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  • Writer's pictureLIAM REDFORD

IMSA: Top-5 finish for Katherine Legge & Sheena Monk at Watkins Glen

Katherine Legge and Sheena Monk continued their excellent partnership in IMSA with a second top-5 finish of the season, as Gradient Racing overcame adversity from the opening practice to display front-running speed throughout the race.

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt

Katherine Legge and Sheena Monk continued their excellent partnership in the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship with a second top-5 finish of the season. Narrowly missing out on equalling their fourth place from the 24 Hours of Daytona, the #66 Gradient Racing pairing, along with Marc Miller, finished an impressive fifth at Watkins Glen. Charging through from 16th on the grid, both Sheena and Katherine made significant progress in their respective stints, narrowing missing out on the GTD podium.

After an encouraging start to the season for Katherine and Sheena who sat inside the top-10 of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship GTD standings arriving at Watkins Glen, they were searching for another strong result. Finishing a rain-affected practice one in 18th while battling a fuel-system issue that severely limited their track time, Sheena was finally able to get good mileage at the beginning of a dry second practice to rack up 18 laps before Katherine set a number of fast times. Ending the session in ninth, this highlighted the potential of the #66 Acura heading into qualifying.

As the bronze rated driver in the team, Sheena took charge of qualifying with dry conditions remaining at Watkins Glen. An over-boosting issue resulted in several of her fast laps being revomed and Monk was left with 16th in the GTD class, eighth among the bronze rated drivers.

Sheena took the start of the race and negotiated the opening laps well, running in 17th as the first full course caution came out. When racing resumed, Monk showed impressive speed to rise through the GTD order, passing Roberto Lacorte and Ashton Harrison to move into 14th by lap 14. After the first hour, the #66 Acura NSX was running in 13th, with Sheena’s consistently fast lap times suggesting further progress could be made.

Remaining in the car for a double stint, Sheena entered the top-10 and continued her charge through the field. After moving into eighth, on lap 43 Monk made a nice move on Ryan Hardwick for seventh and held her place as one of the highest running bronze rated drivers. An excellent second stint saw her hand over the #66 Acura NSX to Gradient Racing teammate Marc Miller in a strong position.

As the pit cycle unfolded, Miller had fallen to 13th, but like Sheena, his pace was excellent and this allowed him to make up the lost positions. With three hours and 30 minutes remaining, Miller was up to 11th and by lap 78 he had worked his way into the top-5, the highest running position of the car to date. Despite his second stint being curtailed by a full course yellow period, he handed over the car to Katherine in sixth position with a podium result within reach.

Restarting in sixth, Katherine’s stint began superbly as she overtook both Patrick Liddy and Patrick Gallagher to move into fourth position. Following a penalty for a car ahead, Legge took over the final step on the podium with her pace looking strong enough to hold onto the position and potentially fight for more. When Bryan Sellers took over third position on lap 141, Katherine ran a number of fast lap times to hold with the BMW driver and apply pressure.

With one hour remaining and the final pitstops completed, the #66 Acura NSX remained inside the top-5 with Robby Foley now the driver ahead. On lap 162, she passed the Turner Motorsport driver for fourth. Making significant inroads on Jan Heylen for the final step on the podium in the closing stages, Katherine came up just short with a full course yellow period with five minutes remaining stopping her progress. Alessio Rovera also made a move to take away fourth, however a second top-5 finish of the season for Katherine and Sheena underlined their continued progress.

"It’s hard to be disappointed when everyone did an impeccable job, both on the track and in the pits", Legge said. "Honestly, the Gradient guys and girls were completely faultless. Every pit stop was spot-on, and both Sheena [Monk] and Marc [Miller] were fantastic on track."

"Unfortunately, as it got hotter [late in the race], we didn’t have too much left to go fight [the competition], but fight them we did. And we brought it home in fifth, which is something we can really build on going forward into the second half of the season” - Katherine concluded.

Finishing fifth at Watkins Glen was a fantastic result for Katherine and Sheena who overcame adversity from the opening practice to display front-running speed throughout the race. Sheena’s two stints were particularly impressive, giving the Gradient Racing team a solid platform to build upon during the remaining four hours. Katherine then made crucial overtakes in the closing stages to ensure a good haul of points which moves them up to sixth in the championship standings, just two points outside of the top-5.

The next round of the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship takes place at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on the weekend of 8th/9th July.

Photo by: Jake Galstad



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