Marking only the second time a Championships event has been held for this class, Spec E46 fielded 15 cars at Watkins Glen International, led by Robert Gagliardo on pole with 200 points scored on Friday and Saturday. Ali Salih started second, with Northern California racer Michael Shawhan starting third.
At the green, Gagliardo took off like a shot, and discovered his tires weren’t ready for that kind of request after getting a little sideways in Turn 1. Salih was right there on him, with Shawhan covering up third spot and Jason Tower looking to get on the podium. It didn’t take long for the field to catch up with out-of-class traffic, which made maintaining position more of a challenge. However, on lap six, a full-course caution came out. One of the casualties of the incident was Salih, who got collected by a Spec E30 that wrecked. The caution lasted till the end of the race, which finished under double-yellow.
“It was a great race up until the incident,” said Tower, who finished third. “Ali Salih, had some bad luck and got tagged by the E30 that wrecked. It hit his right rear and probably broke a wheel or something. That was really unfortunate because he’s one of the fastest guys here. Other than the incident, it was looking real good, and unfortunately they weren’t able to get it cleaned up in time and get us back to green, but that’s how these things go sometimes.”
Shawhan finished second, which made the long trip from California worthwhile.
“It was actually a really good race,” Shawhan said. “I’ve been having handling issues all weekend and we got the car straight for this race and it was handling really well. There was a lot of traffic, and I was going after Rob, but unfortunately it finished under yellow, but I’m not sure if I would have had anything for him either way.”
Gagliardo held on to take first and and his first Championship.
“I kind of dialed it back a little bit early on, tried to maintain a decent pace, but toward the middle of the race the car started feeling good, so I started cranking some laps down and tried to build a gap,” he said. “Then we caught the out-of-class traffic, so we had to dice with those guys pretty aggressively. I tried to build the lead and just stay there. The yellow came out. I was a little disappointed about that. I wanted to do a little more green racing, but I’ll take the win.”