simply checked out within the race, it was a very particular second.”
Westbrook hasn’t visited victory lane at Watkins Glen since, though he got here shut to creating it 4 in a row along with Briscoe in 2017 in a slim defeat to the Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW M6. However the ambiance on the observe makes each go to worthwhile regardless of the 4 hour-drive from New York, which he says is “the one factor I don’t like about it”.
“Going into Watkins Glen after the race and having an American pizza and seeing all of the memorabilia from James Hunt’s days there, it’s simply unimaginable – I like it,” beams Westbrook. “Lovely countryside, it’s wonderful.
“And there are lots of very, old-school educated followers, that simply know a lot about motorsport who’ve seen it, completed it and had been there when Formulation 1 was final there. It’s a stunning place to go to.”
IMSA heads again to Watkins Glen subsequent month for the 2023 six-hour race
Picture by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Photographs
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